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Conversing on Comics with David Aja

Rough around the edges but as precise as a Swiss clock. It’s an apt description for the Marvel character Hawkeye, and also the work of series artist David Aja.

Born and raised in Valladolid, Spain, the same town Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes called home, Aja earned a college degree in illustration as was on his way to a career in magazine illustration before he followed his childhood ambition: comics. After a prosaic debut in the Marvel anthology X-Men Unlimited, Aja grew by leaps and bounds before becoming the signature artist of the cult-hit series The Immortal Iron Fist with writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. After the conclusion of his run, Aja did a series of one-off stories for titles like Secret Avengers, Daredevil and Wolverine: Debt of Death while he and his wife added two children to their home already filled with animals. This year, Aja and Fraction reunited for another series, this time taking on classic Avenger (and newly minted movie star) Hawkeye in a self-titled series that focuses on the archer’s life when he’s not working as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

After last week’s stupendous one-off story in Hawkeye #6, Aja seems on top of his game. And what better time to get inside his head and find out what he thinks about comics and his place in it. In our conversation, we go over his time on The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye, his views on original art, and also his idea of creative teams and what his formula is for making a great comic.

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Some thoughts on all the comics I bought Wednesday

It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.

Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.

So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.

Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):

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What Are You Reading? with Joshua Williamson

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we welcome special guest Joshua Williamson, writer of Masks and Mobsters, Captain Midnight (which has been running in Dark Horse Presents), Uncharted, Voodoo and much more.

To see what Joshua and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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How much Hawkeye is too much Hawkeye?

How much, exactly, is too much of a good thing? I imagine it depends on the thing in question, and the person you ask. Let’s say the thing is Marvel’s newish Hawkeye. And the person is me.

I really like this comic, which is something that came as a great surprise to me, as I don’t really have any feelings about Hawkeye beyond, perhaps, preferring the super-archer with the facial hair and the green costume. And I don’t really like reading Marvel comics serially any more, given how hard the publisher strives to make that experience an unpleasant one, with the ads and the variants and the cover prices and the AR phone applications and the random switching and the renumbering and title changing and the funny numbering schemes (“Superior Spider-Man #6AU“…?) and the irregular shipping schedules.

I bought the first issue on a whim, though (it was a light week), and despite a little confusion as to why artist David Aja was to aping ’80s-era David Mazzucchelli, it impressed the hell out of me. Writer Matt Fraction and Aja make a great team, and the idea of focusing on what Hawkeye does “when he’s not being an Avenger” — recasting the movie star/cartoon character/toy as a more-or-less everyman action hero — is interesting, as was the decision to make every issue a done-in-one complete story (for the first three issues, anyway).

Each story has had elaborately constructed plots that spring open, move fluidly and then snap satisfyingly shut, the script and art are paced to encourage a slower, more appreciative reading process that makes each issue seem twice as long as most other Marvel comics, and even Matt Hollingsworth’s old-school but understated color and generous use of purple (to compensate for the lack of costume) has been impressive.

I started to worry when Issue 4 shipped, though, and worry still more when I read Issue 5, and worry still more when I saw Issue 6 arrives next Wednesday.

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Previews: What Looks Good for February

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.

G.I. Joe #1

Graeme McMillan

G.I. Joe #1: As if G.I. Joe wasn’t entirely in my guilty pleasure wheelhouse already, IDW Publishing relaunches the title with Fred Van Lente as writer and the tease of social and media commentary as the team is forced to go public in its fight against Cobra. Seriously, that’s just unfair, people. (IDW, $3.99)

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon TP: One of the best-looking comics around, thanks to David Aja (and Javier Pulido, on a couple of the issues contained herein), and something that I suspect I’m going to want in a collected edition to give to friends wanting some fun, fast-moving action stuff to read. Best thing Matt Fraction’s done in a long time, too. (Marvel, $16.99)

New Tales of Old Palomar HC: Continuing my Love and Rockets education, a chance for me to pick up Gilbert Hernandez’ return to Palomar in this new collected edition of his Ignatz series. This is definitely my favorite of Beto’s work, so I’m happy to see more. (Fantagraphics, $22.99).

The Sixth Gun: Sons of The Gun #1: A new spin-off series from Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s spectacular horror western? Why, I really don’t mind if I do, thanks very much. For added benefit, having Brian Churilla show up for art duties is pretty sweet, as well. (Oni Press, $3.99)

Young Romance: A New 52 Valentine’s Day Special #1: Even if I’m feeling less than enthused about the majority of DC’s superhero line lately, I have to admit, the idea of a Valentine’s Day special one-off is just far too tempting for me to ignore. (DC Comics, $7.99).

