REVIEW: "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is a Lot of Fun, a Little Flawed, and Whedon All the Way
Comic Books, Film
Written by Charles Soule; Illustrated by Allen Gladfelter
I said in the weekend’s What Are You Reading that I wasn’t sure what to make of the lucha libre genre. “I can easily embrace the sillier aspects of it,” I said, “but it’s off-putting to me that people in the stories always seem to take the luchadors so seriously. We’re asked to believe that the ridiculous masks are badges of honor that command respect. Strongman plays around with that idea and I appreciate that about it.”
Having finished the book, I’m not sure that “plays around with” is the right verb. What Strongman seems to do is acknowledge the irony of the concept, but ends up defending it. As writer Charles Soule says in the press release for the book, “The real-life luchadors were incredible, larger-than-life figures. They were basically real-world superheroes – many of them never took their masks off in public. These people were big deals. And I thought a story that played with their legend a bit, while remaining respectful could be something special.” Okay, so Soule uses “played with” too. Maybe that is what he’s doing. I’m not the best person to judge.
As an outsider to the lucha libre world, I see movie titles like Mil Máscaras vs. the Aztec Mummy and Santo vs. the Vampire Women and I think, “Awesome!” I’m not however thinking about how much I respect El Santo and Mil Máscaras. I mean, no more than I respect Indiana Jones or Batman.
More plus Robot 13 below the cut.
The Apocalipstix, Volume 1
Written by Ray Fawkes; Illustrated by Cameron Stewart
I first encountered the world’s greatest post-apocalyptic band in the Rumble Royale anthology from Canada’s Royal Academy of Illustration and Design. There was a Sam Hiti story in it I wanted, but it also introduced me to The Apocalipstix (and Chip Zdarsky, but that’s another story). It’s well worth tracking down.
Much easier to get is Oni’s publication of the further adventures of The Apocalipstix. The band is sort of the Mad Max version of Josie and the Pussycats. The world has ended in nuclear fire, but that’s not stopping Mandy, Dot, and Meg from going on tour. The End-of-the-World Tour, they call it. The book is made up of three stories, each of which more or less stands on its own, but are all loosely tied together by the context of the girls’ tour.
Writer Thomas Hall and artist Daniel Bradford have worked together since 2003, and in a few short weeks they’ll publish a new title that really caught my eye when I received an email about it. Making its debut at the 2009 MoCCA Festival, which is presented every year by the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York, is the first issue of Robot 13. It’s the story of an amnesiac robot who fights mythological creatures of destruction.
With a title like that, how could I not do an interview with Hall to find out more about Robot 13?
JK: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Can you give us a little bit of info on your background, like how you got into comics and when you decided you wanted to write them?
Tom: As far back as I can remember, I have always loved comics. Like a lot of kids, the first comics I ever had were given to me- some Archies, a few Legion of Superheroes books and a few Marvel books. One that I was obsessed with was an issue of the Incredible Hulk by John Buscema. I was three, and I stared at that thing all the time, and I don’t know to this day exactly why. My dad read it to me, and I asked him how he knew what everyone was saying. He explained word balloons to me, and being three and naive, I asked him where the words came from. When he told me that it was someone’s job to write comics, even at three it just blew my mind. From that point on, I wanted to be a writer of some kind.
Written by Gil Lawson; Illustrated by Eliseu Gouveia
General Jinjur; $14.95
I don’t think I’m a superhero fan anymore. Not as a genre anyway. I still have my favorite Marvel and DC characters, but I’m fond of them because I grew up with them and want to keep reading about them. By themselves, costumed heroes aren’t enough to get me immediately interested in a new story. In fact, whenever I hear about a new superhero comic from a new publisher, I have a hard time paying attention. If the word “universe” is mentioned, I pretty much write it off. Isn’t it conventional wisdom by now that new superhero universes are an automatic fail anyway? No one but Marvel and DC has really been able to sustain one for very long.
I’m doubtful that the Charlatan universe (called the Jinjurverse by its creators) is going to be the one to break that pattern. There’s reason for hope in this first volume, Preludes, but history is against it and the book is flawed enough to make me skeptical about its chance of success. That’s too bad in a way, because there are also some very nice things about Preludes that make me want to see it do well.
