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To best understand a creator’s project, I typically like to learn how the storyteller views her main character. In this week’s interview, artist Ming Doyle immediately provided that insight into the star of Mara, her six-issue Image Comics collaboration with writer Brian Wood.
As she explained to me, while Mara is a volleyball player, it’s the character’s celebrity that “is the core of her being.” Doyle clearly relishes the chance to draw “futurecity gridlock,” and she does a good job conveying such scenes. In discussing her craft, it struck me that while respect for her work has been growing steadily, it appears she’s just beginning to get comfortable with her storytelling talents (while continually striving to improve upon them).
Comic Book Resources recently ran a preview of Mara #2, which goes on sale Wednesday. Wood and Doyle together tell an engaging tale. If you missed the first issue, this week would be a good time to pick up two issues and see what you’re missing.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.
To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Only a handful of comics were released on Wednesday, what with it being a skip week for Diamond Comic Distributors. What did come out, though, could be described as “event” comics — an anniversary issue, crossover kick-offs and several first issues and specials — including Mara, a new miniseries by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle.
“Mara is one of the most famous people on the planet, a superstar athlete with widespread name recognition, celebrity endorsements, her own broadcast network — not so shabby for a girl in her late teens,” Wood told Comic Book Resources in September. “She is a member of a society that places their ultimate emphasis on physical achievement, whether it be in sports or the waging of war. So when she does start to manifest powers, this is pretty significant. Everything she’s accomplished up to this point is immediately suspect. It looks like she cheated. It’s hard to overestimate the implications of that in the world she lives in.”
Here is what folks are saying about it:
Vince Ostrowski, Multiversity Comics: “Wood’s goal is to clearly present us with a future world that is a magnification of our own. The NFL is the most watched programming week in and week out, and while there is no inherent harm in enjoying a sport, there is clearly a lot of ulterior stuff going on in the marketing and the business side of things. Athletes get paid salaries that are more and more outrageous every year and advertising seems to pervade everything, as certain sports see players covered in logos. Even playing fields and specific games are sponsored by companies who have a financial stake in the popularity of sports. Wood has always allowed a bit of politics or social commentary into his work, but is careful in doing so. The enjoyment of the sport itself is not condemned, and the satire of the business side of things is handled with subtlety and class.”
San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Chicago may be better known as comics towns, but Boston has a thriving indie comics community, and now the city has a documentary about it as well. In this 11-minute film, The Amazing and Fantastical Boston Comics Creators, director Frank Duran talks to an array of local talent, including Jesse Lonergan, Jerel Dye, John Hilliard and Ming Doyle. It’s well worth a look both to see the amazing art some of these creators are producing and to hear them talk about their process as well as the importance of the Boston Comics Roundtable in bringing them together and nurturing their work.
Retailing | Retailers are “cautiously ecstatic,” ICv2 reports, ecstatic because comics sales have increased in the direct market every month for the past 12 months, and cautious because this “return to floppies” comes after years of a seesawing market and they know things can change at any time. The article contains links to the news and analysis site’s lists of the top graphic novel properties in a number of categories, including superheroes, manga, and kids’ comics. [ICv2]
Creators | The Sri Lankan political cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda has been missing for 1,000 days as of Tuesdayy, and his wife is convinced the government has something to do with that. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | This article about T. Casey Brennan, who wrote for Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, takes a number of weird turns, not least when Brennan claims to have shot JFK — and when he shows up in the comments section to dispute everything in the article. Brennan’s life seems to have taken a turn after he was injured in an automobile accident, and he now is homeless and but apparently happy. [The Washtenaw Voice]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, 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.
Avengers #1 (Marvel): Has Marvel NOW! already gotten enough attention? Maybe so, but that’s partly the reason I’m highlighting this specific book. In the rising tide that’s pushed all of the Marvel NOW relaun!ches, for me — as a fan and journalist — the marketing has dulled the unique appeal of every book. Flipping through Previews and giving this a deeper critical eye, it made me realize – this is Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña doing Avengers, the de facto flagship book of Marvel since 2004. Opeña really turned a corner with Uncanny X-Force, and I’m interested to see how Hickman brings his meticulous plotting to a biweekly book with a cast larger than Circus of the Stars. And what’s interesting is that he’s done a version of this when he relaunched the “Ultimate” version of the Avengers in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates. I’m not saying this will be that re-heated over, but it’ll be interesting to see how he takes roughly the same characters and bobs instead of weaves.
Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories (Dark Horse): Samura’s Blade of the Immortal was a major manga when it debuted, but when you have one artist doing a long, drawn-out story it tends to dull in the eyes of fans on the outside looking in. But his short-story collection Ohikkoshi was fun, modern and completely different – a great bite-size snack from the eight-course meal/buffet that is Blade of the Immortal. This collection looks to be like that, centered around Samura’s western teen drama Emerald. I’ve heard of another set of stories called Bradherley’s Coach about a family whose business is to ferry orphans to their new home, which I hope is in here as well.
