Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
As dangerous as it’s proved in the past, I’m refining another theory. Comics fans are divided into two schools: those who like expressionist comic artists, and those who like realist art. Were your tastes decided by what comics you were exposed to first? Or did you start off liking one school, and develop into a love of the other?
I can see a pattern emerging through my comics-reading history where I start off as a kid loving the Kirby reprints I’m first exposed to, grew up loving Mick McMahon’s work in 2000AD and came back to comics as an adult under the spell of Mike Mignola. In my time, I’ve admired the work of realists like Neal Adams, Brian Bolland and Bryan Hitch, but it’s the work of those three expressionists that I always return to.
So imagine the pleasure I got seeing McMahon sharing his process for a cover for Dark Horse Presents #32. The January solicitations had passed me by, but that issue really is one for the old -chool 2000AD fans — the collaboration between Mignola and McMahon is joined by a new strip by Brendan McCarthy, “The Deleted.” Now that I think about it, a collaboration between McMahon and Mignola has a fairly inevitable feeling about it. No two comic artists have ever sought to refine their styles so much, constantly paring their work down in a pursuit of minimalism.
We’re living in a “Lil’ Golden Age,” as publishers have discovered the genius of comics creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani.
After showing off their trademark style on the DC heroes in comics like Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, the duo has been tapped to create fun new versions of Hellboy and Battlestar Galactica. The collaborators also have their own line of original characters, following a successful Kickstarter project.
The kid-friendly designs they’ve applied to comics also work pretty well as plush toys, something Dark Horse is jumping all over it introduces plush versions of Itty Bitty Hellboy and Abe Sapien.
No word yet on when you’ll be able to cuddle with Mike Mignola’s signature creations, but Tomopop can show you what they’ll look like.
Have you ever received an unexpected gift that made you instantly happy? That’s how I felt in late April when Dark Horse announced Itty Bitty Hellboy, a five-issue all-ages miniseries by Art Baltazar and Franco (known for their Eisner Award-winning run on DC’s Tiny Titans and, more recently, Superman Family Adventures). Ahead of the comic’s debut on Wednesday, I spoke with Art and Franco about their fun-loving Aw Yeah-ification of the Mike Mignola/Hellboy universe.
Tim O’Shea: How hard was it to settle on the Itty Bitty Hellboy title?
Franco: That was pretty easy. Artie takes all the credit for that one. What title would best encapsulate what we wanted to do with the character than make him itty bitty!
Art Baltazar: Yes! We went through a few different adjectives before “Itty Bitty” won our hearts.
Jason Latour, artist on the Mignola-verse titles Sledgehammer 44 and B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, has posted the image below to his blog, and it’s a doozy. His work on those two Hellboy spinoffs has been under-praised, pitched perfectly between the contributions made to Dark Horse’s flagship line by the likes of Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo. This composition was produced as badge designs and
program cover an exclusive print for this year’s HeroesCon, which as Latour points out, has been an ambition of his for most of his life. That’s another one scratched off the bucket list.
Close-ups of several of these panels can be seen at Latour’s Instagram feed, in various stages of completion. He’s on something of a hot streak as an artist and a writer these last couple of years. I don’t buy that many Marvel comics these days, but his presence on Winter Soldier sold it to me. I’ll miss it, but here’s hoping he makes his way back to Dark Horse for more digging around in Mignola’s sandbox.
Saw this via Mike Mignola’s Facebook feed: I feel like I’m maybe the wrong man to bring you this news, but Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab are Elizabeth Barrial or Brian Constantine, a pair of Californian perfumiers who “specialize in integrating mythology, archetypes, folklore, poetry, and visual artwork with scent.” They’ve produced themed ranges influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and the works of Neil Gaiman in the past, and now they’ve brought out The Hellboy Collection, a “series based on the characters, locations, themes, and concepts in the world of Eisner-award winning Mike Mignola’s Hellboy.”
There’s a lot of humor present in this range: Hellboy’s signature fragrance is described as “aftershave, candy wrappers, brimstone, and cat.” There’s a scent called “A Plague of Frogs” described as “rubbery, wet, and warty.” Trevor Bruttenholm’s is “a classic men’s cologne mixed with the scent of old, yellowed books, a splash of bay rum, and summoning incense,” and Kroenen’s has the extremely pervy-sounding “shining black leather, gleaming metal, labdanum, and myrrh.” Funny stuff, but showing the B.P.A.L. crew are obviously fans of Mignola’s work.
The thing is, I don’t need this because I reckon I already smell like Trevor Bruttenholm without even needing a bottle of perfume, but this is possibly the oddest sounding product licensed from a comics property ever, and for that it deserves a hearty round of applause.
Sure, there was plenty of news released by just about every comic publisher over the weekend at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (as rounded up right here), but the most exciting thing I noticed about the convention was Dave Johnson’s Instagram feed going ballistic. If he produced a sketch for you at the event, chances are he recorded it for posterity on his phone and has posted it already. And if you’re really lucky, Eric Canete has logged in and made a daft gag about it, too.
Also below: the sexiest Death ever.
There’s more to superheroes than those residing at Marvel and DC Comics. Sure, they might dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re by default the best.
Outside the realms of the Big Two, superheroes are thriving on the more independently minded scene. From a mixture of throwback superheroics to off-beat adventures, and even some superheroes who are willing to go where DC and Marvel wouldn’t let their own properties, there’s a cornucopia out there for readers. And now, we’re spotlighting six standouts in that superhero mix in this week’s “Six by 6.”