Warlord of Io
Written and Illustrated by James Turner
Writers like Jeff Parker, Matt Fraction, Fred Van Lente, and Paul Tobin rightfully deserve to be at the top of the People Who Make Awesome list, but they get something of an advantage by being able to throw stuff like the Hulk or MODOK or Galactus into their stories. Not that it’s an unfair advantage. These guys got to play with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s toys by first showing what they could do with the stuff in their own rooms. But right up there with them has to be James Turner.
He may not have the exposure of those other guys, but he’s no less Rip-Your-Brain-Out-Of-Your-Head-Because-You-Won’t-Need-It-Anymore-After-This Awesome. If you’ve read Rex Libris, you know what I’m talking about, but baby he was just getting warmed up there. Warlord of Io and Other Stories has five stories in it and they’re all fantastic.
Half of it is the first chapter of the “Warlord of Io” story. I thought this was going to be a self-contained one-shot, but I’m happy to be wrong about that because I really want to read more of it. It’s about a boy named Zing who just wants to be a rock star, but unfortunately has to take over ruling the moon-world when his father Emperor Zoz suddenly decides to retire to the Pleasure Domes of Zur with Enormous Breasted Space Amazons in Zero Gravity. What’s a poor little Crown Prince to do?
This coming weekend the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo, or SPACE, blasts off at the Aladdin Shrine Complex in Columbus, Ohio. Admission is $5 a day or $8 for both Saturday and Sunday.
About 150 indie creators will be on hand to sell their comics and original art, including Eisner nominee Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole), Ryan Claytor (And Then One Day), Jay Hosler (Optical Allusions) and Matt Feazell (Cynicalman). On Saturday, Carol Tyler (Late Bloomer, Weirdo) will display some of her work from her upcoming book You’ll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man. The Ohio State University Cartoon Library and Museum will host a reception on Friday night to kick off the weekend and will feature original artwork from Bill Watterson, Jeff Smith and P. Craig Russell.
For more information on panels and other events related to th show, check out the official SPACE blog.
A couple of years ago the guys who do the Indie Spinner Rack podcast worked with several of their past guests to create an anthology simply called Awesome. This Spring brings the sequel, Awesome 2: Awesomer, which features a nice cover by Jeff Smith and contributions by Alex Robinson, Fred Van Lente, Dave Roman, Jim Rugg, Kevin Colden, Fred Chao, Jeff Lemire, Salgood Sam, Julia Wertz and many more. Check out the full list here.
And while the list of folks involved is impressive enough, there are two elements to the project that I thought really put the “er” in “Awesomer.” First, half the proceeds for the book will go toward scholarships at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Second, the book includes a mini-comic that collects stories by some of the students at the school … so not only does the main book include comics by some of the current greats in independent comics, but the mini-comic features creators we’ll likely be talking about in the future.
And just to put the icing on the cake … Jason Lutes is doing the cover for the mini-comic, while Jon Adams of Truth Serum fame is designing the book.
The book is due to hit stores in May and will be published by Top Shelf Productions.
Sherlock Holmes #1
Written by Leah Moore and John Reppion; Illustrated by Aaron Campbell
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been really curious to see what Dynamite does with a Sherlock Holmes series. I described myself as being “skeptically curious” about it and said that “I love Holmes when Doyle writes him, but other writers often portray him as either superhuman or a total ass. It’s rare that someone is able to match Doyle’s ability to balance both aspects of Holmes, but hopefully Leah Moore and John Reppion are up to it.”
When Dynamite offered to send me a PDF of the first issue, I couldn’t resist taking a peek. It’s not the format I’d prefer to read the story in (especially since the PDF was uncolored and I imagine that Campbell’s art will look fantastic in color), but curiosity beat the crap out of delayed gratification and so now I’ve read it.
