Long before we worked together, I respected Kevin Melrose’s instincts on picking creators to watch. So when he advised the Robot 6 audience to read Victor Santos‘ webcomic Polar, I was intrigued. That interest only grew when Jim Gibbons (one of the best editors working in comics) told me Dark Horse was collecting Polar’s first season in Polar: Came from the Cold (which ROBOT 6 previewed in late September); I knew I wanted to interview the Bilbao, Spain-based artist.
In addition to discussing the 160-page Polar hardcover, set for release on Dec. 11, we also touched upon the upcoming Furious, a Dark Horse miniseries with his Mice Templar collaborator Bryan J.L. Glass, set to launch on Jan. 29. (For additional Furious information, please read Albert Ching’s September interview with Glass.)
Tim O’Shea: You are very clear at your website in terms of the influences that inform Polar: Came from the Cold. “The story uses a minimalistic and direct style inspired by movies like Le Samurai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1965) or Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) and novels like The Killer Inside Me (Jim Thompson, 1952) or The Eiger Sanction (Trevanian, 1979). Polar is also a tribute to artists like Jim Steranko, Jose Muñoz, Alberto Breccia, Alex Toth and Frank Miller.” I would love to discuss each and every element of those sentences, but I will just focus on two elements. How did you first find out about films like Le Samurai? When did you read your first Steranko story, and what was it?
Victor Santos: The first Steranko book I read was the Outland adaptation. I was studying fine arts, and I hadn’t really had a great deal of exposure to U.S. comics. I’d read a lot of superheroes books in my childhood, but the manga explosion of the ’80 and ’90s caught me just in my teenage years. Actually, it was during my university years when I discovered the great U.S. artists like Eisner, Ditko, Crumb, Toth, Caniff and dozens more (thanks to friends I met there, never the professors). I discovered an old Spanish edition of Outland in a street market. Wow, that stuff blew me away! The big panels contrasting the little panels, as well as that “heavy black lighting” … This edition was a big, European album size, so the double-page spreads are gigantic. I began to research. These were very intense years for me; I was absorbing all the American history of comics at the same time.
Announced this afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Ragnarök will feature “iconic deities and classic” tales written and drawn by Simonson. In addition, IDW will release re-mastered collections of Star Slammers, his classic sci-fi tale about intergalactic mercenaries who became the most successful businessmen of all time, and a special Artist’s Edition of the series.
The publisher debuted Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition in 2011.
“Scott Dunbier and I first talked about me working on a creator-owned book involving the Norse gods 15 years ago, but as many of my former editors can tell you, I’ve always regarded deadlines as useful fictions,” Simonson said in a statement. “So here we are … finally! All I can say is that I’ve loved the stories of the Viking gods since I was eight. I am thrilled that with IDW’s help and support, I’m launching an ongoing series of stories built around a new vision of some old friends. And enemies.”
With the end of Geoff Johns’ tenure on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s upcoming farewell to Batman, a fan’s thoughts turn naturally to other extended runs. Marv Wolfman wrote almost every issue of New (Teen) Titans from the title’s 1980 preview through its final issue in 1995. Cary Bates wrote The Flash fairly steadily from May 1971′s Issue 206 through October 1985′s first farewell to Barry Allen (Issue 350). Gerry Conway was Justice League of America’s regular writer for over seven years, taking only a few breaks from February 1978′s Issue 151 through October 1986′s Issue 255.
However, in these days of shorter stays, I wanted to examine some of the runs that, despite their abbreviated nature, left lasting impressions. At first this might sound rather simple. After all, there are plenty of influential miniseries-within-series, like “Batman: Year One” or “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” where a special creative team comes in to tell a particular story. Instead, sometimes a series’ regular creative team will burn brightly, but just too quickly, leaving behind a longing for what might have been.
A good example of this is found in Detective Comics #469-76, written by Steve Englehart, penciled by Marshall Rogers and inked by Terry Austin (after Walt Simonson penciled and Al Milgrom inked issues 469-70). Reprinted in the out-of-print Batman: Strange Apparitions paperback, and more recently (sans Simonson/Milgrom) in the hardcover Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, these issues introduced Silver St. Cloud, Rupert Thorne, Dr. Phosphorus and the “Laughing Fish,” featured classic interpretations of Hugo Strange, the Penguin and the Joker, and revamped Deadshot into the high-tech assassin he remains today. Tying all these threads together is Bruce Wayne’s romance with Silver, which for my money is the Bat-books’ version of Casablanca. It’s the kind of much-discussed run that seems like it should have been longer. Indeed, I suspect it’s one of the shorter runs in CSBG’s Top 100 list.
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Another day, another gallery opening an exhibition of loosely-themed pop culture-derived art. This time it’s “The Gang’s All Here” at the Bottleneck Gallery, Brooklyn, beginning Friday and continuing through Dec. 7 (my birthday, fact fans!), 2012. Above is Chris “Raid 71″ Thornley‘s contribution. Chris (creator of that much blogged Hellboy/Peanuts mash-up “Hellnuts” a while back) is also a major contributor to the charity Art V Cancer, well worth supporting. That’s one e-commerce site you can feel good about using. More comics-quoting work below from the fields of illustration and design, including work by Butcher Billy, Walter Simonson, Wally Wood, McBess and others — including one very famous NSFW image re-contextualized!