Mara #1 (Image): I’ve been loving Brian Wood’s work since he jumped to AiT-PlanetLar too many years ago, and seeing him branch out with another new series makes me wish for Brian Wood Month all over again. Besides swami Brian, it’s the artist he’s doing this with that really deserves some attention; Ming Doyle has killed it in her work featured on Project: Rooftop (shameless plug), and when she moved to doing shorts for Marvel in things like Fantastic Four she showed she could really play with the big boys. Seeing Wood and Doyle doing a sports-themed action series set in the future, this is a unique-looking story that’ll be at the top of my stack when it comes out on Dec. 26.
Hip Flask: Ourborous (Image): In comics today there’s a rare group of artists that are like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents; an older race who were once masters of the world but now subsist on making rare, but eventful appearances. Alan Moore is this way; so is Art Adams. To that list I’d like to add Ladrönn. This has my money, even if I didn’t know how great a story this is.
Orcs, Vol. 1: Forged For War (First Second): Speaking of Tolkien, am I the only one that felt compassion for the Orcs in Lord of the Rings? Well, this reprinted graphic novel by writer Stan Nicholls and artist Joe Flood brings the orc race to the forefront. Orc Stain was great, and this could be too!
MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA for the Boston area. Sponsored by the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Art Institute of Boston, MICE is in its third year, and last year’s show was such a hit that tables for this year sold out within three hours. The headline guest is R. Sikoryak, and the roster includes Box Brown, Ming Doyle, Cathy Leamy, Kevin Church, Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (who will be debuting their latest Pet Shop Private Eye book at the show), Adventure Time team Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, and many more too numerous to mention (more than 150 in all). Besides Venable and Yue’s book, there are several other debuts at the show, including the Boston Comics Roundtable’s Hellbound III, Cathy Leamy’s Diabetes Is After Your Dick and Mike Lynch’s Don’t Let the Zombie Drive the Bus.
As much as I love the big shows, and I’ll move heaven and earth to get to New York Comic Con every year, I really enjoy smaller shows like this. Boston has a lot of native and nearby comics talent, and while the room does get crowded at times, it’s still more laid back than a big con. You get to see talent at all stages of its development and interact with creators while they are still making their comics by hand. Plus it’s in a great location, easy to get to and with a ton of good restaurants nearb y— no shriveled-up turkey sandwiches for $9 a pop or fake coffee in a Styrofoam cup. Admission is free, too. So if you’re in the area, hop on the T and check it out.
Graphic novels | A musical based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home will open the fall season of the Public Lab series of the Public Theater in New York City. Featuring music by four-time Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Tony nominee Lisa Kron, the show is scheduled to run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 at the Shiva Theater. [The New York Times, The Public Theater]
Creators | Gilbert Hernandez guests on the comiXologist podcast to talk about Love and Rockets and what he has been reading lately. [comiXology]
Creators | Brian Wood and Ming Doyle talk about their new comic Mara, which will debut from Image Comics in December and features a volleyball player with superpowers in a world where sports and warfare are no longer so far apart. While Wood is not really a sports fan, he is fascinated by the portrayal of athletes in popular culture: “‘This is tied into the superhero thing, recognizing parallels between the two,’ Wood says. ‘I think there’s a lot to talk about there and part of me feels I’ll need more than one comic series to do it in. We’ll see.'” [USA Today]
The first Image Expo kicked off Friday in Oakland, California, with a keynote speech from Publisher Eric Stephenson that emphasized creator relationships as the company’s foundation, and laid out more than a half-dozen titles that will be announced this weekend for release later this year:
• Happy!, by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, a mysterious title the writer says is “in a genre I’ve never really tackled before — but with a bizarre twist, of course.” It’s the first of several potential Image projects from Morrison. [iFanboy]
• Confirmation of a third volume of Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, called The Immaterial Girl. Gillen says the six-issue miniseries, which will likely debut in November, is “primarily about the war between coven queen witch Emily Aster and the half of her personality she sold to whatever lies on the other side of the screen. It’s about identity, eighties music videos and further explorations of Phonogram’s core ‘Music = Magic’ thesis. There is horror. There are jokes. There are emotions. There may even be a fight sequence. It also takes A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ with far too much seriousness – which, for us, is the correct amount of seriousness.” [Kieron Gillen’s Workblog]
• Chin Music, by Steve Niles and Tony Harris, described by the artist as “a 1930’s Noir, Gangster, horror story.” [Tony Harris]
Although it originated on the television air waves, Star Trek has boldy gone to a number of mediums, including comics. But this new voyage is taking it in a more harrowing — and humorous — direction.