It’s been quite awhile since we first heard word that Marvel Comics had an anthology in the works featuring some of the best independent creators around, and a recent MyCup ‘O Joe column revealed several of the creators involved — Jim Rugg, Paul Pope, Dash Shaw, Stan Sakai, Paul Hornschemeier and Jason, just to name a few.
The lineup of talent is impressive, and many of the stories they’ll be working on are inspired — Jim Rugg’s Machine Man-turned-motorcycle is hot, while Dash Shaw’s Dr. Strange is such a nature pairing it seems like they should just launch it as an ongoing. But it also got me thinking — who else would I want to see featured in this book? I started my list with a couple of creators who I remembered already had story ideas ripe for the picking, then asked my fellow Robot 6ers to help me come up with a few more. I should probably mention that I avoided any creators who have already been announced for the book.
So without further ado …
1. Jeffrey Brown’s “Wolverine: Dying Time” story — A few years back Jeffrey Brown (Clumsy, The Incredible Change-Bots) shared his love for a certain Canadian mutant in a non-commissioned story that featured Wolverine taking on an army of zombies. Honestly, when I first heard about this anthology, this was the first thing that came to mind, as it seems to me that the one overriding reason why Marvel would want to do an anthology like this is to publish this story. Brown’s loose art style fits the subject matter perfectly, and heck — the story’s almost done already.
It’s practically the patron saint of this list.
The Abominable Charles Christopher
Written and Illustrated by Karl Kerschl
If you only know Karl Kerschl from Superman comics and Teen Titans: Year One you likely love him, but you’re missing his best work. The Abominable Charles Christopher, Kerschl’s weekly web comic, is a poorly kept secret, but I still don’t see it talked about enough. Certainly not as much as it deserves.
At first look, ACC is about a sweet, but dim sasquatch-like creature. We don’t know his name at first, and maybe he doesn’t even have one, but he’s eventually called Charles Christopher and the name sticks. We don’t really know why he’s called that, but the one who gives him that name is a mysterious being whose motives we don’t yet understand. Maybe there’s nothing behind the name. Maybe it’s of vast importance.
You see, trouble is coming to the forest and it’s going to be up to Charles Christopher to stop it. Why? We don’t yet know that either. Will he be up to the task? It’s hard to see how he will.
I should’ve done this last week, but a) my comic shop got screwed out of their Previews order (yay Diamond!) and b) I was glad to get to talk about The New Brighton Archeological Society on the day it came out.
Once more, focusing on debut issues, collections, and graphic novels, here’s what looks promising a couple of months from now. And by all means let me know in the comments what I missed.
Femme Noir, Volume 1: The Dark City Diaries – A mysterious, gun-toting woman fighting jungle girls and robot gangsters. Writer Christopher Mills knows how to do great, fun pulp and it’s illustrated by the legendary Joe Staton.
Freakangels, Volume 2 – I haven’t been reading the webcomic version yet, but wow the art is gorgeous, isn’t it? Looking forward to seeing what it’s all about.
Unthinkable #1 – A think-tank that develops nightmare scenarios for the government to prepare against shuts down and the members begin to disappear. One of them, a novelist, has to figure out what’s going on and stop it before – I assume – he’s taken and the scenarios start becoming reality. Sounds like a great thriller and I’m in the mood for one of those.
Because I was at WonderCon, I missed this past weekend’s MyCup ‘o Joe when it popped up on MySpace, but Paul Hornschemeier points out a question from a fan about Marvel’s upcoming “indie project,” for lack of a better name (and I’m sure there is one) that’ll feature stories by Hornschemeier, Jim Rugg, Stan Sakai, Paul Pope and, holy crap, Jason, among others:
At the New York Comic Con, CB Cebulski mentioned that the Marvel “Indie Project” was coming along nicely. I’m wondering if you could tell us any of the talent involved or tease some artwork. Anyone in particular you are stoked to have on board?
JQ: It’s definitely moving forward—and looking better and better every day. There are some huge names in indy comics involved with this project and we couldn’t be more excited about the work they’re turning in. Just to name a few of the talents involved, we’ve got Paul Pope, Stan Sakai, Paul Hornschemeier, Dash Shaw, Junko Mizuno, Jim Rugg, Corey Lewis…and a bunch more small press superstars contributing some truly amazing stories. We just got some outstanding pages in from the cartoonist JASON and I gotta tell you, this is going to be one awesome book. Stay tuned!
