"Gotham's" Cory Michael Smith Savors the Arrival of the Riddler
Ivan Brandon‘s stories may initially appear to be one thing, but when you read them you discover they’re actually something else entirely. The writer’s 2009 series Viking was a crime drama, and his new series Drifter is a story of frontier expansion in the 1800s — despite being set in the far-flung future. Many of Brandon’s stories have a technological bent, however; from his 2003 debut writing Terminator to his indie series NYC Mech to Machine Man in Marvel Comics Presents.
Drifter, with artist Nic Klein, debuted this week, and Brandon is in the middle of a four-city signing tour that finds him at Leed’s Thought Bubble this weekend and London’s Orbital Comics on Wednesday. It’s a familiar territory, launching a series, but he views the landscape of creator-owned comics differently today that he did when he started more than a decade ago.
Sure, everyone gets worked up about turning comics into movies, but what about the other way around? Cartoonists have been attempting to cram great works of literature or art into tiny panels since the birth of Classics Illustrated. But many of these adaptations, despite the noblest of intentions, fall horribly flat or fail to evoke a tenth of the original work’s greatness.
There are exceptions of course; comics that not only manage to capture or add to the spirit of the original work, but in a few cases are the equal or better of the source material. Here then are six such examples. Feel free to include your own nominations in the comments section.
If you’re a fan of Tim Gibson‘s Moth City, you may have been introduced to the work on Gibson’s own site or through its serialization at Thrillbent. Fans of the digital platform are able to consume larger installments of the series in one sitting with comiXology Submit, where Moth City will wrap up its second season on Wednesday, with the digital release of Issue 4.
Set in 1930s China and featuring an interesting mix of characters, Moth City is what comiXology aptly describes as “a story about control — when we lose it, when we gain it, and when others hold it over us.”
To celebrate the release of Moth City #4, Gibson opened up about his murder-mystery series, and the creative process behind it. His storytelling and bio gave me a lot of ground to develop questions, particularly with great lines like, “When he’s not writing or drawing, he spends his time reading Elmore Leonard, Stephen King and Agatha Christie, and ogling the art of David Mazzucchelli.”
Tim O’Shea: The first issue opens with a quote from Lord Byron’s “On Leaving Newstead Abbey.” What prompted you to open with that?
Tim Gibson: Byron is this great figure of masculinity, a soldier and a poet. A romantic who had a very twisted love life. He’s a great parallel to the story’s self-imposed tyrant, Governor McCaw, a man who sees himself in a very idealised light. Newstead Abbey also touches on the failure and decay of a once-grand estate, which helps set up one of the main conflicts of the story, that of the Governor, and his daughter Glitter who lives a life so sheltered she may as well be a possession.
Plus, you know, if you’re going to do a comic with car chases, bio weapons, shoot outs, hurried romance and underground plots, you may as well put a bow tie on it.
Those dispirited by the end of the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival now have another show to look forward to: Comic Arts Brooklyn, presented by Desert Island Books (which is owned by Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival co-founder Gabe Fowler).
Set for Nov. 9 at Mt. Caramel Church and the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the inaugural event will feature such guests as Paul Auster, Michael DeForge, Lisa Hanawalt, David Mazzucchelli, Art Spiegelman and Adrian Tomine. Programming is being directed by cartoonist and editor Paul Karasik.
According to the press release, “CAB is a curated exhibition of some of the best local and international artists and publishers working in comics, graphic illustration and fine art: from the cutting-edge underground to the established, respected artists in the field.”
Read the announcement below:
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.
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.
If I had $15, I’d walk out of the comic store with one book this week Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me (Image, $14.99). I fell off this book after the first issue, preferring to read in trades, and now that time has come. I’m looking forward to being surprised at what Brubaker and Phillips have done in this first arc as the debut issue was very promising.
If I had $30, I’d load up at Image with Manhattan Projects #4 (Image, $3.50), Prophet #26 (Image, $2.99) and Hell Yeah #4 (Image, $2.99). Prophet is becoming my favorite Image book because it unites my comic heroes of childhood (Prophet!) and one of the top cartoonists out there (Brandon Graham) with a surprising introduction of BD-style science fiction. Hell Yeah is a fun romp reimagining the staples of ’80s and ’90s comics as if John Hughes were the eighth Image founder. Last up I’d get Wolverine and the X-Men #12 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series would get derailed by Avengers Vs. X-Men, but Aaron and Co. have managed to keep it on point as best as conceivably possible. It’s an ideal opening to bring Rachel Summers to the forefront, and the smirking Kid Gladiator on the cover is full of win.
If I could splurge, I’d get Michel Rabagliati’s Song of Roland hardcover (Conundrum Press, $20). I’ll always admire Free Comic Book Day, because it was there that a little Drawn and Quarterly one-shot introduced me to Rabagliati’s work. I’m surprised to see this new volume of his work not published by D&Q, instead published by Canadian house Conundrum. Anyway, this book appears to deal with the death of the father-in-law of the lead character, Paul. It’s been extremely engaging to see Paul grow through the series, and having him deal with events like this as I myself grow up and experience similar events is really touching.
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Daredevil #220, composed and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Christie Scheele, scripted by Denny O’Neil, with unspecified assistance by Frank Miller. Cover-dated July 1985. Published by Marvel Comics Group.
How acquired: In a back-issue sale at the worst/best comic book shop in the Los Angeles area. You know the type of place: dust everywhere, smell of Indian food, way too hot, full boxes of X-Force #1 from the early ’90s blocking the shelves in the back. The type of place where when they have a half-off bin blowout you can grab all the David Mazzucchelli Daredevil issues for a flat fee, and get them to let the ones that aren’t in the bins (like this one) go for half price too, provided you’re willing to sell them your heavily dented copy of Absolute Watchmen.
