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Years before his breakthrough works such as Why I Hate Saturn, Kyle Baker was an intern at Marvel. And although he was admittedly a poor fit for superhero comics, his editors saw something in the artist and gave him an outlet in It’s Genetic, a series of one-panel comics for the company’s promotional magazine Marvel Age.
Although Baker would go on to do different things, these early illustrations demonstrate how Baker — to say nothing of Marvel — wasn’t afraid to poke fun at one of the company’s biggest properties. Take this for instance:
My labor-of-love graphic novel The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story was recently nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, and after coming back down to Earth (I learned what it meant to jump for joy — I was airborne!) I realized that I was equally honored by the nomination itself as I was by being a part of the category. Comics have certainly entertained me over the years — but more than that they have educated and inspired me. Many people have asked why I chose the graphic novel medium to tell the Brian Epstein story, and the heart of my answer is my steadfast belief that comics is simply one of the most powerful mediums for telling reality-based stories. Comics can capture the factual history of a tale alongside its poetic essence in a way prose biographies couldn’t dream of.
Many folks of Indian origin like myself can claim to have started reading comics when we were children. Indeed, many of us first learned our great Indian epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata through easy-to-digest (and fun), cheap comic book adaptations. These ashcan-like books may have seemed like merely disposable entertainment, but the epics they’re based on are touchstones of the Indian identity. Those comics surreptitiously taught us about who we are, where we come from, and the power of both story and history. It’s perhaps no surprise that my Indian parents loved comics, and some of my earliest memories include browsing the comics racks at Forbidden Planet with them (then going home to listen to their Beatles’ records). And even when my childhood longboxes were full of the funnies, I somehow sensed that comics were more than just “comic” books.
This weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America and their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The intersection of the Beatles and comics began a year earlier, though, when Paul McCartney told the music magazine NME that he would like to appear in The Dandy, a popular weekly children’s comic (almost 50 years later, he got his wish, as he appeared in the final issue).
In their heyday, the Beatles made frequent cameos in comics, and were often the subject of comics themselves; over the past few years, however, comics creators have taken a retrospective look at not just the musicians but the times they lived in and the personalities around them. Here, then, is a look at four comics, all very different, but each with its own appeal to those of us who remember when the Beatles were hot—and those who want to relive it in the pages of comics.
I’m a massive Beatles nerd. I can still remember the funny looks on the faces of the locals, some amazed, some horrified, as I gave a breathless real-time breakdown of all the references and visual puns in the “Free As A Bird” video as it played on the TV in the corner of a bar back in 1995. I’ve read countless books on the band over the years, good and bad, and have been looking forward to The Fifth Beatle by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker with a certain relish.
It’s hard to get any freshness into such a well-worn tale, but that seems to be Robinson’s job in the creative team: Every page previewed so far shows him marrying a caricaturist’s knack for capturing likenesses to Sienkiewicz-like expressionism and multimedia experimentation for this project.
Now Dark Horse has debuted the trailer for The Fifth Beatle (below) that will be playing at the publisher’s booth throughout Comic-Con International in San Diego (Tiwary and Robinson will be signing there Friday at 3 p.m.). The video features plenty of tantalizing fleeting glimpses of Robinson’s art, but there’s no sign of any of Kyle Baker’s section though. He’s provided the art for a sequence based on the style of the old King Features Syndicate cartoons, but a thorough shakedown of my usual sources has failed to produce any examples yet. I’m sure time will tell soon enough on that score.
The graphic novel will be released Nov. 19.
Legal | Egyptian artist Magdy el Shafee, creator of the graphic novel Metro, was arrested by security forces in Cairo and is being held in Tora Prison. The arrests weren’t directly related to his graphic novel, which was banned by the regime of Hosni Mubarak; el Shafee went to Abdel Moneim Riyad Square to try to stop a showdown between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, and ended up being arrested in a sweep that rounded up 38 people. [Words Without Borders]
Legal | The local paper profiles Susan Alston, who has been active in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund since the 1990s and even ran it for a while from the garage of her Northampton, Massachusetts, home. [Masslive.com]
Happy Easter and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we review the stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we are joined by Miranda Mercury and Voltron writer Brandon Thomas, whose collection of original art and other stuff we featured in Shelf Porn yesterday.
