Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad (DC Comics): Poor Batman. His new continuity is only a few years old, and already he’s suffering from threat inflation, so that now seemingly every crime is one that could level Gotham City and every villain a mass-murderer with a three-figure body count to rival The Joker’s.
In this volume — collecting six issues and an annual from writer Gregg Hurwitz’s run on The Dark Knight — it’s The Mad Hatter’s turn for an upgrade. A villain formerly portrayed as either obsessed with hats or with Lewis Carrol’s Alice books or both, depending on the writer, Jervis Tetch here begins his road to villainy by killing a rabbit, then uses a step-ladder to reach the face of an underling who he proceeds to murder by plunging his thumbs into the victim’s eyes. From there, he murders a housewife by bashing her head in with an iron, he kills hundreds—hundreds!—of Gothamites through his mind-control technology, and he then has Batman’s girlfriend killed…by having her beaten to death in front of him.
In response, Batman tears one of the Tweedles’ jaws off, beats the diminutive Hatter until he’s drenched in his villain’s blood, then tosses him into a pond to drown until Alfred reminds him that he can’t kill the Hatter, or else he’ll be no different from him. I don’t think Batman should ever resort to lethal force, but Alfred’s argument isn’t all that powerful as presented here, given that one side of the scale has a madman murdering scores of innocents, and the other has Batman killing said killer.
That’s not the only surprisingly cliched bit of the story, which invents a new origin full of childhood trauma for Jervis Tetch akin to those Hurwitz previously gave The Scarecrow and The Penguin. Batman also decides he loves his current girlfriend, reluctantly reveals his secret identity to her and then, the very next night, one of his foes murders her while attempting to torture Batman’s secret identity out of her.
It’s a pretty problematic plot, to say the last.
Business | Bitstrips co-founder and CEO Jacob “Ba” Blackstock, whose DIY avatar and comic strip app exploded in 2013, reflects on the lessons of the year, and sketches out the Toronto company’s goals for 2014. Unsurprisingly, those include finding more uses for its comics and, y’know, making money (earlier this month, Bitstrips confirmed a $3 million injection of venture capital, which will go toward more engineers, artists and designers). [Entrepreneur]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon interviews Nate Powell about his work on March, the graphic novel memoir of Rep. John Lewis’ experiences in the civil rights movement, and one of the most acclaimed books of the year. [The Comics Reporter]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s back to a full work week — unless, of course, you’re heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, for HeroesCon 2013.
However, before you board that plane or plot that route, there’s a New Comics Day chock-full of quality releases. Join our contributors for a rundown of some of the highlights.
What do you do when you combine a love for ’70s American comics, training at the Joe Kubert School and a passion for manga? Adam Warren (@EmpoweredComic), that’s what you get. And since graduation from Kubert in 1988, the New England artist has forged his own path in comics that’s classic and exotic, and all-around fun.
For the past five years, Warren has spent the majority of his working (and waking) hours on his creator-owned series Empowered, published by Dark Horse. Described as an “episodic sexy superhero comedy,” it follows the titular superheroine who wears a skintight costume that strengthens and weakens based on her relative self-esteem. With body issues, personal issues and the whole crime-fighting thing, her esteem is far from invincible. Emp, her boyfriend Thugboy and BFF Ninjette fight crime and spend their down time together in various states of anger, happiness and undress.
Empowered is de facto second act for Warren, who rose to fame importing and re-writing and drawing the manga/anime series Dirty Pair. Since then, he’s branched out to work as a writer and an artist for DC Comics and Marvel, but he continues to find the greatest success on his own on series like Empowered. I spoke with Warren this month about the longevity of Empowered, the new one-shot with guest artist Ryan Kinnaird, and Warren’s own issues of being a writer/artist, an artist and sometimes just a writer.
The Best of the Three Stooges Comicbooks, Vol. 1 (Papercutz) Well, here’s at least one good thing to come out of the Farrelly Brothers’ new feature film: Its production company C3 Entertainment teamed with Papercutz/NBM to produce this handsome hardcover, which collects chunks of Stooges comics from two different eras.
The best of these are from defunct publisher St. John’s early-1950s Three Stooges comic (issues 1, 4 and 5, to be precise), and were drawn by Norman Mauer, a gifted comics artist who married the real Moe’s daughter, Joan (who provides the introduction to the volume).
Mauer edited the original book (along with partner Joe Kubert), and delivered action- and gag-packed pages featuring Moe, Larry and Shemp. His designs of the central characters are incredibly strong, with Shemp and Moe much more distinctly defined than they often were in their black-and-white short films.
The pair of them are short, roundish figures who favor clown-like garb, including baggy pants and ill-fitting coats and ties. Mauer’s Larry is more elongated in appearance, and, unlike the others, has a more placid, emotionless look in his eyes.