Although DC Comics’ new printing of the Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition doesn’t arrive in stores until next week, the 144-page hardcover already has drawn sharp criticism — from artist David Mazzucchelli himself.
“DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it,” he told The Comics Journal‘s Dan Nadel. “I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition of Batman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.”
Mazzucchelli, who collaborated with Frank Miller on the seminal 1987 storyline, said he’s sent letters and emails complaining to DC executives but has received no response. The new printing, which includes new introductions by Mazzucchelli and Miller, goes on sale March 14.
Batman #404-407 (1986-87). David Mazzucchelli.
Despite his having drawn two of the bangin’-est, bone crunching-est superhero comics of the modern age (namely Daredevil Born Again and the book at hand, Batman Year One), few would argue that a — perhaps the — defining aspect of David Mazzucchelli’s approach to his mainstream comics work is its great subtlety. The artist’s decision to leave superheroes for the greater freedom of alternative comics may have been surprising at the time, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense: Mazzucchelli was never as interested in the roaring moments of climax that are action comics’ stock in trade as he was in the smaller, tension-filled moments of ascent and decline that bookend them. It was perhaps inevitable that he would one day leave the spandex merry-go-round in order to investigate them more deeply, but in his timeless collaboration with Frank Miller on Year One, Mazzucchelli was able to find an ideal point between noise and quiet, action and inertia: superhero comics somehow created to lack the kitschy “zap bam pow” element, given a truer “real-world” feel than can be found just about anywhere else in the genre.
The featured guests for the third annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival have been announced, and whoo boy, it’s quite a line-up. And it runs the gamut, too: MAD Magazine legend Jack Davis, book-design kingpin Chip Kidd, The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner, Asterios Polyp/Batman Year One artist David Mazzucchelli, Providence artcomix vets CF and Brian Ralph, grossout-humor queen Lisa Hanawalt, and minicomics patriarch John Porcellino. An opportunity to encounter Gloeckner live and in person is not to be squandered, folks, and that’s just for starters.
Organized by publisher PictureBox Inc., retailer Desert Island, and scholar Bill Kartalopoulos, this year’s BCGF will take place on Saturday, December 3 from noon to nine at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with programming hosted at the nearby Union Pool. If the last two years are any indication, it’s the alternative comics show to beat.
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.
Since a Xeric Foundation grant back in 2002 first allowed him to self-publish, comics creator Sonny Liew has created a series of stories starring Atari and Oliver, two street urchins who steal bicycles, watch giant robot movies and get into trouble in a futuristic city filled with robots. The stories have appeared in various comics and anthologies over the years, and this August Image Comics will collect them into one volume titled Malinky Robot.
Liew, whose body of work includes the Vertigo series My Faith in Frankie and Minx book Re-Gifters with writer Mike Carey, Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation with writer Nancy Butler, and SLG’s Wonderland with writer Tommy Kovac, shared some details on the new collection with me via the magic of email. Based in Singapore, Liew is also working on a few new projects, as he shares below.
JK: What stories are included in the new collection and where did they originally appear?
Sonny: The collection begins with “Stinky Fish Blues,” which was first conceived in David Mazzucchelli’s Graphic Storytelling class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Xeroxed copies of the story ended up in a couple of comic stores in the Boston area, before a Xeric grant allowed to me to try my hand at self-publishing. Later on a colored version appeared in Liquid City vol 1. “Bicycle” was originally released as a one-shot from SLG Comics, and the other stories, “Dead Soul’s Day Out,” “New Year’s Day” and “Karakuri” appeared in various editions of the Flight anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi.
Awards | Art Spiegelman on Sunday won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). “Considering my poor skills, I’m looking a little like the president Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” he told the festival by telephone from the United States. Spiegelman will serve as the grand marshal for next year’s event.
Other winners at the four-day festival, which drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, include David Mazzuchelli for Asterios Polyp (Grand Jury Prize), and Naoki Urasawa and the late Osamu Tezuka for Pluto (Intergenerational Award). The full list of winners can be found here. [Agence France-Presse]
Retailing | The beleaguered Borders Group announced on Sunday that it’s delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in an effort to save cash while it tries to complete a debt restructuring. This marks the second round of delays for the bookseller, which has been pressuring large publishers and distributors to agree by Feb. 1 to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. The bookstore chain announced just last week that it secured a $550 million credit line from G.E. Capital, but only if several tough conditions were met — including an unlikely agreement from publishers. [The Wall Street Journal]
Bizarro creator Dan Piraro won the 2010 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented over the weekend by the National Cartoonists Society. He beat out fellow nominees Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac).
The organization also 13 divisional awards in categories ranging from feature animation to book illustration to comic books. Paul Pope won the latter for “Strange Adventures,” his Adam Strange strip serialized in DC’s Wednesday Comics, while David Mazzucchelli took home the graphic novels award for his critically acclaimed Asterios Polyp.
The full list of divisional winners can be found after the break:
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced last night, and the Graphic Novel award went to David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. The judges commented:
Mazzucchelli’s monolith is a beautifully executed love story, a smart and playful treatise on aesthetics, a perfectly unified work whose every formal element, down to the stitching on its spine, serves its themes. No wonder the main character is an architect finding his way back to his Ithaca and his Penelope: “Asterios Polyp” is an odyssey of design as well as writing and art and cartooning. Steeped in classicism and wholly modern, it’s a pleasure to read, and maybe even more of a pleasure to contemplate and discuss.
This is the first year the prizes have included a graphic novel category; the website calls graphic novels “an expanding part of the book landscape, both aesthetically and commercially.”