Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the books, comics and what have you that the Robot 6 crew have been perusing of late. Today we welcome our special guest Steven Sanders, artist of such comics as Wolverine and the X-Men, Wolverine, S.W.O.R.D, Our Love is Real, The Five Fists of Science and more. He’s currently using Kickstarter to raise funds for a “Creative Commons art book” called Symbiosis.
“Symbiosis is a world-building art book that tells the story of a woman’s travels through a world where the symbiotic relationship that we have with technology is made much more visceral,” the Kickstarter page reads. “All sources of power are generated by bio-etheric engines, with which the operators share a direct mental link. The story-telling is loose and mostly visual. It will be told with art that uses a variety of media and formats: fully painted, colored line art, black-and-white line art, and comic art. What you do with this story is up to you. Enjoy it on its own merits, or take it and spin it off into any of a million different directions.”
To see what Steven and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below:
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.
Being a judge in the Eisner Awards meant making hard choices. It’s like being an admissions officer at Harvard: You could make a top-notch set of picks, throw them away, and still have a strong field for the second set. With six judges each having a different voice, sometimes a book that one or two of us think is the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t make the final cut.
Here’s my short list of comics that, if it were up to me, would have gotten Eisner nominations.
Best Limited Series
One of my favorite series of 2011 was Spontaneous, by Brett Weldele and Joe Harris. It’s a great crypto-mystery about spontaneous human combustion, with a nerdy know-it-all played off against an aggressive reporter. The story has its flaws, but I couldn’t put it down.
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Nina in That Makes Me Mad: We had an unusually strong field of children’s books, even after we split the category into two age groups, but this book was my first choice for a nomination. The writing is sharp and perceptive, and Hilary Knight’s illustrations are amazing. Even the page layouts are awesome. This is a book that speaks directly to children, in a voice they can understand, yet does it with an elegance that adults can appreciate as well.
You’ve heard it said that children are the future, and if that’s true—and it must be, since they’ll be around for more of the future than we adults will be—it’s as true for comics as it is for whatever else people mean when they say children are the future.
So what sorts of comic books are we providing for our children, our future these days? As it turns out, some pretty good ones—hell, some pretty great ones.
This week saw the release of three particular comic books–not graphic novels or tankobon, but good-old-fashioned 20-some pages and some staples comic books—that featured superior writing and art, some of that art coming from world-class cartoonists.
And all three of those comics, oddly enough, are based on cartoon series.
When I was a child, there were comic books based on cartoons (cartoons that were often based on toy lines), and while they were readily available in drug and grocery stores, and you could buy one with a dollar bill and get change back, they weren’t exactly the highest quality product.
But some of today’s based-on-cartoons comics can put to shame much of what the “Big Six” direct market publishers release for their grown-up audiences.
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 with Thief of Thieves #1 (Image/Skybound, $2.99). The gang at Skybound gave me an advance PDF of this issue, and I like it so much I want to hold the physical thing in my hands. Shawn Martinbrough really nails this first issue, and Nick Spencer really puts his Marvel work to shame with this story. Next up I’d get my favorite DC Book – Batwoman #6 (DC, $2.99) – and favorite Marvel book – Wolverine and The X-Men #5 ($3.99). I’d finish it all up with Northlanders #48 ($2.99). I’m not the biggest fan of Danijel Zezelj’s work, but I can’t let up now to see my long-running commitment to Northlanders falter at this point.
If I had $30, I’d dig into Richard Corben’s Murky World one-shot (Dark Horse, $3.50). Corben’s one of those “will-buy-no-matter-what” artists for me that Tom Spurgeon recently focused on, and this looks right up my alley. Next up I’d get Secret Avengers #22 (Marvel, $3.99) because Remender’s idea of robot descendents intrigues me, and then Wolverine and The X-Men: Alpha and Omega (Marvel, $3.99). I didn’t know what to expect from the first issue, and after reading it I still don’t know where this series is heading – but I like it so far. Finally, I’d get Haunt #21 (Image, $2.99). The combination of Joe Casey & Nathan Fox is like a secret code to open my wallet.
If I could splurge, I’d take the graphic novel Jinchalo (D+Q, $17.95) by Matthew Forsythe. I loved his previous book Ojingogo, and this looks to continue in that hit parade.
A few months ago, I picked up Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline’s minicomic The Potter’s Pet and was really impressed — it’s a cleverly written, beautifully drawn, handsomely produced little comic. I have been a fan of Lamb’s work since I discovered his (unfortunately incomplete) webcomic Kitty Hawk years ago; Paroline’s work was new to me, but her lively lines quickly made me a convert.
So I was delighted to see that they will be handling the art for BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time comics, which are based on the animated Cartoon Network series.
Everyone else seems to be excited about the concept here, but we don’t watch a lot of Cartoon Network in our house and, to be honest, I have never seen the show. It’s the creators who have me interested in this series, which is the opposite of how things used to work with licensed comics. When I was a kid, the Disney comics I read all looked alike, and they weren’t signed because the Disney folks wanted me to think that they all flowed from Walt Disney’s magic pen. More and more, though, creators are putting their own stamp on licensed comics and becoming an important part of the package. Think of Roger Langridge’s run on The Muppet Show comics, or Dan Hipp’s reinvention of Ben 10. What’s more, licensed projects give artists a chance to work on their skills and bring in a regular paycheck without the risks of creator-owned work. If you want to see the up-and-coming artists of the next decade, check out BOOM!’s Pixar and Muppets comics or Archaia’s Fraggle Rock anthologies.
Lamb and Paroline have honed their craft working on BOOM!’s Muppet comics: Paroline was the artist and Lamb the colorist for Muppet Snow White, which is apparently out of print, and Paroline actually drew the Muppet Show #0 comic. From what I have seen, Adventure Time will be worth picking up for their art alone.
I spent an enjoyable Saturday at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, a.k.a. MICE, last week, and I came away very impressed with the quality of the work on display. This was MICE’s biggest year so far, with three rooms and some corridors of the Lesley College building in Porter Square filled with table after table of hand-crafted comics. For much of the day, the place was packed.
People don’t think of Boston as a comics town, like Portland or Brooklyn, but there’s a lot of talent here, much of it gathered under the aegis of the Boston Comics Roundtable; in addition, a number of the artists had come from New York, Rhode Island and Maine. Here’s a sample of some of the minicomics I picked up.
By far the standout minicomic of the show was The Potter’s Pet, by Braden D. Lamb and Shelli Paroline. The story feels like a traditional folk tale, although I don’t think it is; it’s about a potter in a Moroccan-style marketplace who makes a robot, then keeps re-customizing it to please his customers. The story is well told and the art is professional quality, which is not surprising as Paroline has been doing professional work for some time now, including the art for several of BOOM! Studios’ Muppet Show comics. In The Potter’s Pet, she carries the Moroccan theme through in the panels, which echo the shapes of Islamic architecture. I would say it’s the best $5 I spent at the show, but the book sold out before I could get a copy and I had to borrow it from a friend. I hope they make more.