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David Aja merges Winsor McCay & Double Dragon with Hawkeye #6

From "Hawkeye" #6, by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth

I’ve been a David Aja devotee since I first discovered his work in The Immortal Iron Fist #1. Much like Marcos Martin (another favorite), Aja has a clean, deceptively simple style, a keen sense of design, and a gift for pacing (you need look no further than this page for an example of, well, all of that). So naturally when Marvel announced he would be reuniting with his Iron Fist collaborator Matt Fraction for Hawkeye, I was thrilled. Only three issues in, the series has already proved to be a perfect showcase for the talents of both creators. Gun fights, archery, car chases, a sassy sidekick, sex — what more could a person ask for in a comic?

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What Are You Reading? with Ethan Young

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today we’re joined by special guest Ethan Young, creator of the webcomic-turned-print collection Tails.

To see what Ethan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Food or Comics? | Havarti or The Hive

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

The Hive

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d make up for lost time and get the first collection of Mind the Gap (Image, $9.99). Rodin Esquejo is an absolute gem in my opinion, and Jim McCann looks to have crafted a story with some definite suspenseful power. After that I’d get James Stokoe’s Godzilla: Half Century War #3 (IDW, $3.99). This has become one of my favorite serials to come out, which for a work-for-hire book is tough. Instead of doing a story in service of the concept, it uses the concept to create a great story – and Stokoe really loves Godzilla and puts a face to those humans who oppose him. Finally, I’d get the free Cyber Force #1 (Image/Top Cow, $0) because, well, it’s free. I have an unabashed love for the original Cyber Force, and previous reboots haven’t really gelled the way I wanted to. I’m excited to see what Matt Hawkins brings to this, and I’m glad Silvestri is involved even if only on covers and designs.

If I had $30, I’d first stop for Glory #29 (Image, $3.99). I tend to read this series in built-up bursts, and I’m overdue to catch up. I like the monstrous rage Ross Campbell brings to this, and seeing Joe Keatinge capitalize on the artist he has to create a broader story is thrilling. After that I’d get a Marvel three-pack in Hawkeye #3 (Marvel, $2.99), Daredevil #19 (Marvel, $2.99) and AvX Consequences #2 (Marvel, $3.99). I’d buy David Aja illustrating a phone book – seeing him getting a great story is icing on the cake.

If I could splurge, I’d lash onto Charles Burns’ The Hive (Pantheon, $21.95). I’m reluctantly late to the game when it comes to Charles Burns, but X’ed Out clued me into his awesome cartooning power. After devouring his previous work, I’m excited to read The Hive as it first comes out. I don’t quite know what to expect, but after finally coming around to Burn’s skill I’m up for pretty much anything. Continue Reading »

What Are You Reading? with Ed Brisson

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.

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What Are You Reading? with Alex Zalben

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Alex Zalben, who blogs about comics for MTV Geek and has written a few himself–including the webcomic Detective Honeybear.

To see what Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.

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Chain Reactions | Hawkeye #1

Hawkeye #1

The timing couldn’t be better for Marvel’s new Hawkeye book, which came out this past weekend. For one thing, there’s that big blockbuster Avengers movie that came out earlier this year, where the character got some big-screen time thanks to actor Jeremy Renner. For another, Marvel was able to line up Matt Fraction, David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth, who worked together on a phenomenal Iron Fist run a few years back, to show us what Clint Barton does when he isn’t Avengin’, Secret Avengin’ or teaching at the Avengin’ Academy.

I was sold by the creative team alone, but if you’re still on the fence about the first issue, here are a few reviews from the web to help you along.

Alex Evans, Weekly Comic Book Review: “Hawkeye #1 is one of those rare first issues where you know that you’re seeing the start of something very special. Much like Daredevil #1, there’s a perfect unity between writer and artist and, more than that, a fresh, unique take on an old, well-worn character. I will go even so far as saying that much like Fraction’s Iron Man, Hawkeye #1 feels like the start of what will be the definitive take on the character for years to come.” (Grade: A)

Chris Sims, ComicsAlliance: The concept of ‘Hawkeye on his days off’ that’s laid out in the title page fits this book like a glove, and it’s a pretty interesting choice. After those first few pages where he gets knocked out of a building, Clint doesn’t wear his costume and nobody refers to him as ‘Hawkeye.’ Instead, he’s just Clint Barton in a suit — an actual suit with a shirt and tie, not the purple leather that makes him look like Prince’s racquetball partner — dealing with things on a relatively low-key level. Rather than, say, the Loki level that he has to deal with at his day job.