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the New 52, and I anticipate doing the usual examinations of what worked and what didn’t. Until then, however, this preliminary post will try to organize my general impressions.
I have tried to keep an open mind about the various changes, but apparently I keep coming back to the New 52-niverse’s lack of meaningful fictional history. Much of this comes from the five-year timeline, but a good bit of it is due to storytelling styles. While origin stories can generate a nominal setting, including a regular supporting cast, many of the New-52 books held off for various reasons — like readers pretty much knowing the origins at the outset — and with today’s practical concerns, many books spent their first 12 issues on extended arcs.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about this as a function of “idea generation,” but I think it is a more elemental concept. Specifically, it seems like I have been conditioned to expect a certain amount of continuity in a modern shared universe. Furthermore (and more troubling), I suspect the simple acknowledgment of preexisting continuity helps mitigate whatever weaknesses may exist in the stories themselves.
Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s “Manhunter” was the story of Paul Kirk, a big-game hunter, ex-superhero and retired covert operative who was killed by a rampaging elephant and revived by the mysterious Council. Dedicated to world domination, the Council also created enforcers out of Kirk’s clones, and trained them all to be unstoppable assassins. Kirk rebelled, of course, earning the Council’s wrath; and that’s where the main story picks up.
The seven-part serial ran in Detective Comics #437-443 (October/November 1973-October/November 1974). Appearing initially as an eight-page backup feature, its final chapter was a full 20 pages, not coincidentally because it guest-starred Batman. As such, the whole thing would fit in an 80-Page Giant with room to spare, but it is full of tight, dense storytelling that encourages multiple readings. Among other things, it received a total of six Shazam awards from the Academy of Comic Book Arts: Best Short Story (“The Himalayan Incident,” 1973; “Cathedral Perilous,” 1974), Best Writer (Goodwin, 1973-74), Outstanding New Talent (Simonson, 1973), and Best Feature-Length Story (“Götterdämmerung,” 1974). It was one of Simonson’s first big projects, and his early work combines a raw, organic quality with energetic, propulsive layouts. Each short chapter packs a full issue’s worth of plot, character, and action into its eight pages, and the finale makes a regular-length issue feel like an annual. Even Batman’s potentially-distracting involvement helps distinguish Kirk from DC’s garden-variety masked men. You’ll want to read it slowly to catch all the details, but it’ll keep you turning pages to find out what happens next.
Good grief, it’s the eleventh month of the New-52! The forty-six books left from the original class are just about ready to wrap up their first year, and in some cases their second collection. Where does the time go? (And when can we stop calling it the “New” 52?)
In fact, both Batman #11 and Animal Man #11 promise “stunning conclusions” to their inaugural arcs. Of course, the Owls storyline looks more like a traditional multi-title crossover (even if most of it takes place in the main Batman book), whereas Animal Man’s storyline only involves an Annual and a little bit of Swamp Thing. Usually I am frustrated with the very idea of looking ahead three-plus months, because it’s the serialized-comics equivalent of being forced to check your watch halfway through a movie. Here, though, knowing that these two series are headed for big finishes in July helps adjust my expectations about where they are now.
Similarly, we’ve seen three months’ worth of solicitations (and more than that in hype) on the two Earth-2 titles, but for me that’s built up anticipation. Despite the concept’s radical reworking, I’m eager to see how it all comes together.
Now to more specific comments….
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Over the past few years numerous artists have banded together to form blogs with creative challenges, allowing them quick creative exercises as a break from their day-to-day work. And a recent challenge by the artists over at the What Not blog has really kicked it up a notch and shown tribute to their fellow comics creators.
The challenge? Draw your favorite comic book artist.
Among the entries so far have been some amazing ones, from Francesco Francavilla’s Moebius, Mark Chiarello’s Alex Toth, Dave Johnson’s Brian Azzarello, Jock’s Dom Reardon, Cameron Stewart’s Naoki Urasawa and Andrew Robinson’s stunning Walt Simonson portrait seen at right.
“So many artists to choose from,” says Robinson in his blog post,” but there’s one comic book artist I’ve loved since I was a kid and I have never outgrown his work. In 1983 Walt Simonson defined graphic novels for me with Star Slammers. It’s a Marvel Graphic Novel, #6. If you haven’t seen it you must check it out. It’s incredible. Walt has such an energy to his drawings and such a great sense of design. I’ve been learning from him for years. So here’s to you Walt Simonson. Thanks.”
Click over to the blog to see each artist’s thoughts about their portraits and the people they depict, and stay tuned for possibly more artists entering their drawings.