Comics| Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, expressed dismay about the backlash to DC Comics hiring sci-fi author, and outspoken gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write Adventures of Superman. Card is a board member of the organization, which works against the legalization of same-sex marriage. “This is completely un-American and it needs to be stopped,” Brown said. “Simply because we stand up for traditional marriage, some people feel like it’s OK to target us for intimidation and punishment.” NOM last year launched boycotts of Starbucks and General Mills because of their support of same-sex marriage initiatives. [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Gabi Shepherd, owner of Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, Washington, talks about the importance of courting teenagers, who are often not welcome in other retail stores: “I have found that if I am going to make this the community center that I want to make it then the kids are a big part of that. It makes them feel good when they come in and someone knows who they are. It’s important. It’s respect.” [ThurstonTalk]
He’s one of the most prolific creators in comics, but odds are only a small segment of his audience knows him by name. One of the foremost colorists in the industry, Dave Stewart is in demand as a collaborator for today’s top artists, and one of the most versatile players on the comics scene. He’s also dominated the Eisner Awards’ coloring category, winning seven of the past nine years.
I reached out to Stewart because I’m an admirer of his work and, because frankly, we don’t hear nearly enough from him. We talked about his place in comics, and his role as frequent collaborator with the likes of Mike Mignola and J.H. Williams III. I also asked about his early ambitions to become penciler, and the potential of trying that again some day.
Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]
Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]
Awards | The National Cartoonists Society initiated a webcomics award last year, and this year the organization is splitting it in two, one for short-form works and one for long-form. The challenge with including webcomics, says NCS President Tom Richardson, is that to be eligible, creators must make the majority of their money from cartooning. “That isn’t an easy thing to quantify anymore. With online comics, we need to take into account site traffic, professionalism in consistent and regular publication, online community activity and other factors that are the hallmark of professional online work,” he says. “In some cases, it’s pretty obvious the creator is making a career out of cartooning. In some, it’s not so obvious.” [Comic Riffs]
Cast your mind back to when you first heard Mike Mignola was giving up art duties on Hellboy to allow the title to come out with more frequency. Remember that feeling. Now remember how surprisingly conflicted you felt when you heard he was coming back to drawing the comic, after his substitute Duncan Fegredo had illustrated it so ably for five years, during what proved to be among the greatest sequence of stories in the character’s history.
Now, of course, we have the best of both worlds: Mignola is guiding his signature creation through the lands of his origin in Hellboy in Hell, and Duncan Fegredo is working on an original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, featuring a young Hellboy when he was a pancake-guzzling lad living on an Air Force base in New Mexico, in the care of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. The book is due “in the later half of 2013″ after some delays (Fegredo reports “the book would have been completed ages back but I had the opportunity to storyboard an unnamed movie”).
He sent to ROBOT 6 some “cryptic edits” of the boisterous lil’ hellion in action. It looks typically great: Here’s an early glimpse at what will probably prove to be many people’s book of 2013.
Abe Sapien had a rough 2012, having spent much of the year in a coma. But 2013 doesn’t look to be any easier for the B.P.R.D. agent — as it’s set to be both dark and terrible.
“He’d spent some time out of action as a field agent, and then got back involved in time to see Liz Sherman ignite the center of the world, releasing monsters and all sorts of other problems across the surface of the earth,” Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie said about Abe’s activities pre-coma. “He and the rest of the B.P.R.D. crew launched into action, fighting monsters all over, and eventually Abe was taken out by a young psychic girl during a mission in Texas. Since Abe’s been in the coma, in a life-support cocoon, his body has been changing …”
His story will continue with Abe Sapien: The Dark and Terrible, a new series written by Mike Mignola and Allie and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara (Loki, Mystery in Space). Debuting April 3, the comic is the first issue of a “maxi-series” that will follow Abe as he travels across America, on the run from the B.P.R.D., as monsters continue to wreak havoc on the country — and as his own body continues to change in frightening ways.
I spoke with co-writer Allie about this new chapter in Abe’s story, and what it’s like to collaborate with Mignola.
Digital comics | Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing app on the iPad in 2012. Last year Comics made No. 10 on the charts, and two other comiXology apps, their Marvel and DC apps, also made the Top 20. [Inside Mobile Apps]
Manga | Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe has announced that after a nearly two-year hiatus, he’ll resume his hit manga in January or February. The violent action/black comedy series, which centers on a team of pirates/mercenaries, is published in North America by Viz Media. [Crunchyroll]
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 out with Legend of Luther Strode #1 (Image, $3.50). I was behind the times on the first series, but now I will raise my fist to the air and decree “NO MORE!” (to the stunned silence of my local comic shop owner). Justin Jordan really brought a different take on this story, but for me the sizzle on this is Tradd Moore’s art. It reminds me of Sam Keith’s middle-period during his Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine run, and that’s nothing but a good thing. After that I’d get Stumptown #4 (Oni Press, $3.99). Some might compare Dex’s journey to that of Jessica Jones in Marvel’s Alias, but it’s anything but. Greg Rucka really knows how to make a story feel more than just mere fiction. My third pick this week would be Invincible #98 (Image, $2.99), seeing Mark Grayson get his powers back – just in time to be stomped into the ground, from the looks of it. Reading this series since the first issue, I’m noticing the colorist change more and more here; John Rauch definitely is a step removed from FCO Plascencia, and I’m still getting used to it. Kirkman and Ottley are delivering here so well that Domino’s should be jealous. (ba-dum CHING!) Last up in my Wednesday haul would be Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I’ve noticed in doing Food or Comics for as long as I have how I’ll routinely follow writers but when they manage to get an artist I particularly like I’ll fall over myself trying to get to it. Case in point, this book, with Jonathan Hickman joining forces with Jerome Opeña to kick off a new era for Marvel’s flagship book. I’m all for “Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers,” but I’m even more excited to see Opeña’s take on this.