There’s a fourth character, swindler and conman Benedict Bogus, who constantly tries to put one over on our heroes, but his schemes always end up hurting him more than them. These stories can prove rather wild and formless, as if Mauer were plotting them while drawing them, and resolving them only when he was running out of pages left to fill, but the cartooning is super-sharp, and many of the panels are a joy simply to look at.
The back half of the collection includes the first three issues of the Dell comics, by Pete Alvarado, whose artwork has a coloring-book simplicity to it, as he was aping the style of the Three Stooges cartoons of the time. For these stories, Shemp is out and Curly’s in.
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 start things out with Wolverine and the X-Men #11 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series’ intersection with Avengers Vs. X-Men might put this book in a tailspin, but from the preview it looks copacetic. Aaron has real amazing grips on these characters despite being less than a dozen issues in, and Nick Bradshaw has quickly come from being a surprising follow-up to Chris Bachalo to arguably being more in line with the book than Bachalo himself. Next up for me would be Walking Dead #98 (Image, $2.99), the low march toward #100. After that I’d get FF #18 (Marvel, $2.99) for something arguably better than its parent book Fantastic Four. I hope this title lives on past Hickman’s run on the book, because it’s succeeded in being more than the stereotypical kids team book. After that, I’d snap up Supercrooks #3 (Marvel/Icon, $3.99). Leinil Yu is on a real high here, doing art that goes up against his great High Roads and Silent Dragon era work. Mark Millar’s story is really optimum Millar-style work, but Yu’s storytelling and rendering here are the best in some time.
If I had $30, I’d buy one additional thing: Empowered, Vol. 7 (Dark Horse, $16.99). Adam Warren has really blossomed since his days doing Dirty Pair, and Empowered is a great second act showing the seedy side of superheroes. Adding to that, Adam Warren keeps up a great online presence over on DeviantArt and releases all sorts of magnificent process sketches to go along with the book.
If I could splurge, I’d spend my grocery money this week on Batman: Death By Design (DC, $24.99). Like some sort of Mister X meets Dark Knight crossover, this book is an interesting work especially in contrast with the day-to-day of DC with New 52. I still think of Chip Kidd more as a designer than a writer despite reading his first novel, but I hope this breaks that in my mind and allows me to see him for both his creative avenues.
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 grab with two hands the new issue of Orc Stain #7 (Image, $2.99). Stokoe is one of the few people in mainstream comics blending storytelling in art and writing seamlessly, creating an organic piece of work that’s as good to eat as some of the fictional food he presents in the book. Spaceman #4 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) has, in its short run, showed the best of what can be done at Vertigo and is pretty exhilarating, especially if you re-read it from the beginning. After that I’d pick up my regular double-shot: Invincible #89 (Image, $2.99) and Walking Dead #94 (Image, $2.99), and then top it off with The Twelve #10 (Marvel, $2.99). I’m appreciative Marvel and the creators saw fit to see it through, and the story’s all the better for it.
If I had $30, I’d go all company-owned super heroes. Avengers #23 (Marvel, $3.99) for the continuing fight against HYDRA by Brian Michael Bendis and Daniel Acuna. Acuna’s really (finally) had a chance to blossom on this book and I hope he sees it through for a good long while. After that I’d get FF #15 (Marvel, $2.99), which has silently outstripped Fantastic Four in my book; the added bonus for this issue particularly is seeing artist Nick Dragotta on this book. I’d wrap it all up with Batman Beyond Unlimited #1 (DC, $3.99). I’ll admit I missed out on the complete fervor of Batman Beyond, but I’m excited by Dustin Nguyen and Adam Beechen’s work and the possibilities of them taking on a future rendition of Batman and the JLA.
And if I could splurge, I’d check out the overlooked Key Of Z TPB (Boom!, $14.99). New York City street warfare told against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse? Sounds like my kind of book. Newcomer artist Aaron Kuder’s got an interesting style that I’d been meaning to check out, and this gives me just that chance.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, 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.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Life with Archie is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Richie Rich Gems Winter Special - In addition to their modern-look Richie Rich, Ape has also re-introducied the classic version in both new and reprinted adventures. I missed the solicit for Richie Rich Gems #44 last month (which picked up where the Harvey series left off in 1982), but the series continues with not only the Winter Special, but #45 as well.
Dragons vs Dinosaurs - I haven’t had great luck with Arcana’s books in the past, but c’mon. The title alone…
Hero Happy Hour: On the Rocks - This, on the other hand, is no risk at all. I’m a big fan of Dan Taylor and Chris Fason’s superhero bar stories and this is an all-new, 80-page adventure. Not reprints; not even a printed version of the webcomic. It’s all-new and I need it.
The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot Collected Edition – Archaia prepares for their publishing Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives: The Kula Kola Caper by re-publishing the first story that was originally put out by Dark Horse.