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Food or Comics | Hawkeyed peas

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Hawkeye #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start things off with Hawkeye #1 (Marvel, $2.99). David Aja’s built up a great track record from his run on Iron Fist to his various one-off issues in and around the Marvel Universe, so seeing him re-team withIron Fist co-writer Matt Fraction is something special. Without creators like these I’d probably balk at a Hawkeye series, but they make this a must-buy. After that I’d get another first issue, Image’s Harvest #1 (Image, $3.50). AJ Lieberman’s quietly written a number of great stories, and this one seems pretty inventive. I might’ve waited for the trade on this, but newcomer Colin Lorimer’s art on it makes me think he’s going to be a big deal and I need to know about it. For the bronze in my $15 pile, it’s Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 (Marvel, $3.99). This week, Jason Aaron and Andy Kubert take point, re-teaming from their great but under-appreciated Astonishing Wolverine and Spider-Man series from a while back. Lastly, I’d get Daredevil #16 (Marvel, $2.99) because Waid is bringing his A-game, and the recent addition of Chris Samnee only makes it even more impressive. The previews for this issue shows guest appearances by Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man, so it’ll be interesting to see how Waid factors them into Matt’s world.

If I had $30, I’d get Thief of Thieves #7 (Image, $2.99), which is becoming one of my favorite Image books and Nick Spencer’s finest at the moment. Having Shawn Martinbrough draw it only helps. After that, I’d get Earth 2 #4 (DC, $2.99). James Robinson is really living up to the “New 52” moniker by giving us one of the most imaginative and different takes on the DCU, and Nicola Scott is drawing up a storm here. After that, I’d tie things up with RASL #15 ($4.99). Jeff, you get my money sight unseen.

If I could splurge, I’d take a chance and order Absalom: Ghosts of London (2000 AD, $17.99) because it looks pretty great. British cops governing over an ages-old pact between the English government and hell? Hell yeah.

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Previews: What Looks Good for August

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.

Love and Rockets: New Stories, Number 5

Chris Mautner

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.

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Quotes of the day | ‘He’s the Marvel Universe’s Jim Rockford’

“If I could put the Stephen J. Cannell logo at the end of every issue I would be happy, and David Aja recently sent me this amazing piece of music. He said, ‘Here’s the soundtrack to our first issue.’ It’s Dizzy Gillespie and Lalo Schifrin from a record they did together called ‘Free Ride’ and it is great. The whole record is full of car chase music. So this series is very William Friedkin and early Brian Depalma. Rockford Files. It’s an early ’70s urban grit story. You almost expect Hawkeye to come around the corner and bump into Power Man and Iron Fist from 30 years ago.”

“Rather than try to define what Hawkeye’s role is in the Avengers, I wanted to define what is Clint Barton’s role in Hawkeye — who is he and what drives him and why is he our lead? I could close my eyes and see this Aja drawing of him with a Band-Aid across the bridge of his nose, and I got it. That’s our guy. He’s the Marvel Universe’s Jim Rockford.”

– writer Matt Fraction, in interviews with Comic Book Resources and USA Today, name-checking
the 1970s James Garner crime drama in discussions of his upcoming Hawkeye ongoing series for Marvel. There’s no word yet as to whether Clint Barton works for $200 a day, plus expenses.

C2E2 | A round-up of news from Saturday

Hawkeye

If the first day of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo was dominated by announcements from Dark Horse and DC Comics, then the second day belonged to Marvel, which followed through on its teaser for a new series, revealed an Icon relaunch, and shuffled some creators. Here are some of the highlights from Saturday (along with a couple of holdovers from Friday):

• As usual, the “Cup O’ Joe” panel was where Marvel rolled out its biggest publishing announcements, beginning with confirmation that the teaser released last week is indeed for a Hawkeye ongoing series reuniting The Immortal Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction and David Aja. In the title, which debuts in August, Clinton Barton will be accompanied by fan-favorite Young Avenger Kate Bishop as he fights organized crime in New York City. “It’s very Avengers, by which I mean John Steed and Emma Peel. There’s a whole healthy person between the two of them,” Fraction told Comic Book Resources. “There’s a line in Rocky where he says, ‘I got bumps. You got bumps. Together we fit,’ or something like that — the two of them fit together. Each one has what the other doesn’t, which means they work very well together. She’s young, incredibly gifted, incredibly cultured, and incredibly headstrong. She doesn’t suffer his crap and also wants to be someone worthwhile, but she’s trying to figure out how to make that possible. She follows him not because of his abilities, but his accomplishments. So they work together quite well. It’s an apprentice and master style relationship.”

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