To see what Brandon and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
In case you hadn’t already read, cartoonist Kyle Baker on Tuesday casually made put up on his website free digital versions of eight of his creator-owned graphic novels. That includes acclaimed works like Why I Hate Saturn, Nat Turner and You Are Here. You can read them through an embedded reader on his site, or download them. Sometimes the digital files aren’t the best, but all the more reason to go for the print version if your interest is piqued; each page has links to Amazon listings. While most are out-of-print, re-sellers are offering new and used copies for less than cover price in most cases.
This is a veritable feast for readers, but it’s an interesting and unexpected move by the artist. As mentioned, only three of the eight downloadable graphic novels appear to be in-print: Nat Turner, The Bakers: Babies and Kittens and Special Forces. As this doesn’t appear to be a promotional campaign to boost sales, it may be a way to prove audience interest to a publisher. Baker mentioned on Twitter last night that he’s negotiating for a new publishing deal, which could include a sequel to Why I Hate Saturn.
So if he doesn’t really have to worry about cannibalizing print sales (even though we know that doesn’t happen; we’ve seen time and again evidence to support the theory that digital sales actually help boost print sales), why just give them away?
David Lloyd and U.K. comics mainstay Bambos Georgiou are launching a digital anthology comic called Aces Weekly, and have released a large and impressive list of future contributors to the U.K. comics blog Down The Tubes. The press release continues:
Dylan Teague is a U.K. artist few in the United States will have heard of. He has a great style, in a very British tradition — you’ll see the influence of artists such as Sydney Jordan, Don Lawrence or Brian Bolland in his work. Unfortunately, he’s not particularly prolific and he certainly doesn’t update his blog often enough. The sod. But he has updated it with pages scanned from his sketchbook twice in the last week.
More interesting work spotted recently at assorted artists’ blogs below.
Truth #2 (2003), page 12 panels 1-4. Kyle Baker.
When you boil it down to the core, action comics is basically an artist manipulating a set of stock poses. The writing can invent different reasons for conflict to come about and layer significance into it as it’s happening. Different page construction tools — both layout and in-panel composition — control the ebb and flow of what we’re reading, making each impact feel a little different and each action taken pop out as unique. Even if we’ve all read thousands of panels in which someone gets punched, each one is the only one that shows it happening a certain way. Finally, the stylism a cartoonist blankets their drawing with is as much a part of any piece of comics as the content — even if an artist copies another’s page panel for panel, the mannerisms that are an unavoidable byproduct of the act of drawing ensures that the result will be something significantly different.
The news last week about the return of First Comics makes me happier than it has any right to. Although I haven’t read an incredible amount of the publishers’ 1980s/1990s output–which included a couple of gems, which I have read: American Flagg! Nexus! Those two alone feel like they should earn First a place in most comic lovers’ hearts–the publisher holds a weird place in my heart for being, I’m pretty convinced, the first American indie publisher I ever bought a comic from, way back when.
In my debut CTN column, I raved about Justice Inc., a two-part prestige format series DC put out in the late 1980s, written by Andrew Helfer and drawn by Kyle Baker. The book starred a long-forgotten pulp hero known as the Avenger. That comic was actually a spin-off of another comic Helfer and Baker were doing at the time, which was also based off of a pulp hero, although in his case he was far from forgotten. I’m talking, of course, about The Shadow.
Kyle Baker did an animated cartoon for Showtime based off of their popular live-action series Dexter, and he’s got the screenshots up on his blog to prove it. No word on when this goes live, but I’m stoked to see it. (found via Beaucoup Kevin.)
Comic-con or no comic-con, gods or no gods, we aim to keep What Are You Reading up and running every Sunday regardless. Our special guest this week is none other than the one, the only Abhay Khosla. Abhay’s a regular contributor to Brian Hibbs’ Savage Critics Web site, but can also usually be found lurking about here.
To see what Abhay and everyone else is reading, click the little linky …