Walter Simonson has been posting lots of pirate art lately on the Official Walter Simonson Page at Facebook. In one post, he describes the project as “one story in a set of stories I’m working on for a single project. So, basically, it’s a one-off of a character I drew in another one-off 30 years ago.” One reader guesses that’s a reference to Captain Fear, an early-’70s DC character from Adventure Comics whom Simonson drew some back-up stories about for Unknown Soldier in 1981.
Rich Johnston concurs and offers an old quote from Simonson referring to the Golden Age stories as “beautifully drawn,” but “an historical rat’s nest” with ships, uniforms, and weapons from many different time-periods (or no recognizable time-period at all) appearing in the 1850s.
Captain Fear later appeared in John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s Spectre series in the ’90s as well as Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Doctor 13 story in Tales of the Unexpected. Most recently he’s shown up in last year’s The Outsiders #26 and Peter Tomasi and Gene Ha’s story from Superman/Batman #75. There’s no telling exactly what Simonson’s working on, but I’d love to hear guesses in the comments.
Comic-Con International in San Diego hasn’t officially started yet—tonight was Preview Night—but the news has been rolling in. So let’s take a look at today’s announcements
• Dark Horse announced three new projects earlier this evening. They will publish a comics adaptation of The Strain, the sci-fi/vampire trilogy by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The comic will be written by David Lapham with art by Mike Huddleston.
• They also announced a series written by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello with art by Scott Hepburn. Orchid is about a 16-year-old prostitute in a dystopian future “becoming the Spartacus of whores.” Each issue will come with a music track by Morello.
• And finally on the Dark Horse front, they will publish comics set in the young vampire world of P.C. Cast’s House of Night novel series. It will be co-written by Kent Dallan with art by Joëlle Jones. You can see a trailer promoting all three new books on YouTube.
Publishing | Arune Singh, Marvel’s director of communications, addresses how Marvel works with media outlets to break major storyline news and in many cases spoil the story, like Ultimate Spider-Man dying. Their goal is to hopefully bring lapsed or non-fans into stores: “When we line up this kind of mainstream media coverage, it’s offering the promise of breaking this big news to the outlet. It’s with the knowledge that they’ll be the ones making the headlines, being referenced by other sites and getting the attention. But if we wait till the story breaks or the Wednesday books go on-sale, someone else is going to buy the issue early in the morning and break the news. Is it possible that mainstream outlets will still pick up on the news then? Yes, it’s possible. But the only way to guarantee that big, sweeping placement worldwide — as you’ve seen with the Death of Spider-Man — is to break it before anyone has a chance. And that kind of placement is, as I mentioned above, what will get us attention from outside the industry.” [ComicsAlliance]
Retailing | Toronto retailer Chris Butcher worries about how well the two late Green Lantern movie prequel comics — one shipping this week, one shipping in August — will sell so long after the film’s release. He also discusses the lateness of the final issue of the War of the Green Lanterns crossover, which won’t come out until after the epilogue story in this week’s Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #11. [Comics212]
Crime | Police in Petoskey, Michigan, arrested a 31-year-old man early Wednesday morning after he allegedly climbed to the roof of a downtown hardware store dressed as Batman. Mark Wayne Williams of Harbor Springs — yes, his middle name is Wayne — has been charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and possession of dangerous weapons, as he reportedly carried a folding steel baton, weighted (sand-filled) gloves, and a can of chemical irritant spray.
Williams said at his arraignment that he didn’t realize the items were illegal, but didn’t offer an explanation as to why he was hanging off the roof of Meyer Ace Hardware dressed as the Dark Knight. The incident apparently isn’t Williams’ first encounter with police: The city’s public safety director said he had previously dressed as the Crow, but didn’t give any further details. [Petoskey News]
Crime | The expired website domain of defunct manga publisher Go! Comi is being used in a scam by an unknown party to solicit donations under the guise of resurrecting the company. “It is not real,” Audry Taylor, Go! Comi’s former creative director, warned last night on Twitter. “Do not donate. Gonna my lawyers on them.” [Anime News Network]
Politics | The controversy in Minnesota continues over Neil Gaiman’s speaking fee, with a state House Republican committee chairman now recommending a $45,000 cut to the Twin Cites’ regional library system budget to make up for the Legacy Fund money paid to the author and comics writer in May 2010. “I simply subtracted out $45,000 — just making a point,” Rep. Dean Urdahl said. Gaiman responded that the move “seems like a sad way to make a point.” He talks at length with CityPages about the controversy. [Star-Tribune]
Passings | Prolific Argentine comics writer Carlos Trillo, co-creator of CyberSix, passed away over the weekend while on vacation in London. He was 68. Trillo, whose career spanned five decades, collaborated with such artists as Eduardo Risso, Jordi Bernet, Juan Bobillo, Carlos Meglia and Domingo Roberto Mandrafina. [TN.com, via The Beat]
Retailing | Peter Panepinto turns a Free Comic Book Day preview into one of those perennial articles about the potential effects of superhero movies on comic-book sales. [Carroll County Times]