How much, exactly, is too much of a good thing? I imagine it depends on the thing in question, and the person you ask. Let’s say the thing is Marvel’s newish Hawkeye. And the person is me.
I really like this comic, which is something that came as a great surprise to me, as I don’t really have any feelings about Hawkeye beyond, perhaps, preferring the super-archer with the facial hair and the green costume. And I don’t really like reading Marvel comics serially any more, given how hard the publisher strives to make that experience an unpleasant one, with the ads and the variants and the cover prices and the AR phone applications and the random switching and the renumbering and title changing and the funny numbering schemes (“Superior Spider-Man #6AU“…?) and the irregular shipping schedules.
I bought the first issue on a whim, though (it was a light week), and despite a little confusion as to why artist David Aja was to aping ’80s-era David Mazzucchelli, it impressed the hell out of me. Writer Matt Fraction and Aja make a great team, and the idea of focusing on what Hawkeye does “when he’s not being an Avenger” — recasting the movie star/cartoon character/toy as a more-or-less everyman action hero — is interesting, as was the decision to make every issue a done-in-one complete story (for the first three issues, anyway).
Each story has had elaborately constructed plots that spring open, move fluidly and then snap satisfyingly shut, the script and art are paced to encourage a slower, more appreciative reading process that makes each issue seem twice as long as most other Marvel comics, and even Matt Hollingsworth’s old-school but understated color and generous use of purple (to compensate for the lack of costume) has been impressive.
I started to worry when Issue 4 shipped, though, and worry still more when I read Issue 5, and worry still more when I saw Issue 6 arrives next Wednesday.
“My hope is that this will be the longest, best series I’ve ever been a part of, so my new goal is to go exactly one issue longer than wherever The Walking Dead ends. I know Kirkman already has a hundred-issue head start, but I’m confident I can outlive the bastard, especially with his hard-partying Hollywood lifestyle.”
– Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan, discussing his acclaimed collaboration with Fiona Staples in an interview in which he also teases a planned re-teaming with Doctor Strange: The Oath artist Marcos Martin
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what’s been on our nightstands lately. Our guest this week is Jay Faerber, writer of Dynamo 5, Near Death and Noble Causes. The second Near Death trade just came out this week, and his new comic, Point of Impact, comes out Oct. 10.
To see what Jay and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Marvel celebrated Spider-Man’s 50th birthday with an extra-sized issue that week that included not only the debut of Alpha, Spider-Man’s new sidekick, in a story by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, but also new stories by Dean Haspiel, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Nuno Plati. Did Spidey celebrate his big day in style or was the party a bust? Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Doug Zawisza, Comic Book Resources: “Marvel’s gift to Spider-fans includes signing Spider-Man up for the ‘Sidekick Club.’ That comes in the form of Alpha, an until-this-issue normal high-schooler, not unlike Peter Parker back in the days of yore. Alpha’s civilian identity of Andy Maguire is an ordinary C student content with just existing. He’s not a loser, but he sure isn’t a winner. In short, he’s young Peter Parker without any motivation or interest.” (4/5 stars)
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “It’s a fun inversion, having Peter himself hosting a group of Midtown High School kids to show off his new ‘Parker Particles,’ and of course it goes awry – although this time, it’s thanks to a bit of skullduggery from a jealous aspiring Horizon Labs scientist named Tiberius. This little sabotage actually brings to mind the origin of Spider-Man 2099, when Miguel O’Hara was cursed with spider-powers he didn’t want after a spiteful co-worker tried to kill him with his own device. That probably wasn’t intentional at all, but I saw it, so I’m calling it cool. Anyway, the resulting disaster gives Maguire a crazy level of super power not unlike Ultra Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes in that he’s got all the generic superhero basics but can only use them one at a time.”
Happy Mother’s Day and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Ryan Ferrier, who I spoke to a couple of weeks ago about his comic Tiger Lawyer and recently kicked off an Indie GoGo project to fund the second issue.
To see what Ryan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Let’s not mince words, the online presence of Tom Brevoort has provided hours of great reading for Robot 6 readers. Given his constant and unflagging willingness to interact with consumers via social media, Brevoort is a quote machine (His Twitter bio? “A man constantly on the verge of saying something stupid–for your entertainment!?”). There’s always a directness (some would say bluntness) to his manner online–making him the ideal subject for an interview. Last year saw Marvel promote Brevoort to senior vice president for publishing. 2011 was a year of some major successes for Marvel, as well as a year where some hard business decisions were made. In this interview, conducted in mid-December via email, I tried to cover a great deal of ground (we even briefly discuss DC’s New 52 success)–and Brevoort did not hold back on any of his answers. For that, I am extremely grateful. Like any high profile comics executive, Brevoort has his fans and his critics (and many in between), but I like to think this exchange offers some perspectives everyone can enjoy.
Tim O’Shea: Whether it’s in your job description or not, fan outreach via social media is definitely part of your job–clearly by your own choice. What benefit or enjoyment do you get from interacting with the fans/consumers?