The New Brighton Archeological Society, Book One: The Castle of Galomar
Written by Mark Andrew Smith; Illustrated by Matthew Weldon
Colored by Rodrigo Avilés, Jacob Baake, Carlos Carrasco, Bill Crabtree, Jessie Lam, and Ralph Niese.
After reading this book I learned that some of the material in it was originally published in the Popgun anthology. That explains a lot actually, because I had a hard time figuring out how to connect to the story. Its disjointed, start-stop opening threw me, but at least now I understand why.
Not that I had any problem connecting to the art. It’s easy not only to love Matthew Weldon’s blissfully imaginative illustrations, but to revel in them as well. I want to live in the world Weldon draws.
For that matter, I want to live in the world Smith writes. He’s also got a fantastic imagination and has created a fun world full of good goblins, evil faeries, man-eating housecats, evil treasure-hunters, sprawling mansions, enchanted estates, horrible monsters, secret rooms, and hidden libraries full of forbidden knowledge. And it’s up to four pre-adolescent kids to navigate their way safely through all of it in order to preserve their families’ legacies. It’s a great world and a great set up for a story. Unfortunately, the presentation of that story isn’t as smooth as it could be.
In my very first article for this column I mentioned how much I was looking forward to Amber Atoms and Johnny Monster from Image. One stars a raygun-toting, sword-swinging, jetpack-wearing space-girl and the other is about a hunter of giant-monsters who just so happens to be related to his prey. They pretty much embody everything that Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs is about so, since they both came out last week, let’s see how they are.
Amber Atoms is written and illustrated by Kelly Yates and it opens very promisingly with a spaceship full of ape-warriors. It’s never made perfectly clear who they are, but I think they’re bad guys, working for the evil ruler of the planet Dar-Tongo. They only appear in this one panel until much later (“generations” later, we’re told) when we see a couple of them hanging around another king of Dar-Tongo. If they are bad guys, they’re fighting a ragtag army of diverse aliens put together by a nameless Flash Gordon-like hero to overthrow Dar-Tongo and free what will eventually become the United Worlds.
Apart from my having to think harder than I wanted to about the allegiances of ape-warriors, the rest of the issue is fairly strong. Dar-Tongo’s fall is just a prelude to the rest, which takes place the aforementioned generations later and is divided between two stories.
Editor’s Note: I started talking to Ken Marcus, whose Super Human Resources comic comes out from Ape Entertainment next month, some time ago about doing a quick Q&A for the blog. But after doing a quick Google search, I realized I was way behind the curve. So instead, he agreed to write up a guest column. Playing off of a post I did last year, he offered to share some of the things he’s learned about marketing his indy comic over the last few months.
And if you aren’t interested in this topic, we’ve got you covered as well — Marcus also sent over some preview pages from the first issue.
by Ken Marcus
Hey, peeps. My name is Ken Marcus. I’m the creator of the new mini-series Super Human Resources from Ape Entertainment. #1 is due in comic stores at the beginning of March.
Why am I talking to you? Um, besides shamelessly whoring my own book out? I’ve learned a few things about marketing my indy comic along the way, and I thought it would be helpful to share them with those thinking about publishing their own book. Particularly in light of the new Diamond sales thresholds.
Am I an expert? Hardly. Our sales numbers are not exactly lighting the world on fire. But they were pretty good for an indy from a first-time creator. In…I don’t know…the worst economic climate ever to launch a comic. I’m also an associate creative director at one of the top ad agencies in the country. So I know just enough about marketing to be dangerous. So I wanted to share what we learned. Starting with this little pick-me-up:
People do not care about you. Not readers, not retailers, not the press and maybe not even your publisher. No one gives two turds about your book except for you. (The publisher thing isn’t really true, but regardless, this NEEDS to be your working mindset.) So making other people give two turds about your idea rests solely on your shoulders. That’s another way to say “marketing.”