Writer Kevin Church and artist Ming Doyle recently kicked off a Star Trek parody webcomic titled Boldly Gone, centers on a lesser-known Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S Mandela, during the time of the original Star Trek series. Following up from their previous series The Loneliest Astronauts, Church and Doyle’s new work sees Captain Paul Meredith writhing and griping in the shadow of the illustrious James T. Kirk. Remember how Shatner vamped so much during the TV show? Imagine how other captains would feel about that. Here’s a sample:
Jeffrey Brown, Ming Doyle, Michael Kupperman and several other creators have contributed to The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!, a mini-comic that highlights the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s current casework. In particular, the comic highlights the case of “Brandon X,” who is facing a minimum sentence of one year in prison for possessing horror and fantasy manga on his laptop computer. His case is expected to go to trial in 2012, and legal expenses are estimated to run around $150,000.
(Please note: Clicking on just about any of the links in this post will take you directly to spoilers for Fantastic Four #600.)
This week saw Marvel revert back to the original numbering for their flagship title, Fantastic Four, as they released the 600th issue of the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” The $7.99, 96-page comic contains five stories, all written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by a variety of artists, including Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Farel Dalrymple.
And just like they’ve done in the past, Marvel spoiled one of the plot points from the book in order to get mainstream media attention. One of the plot points, anyway; when Hickman was asked on Twitter about a particular article that contained a major spoiler, he replied, “… I haven’t read that article, so I’m not sure ‘which’ spoiler is being spoiled.” Yep, this comic book is just packed.
Here’s a sampling of what folks have been saying about Fantastic Four #600:
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 get one from almost every box–Image’s Invincible #85 ($2.99), DC’s DMZ #71 ($2.99), Marvel’s Wolverine and The X-Men #2 ($3.99) and independent title RASL #12 ($3.50). Not much to say about any of these I haven’t already said, except anytime Cory Walker draws a book I’d pay twice cover price.
If I had $30, I’d sneak out of Thanksgiving preparations to first get a book I was surprised I liked as much as I did, despite the last issue’s ending: Shade #2 (DC, $2.99). One thing I wasn’t amped to see was Deathstroke, but given James Robinson and Cully Hammer’s track record I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Next up would be the epic (in my mind, at least) team-up of Warren Ellis and Michael Lark on Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel, $3.99). Seeing Ellis boil down the concept into “Run the mission. Don’t get seen. Save the world.” Hits me right between the eyes, and this new issue’s preview has be salivating over it. Last up, I’d pay the giant size price tag for Fantastic Four #600 (Marvel, $7.99) although my patience has worn a little thin with ending the series then bringing it back for #600.
After two years of (almost) weekly adventures, the erstwhile astronauts Dan and Steve are ending their tour of duty in outer space as the long-running webcomic The Loneliest Astronauts finishes this week. Created by writer Kevin Church and artist Ming Doyle, it’s reminiscent of the recent flick Moon if written as a drunken comedy with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
Church is a longtime denizen of the comics Internet going back to the early comics blogosphere days, and for the past few years he’s quietly assembled his own line of webcomics illustrated by different artists under the banner AgreeableComics.com. He wrote a handful of printed comics for BOOM! Studios a few years back, but it’s this quiet armada of quirky webcomics for which becoming known.
In the case of his Loneliest Astronauts collaborator Doyle, she’s gone from an online indie darling (and Project: Rooftop regular) to getting mainstream Marvel attention with work in Girl Comics and the upcoming resumption of Fantastic Four.
With all 87 installments online for free, readers can check out the entire series, and wait for a possible print edition. Fans of the work can look forward next month to seeing Church and Doyle reunite to revive their Star Trek fan comic Boldly Gone.
New York may get the big shows, but Boston has a vibrant local comics scene and is building up a nice slate of events throughout the year. Boston Comic Con was like a teeny-tiny version of NYCC, with name creators (Darwyn Cooke, Stan Sakai, Frank Quitely) chatting with dozens of fans in small conference rooms. MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA, just one day long and featuring a number of talented creators. The lineup of exhibitors includes Box Brown, Kevin Church, Alexander Danner, Ming Doyle, Gareth Hinds, Dirk Tiede, and Tak Toyoshima, plus lots of people you never heard of who are quietly doing interesting, innovative work (that’s not a punt—I saw a lot of these people at BCC.)
The schedule includes lettering, coloring, and webcomics workshops and panel discussions on comics for children (featuring my Good Comics for Kids collaborator Robin Brenner), comics and social justice, comics and fashion, and more.
It all happens Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., at Lesley University in Porter Square, Cambridge. Here’s an insider tip: It’s in the same building as a Japanese mall, which has lots of inexpensive noodle shops, one nicer fish restaurant, a bubble tea stand, and a lovely Japanese/French bakery, so plan to stay local for lunch. Admission to the show is free, and there’s plenty to see. I’m planning to make a day of it, and if you are in the Boston area, I’d highly recommend it.