Tom Brevoort: I’m not sure that I get a particular benefit, except maybe just being the center of attention for a few minutes—maybe everything I do is motivated by ego! I’m a whore for the spotlight! But I started doing this kind of outreach back in the formative days of internet fandom, largely because I like the idea of internet fandom. I know that, if the internet had existed when I was a young comic book reader, I’d have been on those message boards and in those chat rooms all the time, obsessively—just like a certain portion of the audience today. So I like the idea of giving back, of being accessible enough that anybody who has a question or a concern knows where to find me, or at least to find somebody with an insider’s track who might have the background and knowledge to speak to their point. In a very real way, it’s all an outgrowth of what Stan Lee did in his letters pages and Bullpen pages. Joe Q, I think, was really the first person to perfect that approach for the internet age. As EIC he was incredibly available to the audience in a myriad of ways. It’s a philosophy that’s very much woven into our DNA at Marvel. And for the most part, our fans are interesting, vibrant, cool people, especially when you meet them in person.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Andy Burns, editor-in-chief of the pop culture site Biff Bam Pop!, which is doing a holiday gift guide with giveaways through Dec. 24. You can follow them on Twitter for more information.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Welcome to the turkey hangover edition of What Are You Reading?, your weekly look into the reading lists of the Robot 6 crew. Our special guest today is Andy Hirsch, creator of Varmints and artist of The Royal Historian of Oz.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Passings | Alvin Schwartz, the prolific writer who penned Batman comics and the Batman and Superman comic strips for DC Comics in the 1940s, passed away Oct. 28 after a long illness. He was 95. Before leaving comics in 1958, Schwartz wrote for most of DC’s titles, including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash. [News from ME]
Creators | Tucker Stone talks to Mark Waid about his work on Daredevil, and Waid confirms that Marcos Martin, originally announced as the artist on every other arc, won’t be working on the book after issue #6: “Unfortunately, it was something that came up while we were working. He’s doing 4, 5 and 6. When he came on, I don’t think things were firmed up with his next project and now they have. I salute him, and I think it’s going to be great and I want to see him go off and do creator owned stuff. But my heart breaks.” [comiXology]
Hiya kids, it’s time for What Are You Reading?, a weekly look into what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today’s special guest is Thom Zahler, creator of the delightful superhero/romantic comedy comic Love and Capes.
To find out what Thom and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday Spectacular (2011), pages 5-6 panels 4-7. Marcos Martin.
The basic motivating idea behind comics art is “pictures that move.” The whole point of sequence is to force readers into seeing motion between images, to position individual pictures as the captured points of larger, extended passages of movement. That said, on the printed page “pictures that move” is an obvious oxymoron. The stillness of drawn images is one of the most fundamental problems that comics have to work against, and as with other non-negotiable truths of the medium like its lack of ability to produce sound or light, pretty much every artist of note has come up with a slightly different way to overcome it.
One of the more convincing ways to imply real motion is with layout. An individual drawing can communicate a single motion wonderfully when it’s done right, but beyond that it’s limited, unable to do more than pin down one small section of time. When individual drawings are put together they form a string of single moments, single actions, but it’s the way they’re put together that determines whether or not that string reads as something continuous, unbroken. At its best, layout amplifies the motion implied by the drawings it holds, smoothing out the gaps between them and forcing the reader to stitch them together into one unified whole.
Broadway | The New York Times reports the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are considering delaying the $65 million musical for a sixth time, until as late as June, a move that would make the show ineligible for this year’s Tony Awards. Speculation about another possible postponement follows a wave of scathing reviews, reports that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rewrite the book, and the hiring of veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev to help improve the production. A spokesman for the show would only say that, “Opening night remains scheduled for March 15.” [ArtsBeat]
Comic-Con | Hotel reservations for Comic-Con International will open at 9 a.m. PT on March 9. A preliminary list of hotels included in the Comic-Con block is available on the convention website. [Comic-Con International]
There are two constants in this world: death & taxes. And because no one wants to watch the X-Men note their deductibles in a double-sized gate-fold covered extravaganza, we see a lot of death in comics. Much like origin stories, deaths are a reward to read because we are witness to moments of change and a new beginning in an old, familiar life.
By now I take it for granted that everyone knows who Spider-Man is. Pop culture has evolved in such a way that people can recognize a lot of obscure heroes that we normally reserved for the True Believer. But that doesn’t mean people know everything and, like I said, people are excited to be there when it first happened, or even just when the last thing happened.
Ratings go up when the last episode of a television show airs. No one ever asks me at my comic shop for the most recent volume of the Walking Dead when they are inspired by the new TV show, they want the first volume even though it will recap some information they’ve already seen. Marvel’s Point One program could be that entry point for curious readers who at least know the basics, but want to have that thrill of being there when it first happened, whatever that may be.
Then what? Yeah, we all want to be there when Peter slings his first web or when the puny Banner transforms into the brutish Hulk for the first time, but there’s always more to that story than just its beginning. You can’t just string a bunch of events together, over and over, starting something and never finishing it. Stories that highlight this brave new start have to go on after that moment and never be the same again. If you use a death to highlight a moment in your story, things simply can’t return to normal the next issue. These beginnings and endings have to matter for the reader to be enticed to the next issue. Sure, Stacy X died in an issue of the most recent incarnation of the New Warriors, but that death meant nothing to the greater comics stories at large, no one important took it to heart and most likely she’ll come back as a zombie or a movie cameo, and that moment will be empty.
Two books came out this week in a double whammy of mourning, teaching me at least a little about how to do these beginnings and endings right. I’d like to give these two issues a toast, to the future of these characters and the undiscovered country that awaits them both.
(WARNING: Hey everybody, people died in comics! If you don’t know who these people are or haven’t caught up on the Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man, please go do so. These are pretty phenomenal books right now, and they will win you over with excellent storytelling and astounding artwork. If you already know who lives and dies, read on and let’s discover some country. Read on!)