Archive for the 'Comics' Category
Man, I missed most of the Joss info from Comic-Con, but there’s been more news since too. A wrap up:
The Ripper movie is a go.
Joss is now doing an web comic.
There’s a new version of Serenity coming out.
There will be a complete Angel box set.
Here’s a new interview he did.
And here’s a cool trailer a fan put together for Joss’ comic of a future slayer:
I made it there in 1986 – my mom and sister went to France that summer, and my Dad and I said we’d get to go somewhere in return, so we chose San Diego, and he dropped me off in the mornings, caught up with friends (he lived out there for a while) and picked me up in the evenings. It was a lot of fun, I finished my X-Men collection, met all kinds of folks (Frank Miller, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby) and when it rolls around each year think about how much I’d like to go back (although if it and FRFF remain on the same schedule that could be a problem). One of the coolest things that happens there now is a lot of comics, TV and film news gets released there, and here are some of the things I’m psyched about:
•Karen Allen will return as Marion Ravenwood in the new Indiana Jones (who needs Short Round).
•Heroes’ Zachary Quinto (Sylar) and Leonard Nimoy will play young and old Spock in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie.
•Kevin Smith will write and direct an episode of Heroes: Origins, the six-episode spinoff series.
•DC Comics will collect the online Heroes comic books this fall.
•Harold Perrineau (Michael) will return to Lost in season 4, Libby’s past will be shown, and there’s a new Dharma Initiative short.
•Iron Man film director Jon Favreau will write a four-issue Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas mini-series
•First there was “Buffy Season 8” in the comics, now there will be an Angel Season 6, called Angel: After the Fall, and written by Brian Lynch.
•Warren Ellis is writing Astonishing X-Men after Joss Whedon finishes his run.
•The first of four made-for-DVD Futurama movies will arrive in November.
•Battlestar Galactica:Razor will air on on Sci Fi Nov. 24 (and be on DVD before the fourth season starts) in January, telling the history of the Battlestar Pegasus. You’ll also see the original Cylon Centurions and Raiders.
•Twin Peaks: The Complete Series box set will be out later this year and will include both seasons of the show as well as both versions of the pilot.
Phil Foglio, the writer/artist most famous for illustrating MythAdventures, has been doing a comic called “Girl Genius”. Apparently the mathematics are such that he’s now producing the comic online 3 times a week, and then collecting the work in trade paperbacks once there’s enough. I was unhappy that the last couple issues he had increased the size so they didn’t fit in my comics boxes, but I’ll miss seeing it every month. I’ll just add it to my slowly growing list of comic strips I read online, (like Something Positive and Sherman’s Lagoon (well, the Post publishes on Sunday, but I read the rest of the week online).
I had a very good time in Minneapolis at Fiddler’s Green. Tried to bid on a number of things, but came up short in all of them. Got lots of things signed, though, and ate lots of wonderful food.
Started on very little sleep, as I decided my vaguely Gaiman related costume would be Arthur Dent (he wrote the first guide to the Guide), and figured out how to make my Treo into a mini Hitchhiker’s Guide (splash screen said ‘Don’t Panic’, mp3s from the radio show, the Infocom game, a pdf of the first book, and almost the movie trailer – rate was too high for the player). I didn’t get to bed until 4:30, and had to get up again by 6:30. I slept on the plane some. I would have called it a puddlejumper if it hadn’t had jet engines, but it got us there quickly enough.
We got a cab to the Millennium hotel, who allowed us to check in right away. It was the only long stretch of uninterrupted time, so we unpacked, then strolled around downtown, mostly Nicollet Mall. The Target was enormous. We ate lunch at Marshall Fields – soup and sandwiches. Back at the hotel, registration had started, and we got in line. Afterwards, we headed up to the 14th floor where there was a release party for Neil’s new chapbook, and he and the artist were signing. Next we volunteered to do jobs. Jill worked at the registration desk while I guarded the con suite for a couple hours. Since I couldn’t leave, Jill came up and we had food from Davanni’s – I had another sandwich (salami and bacon) and Jill had lasagna, plus we shared a salad. After dinner, Neil read a cool new story, “Sunbird”, followed by a new passage of “Anansi Boys”. Then he showed new footage of “Mirrormask”, the film from him and Dave McKean. He actually had the whole thing on DVD, but couldn’t be convinced to show us the whole thing. Jill went to bed, and I went upstairs to see Luciar, a girl mostly influenced by Tori (I enjoyed her sparse cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”).
Saturday morning I got up early to go to panels. The second one was for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund members only, a screening of “A Short Film About John Bolton”, the first film Neil’s directed. Very cool, and well done. Then we went to Sawatdee, a Thai place nearby that’d been recommended to me. Not bad – I had the duck. After lunch, more panels, and lots of signing – I got almost everything signed that afternoon. During the signing for Neil, the girl in front of us had all 10 of the hardcovers, and there was a two item limit. I suggest she have him sign all the spines at once – and she did! I got pictures, too. By far the coolest thing was the panel where Neil, Caitlin Kiernan, and Karen Berger came up with a two page Sandman story, and a following panel where Charles Vess, Jill Thompson, and Todd Klein made it come to life.
We went to the closest restaurant to the hotel, Ichiban. A Japanese steakhouse, Neil (noted sushi connoisseur) had mentioned the sushi was decent, so we went to the sushi bar. $28 for all you can eat, and I do believe we got our money’s worth. Jill even tried raw sushi for the first time (we’ll see if she does it again). After dinner was the big auction. I tried for a couple items, but they quickly got too rich for my blood (I went to $4600 for the two page story, and would have gone to $5000, but it ended up going for $10,000). There was also a nice piece by Terry Moore of Death, but was out of my range very fast. It was fun watching the bidding, and there were some priceless comments from the guests of honor. We changed into our costumes (Jill was a modified spider woman) and went right back downstairs. The Folk Underground (featuring Lorraine, Neil’s assistant) closed out the night. I have their CDs, but had never seen any of Neil’s tunes performed live before. Between sets, some interesting pictures were staged, including Neil with five Deliriums. It was after 1 by the time we got up to our room.
Sunday we got out early to have breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen. I’d gone by it on Friday, and vowed to eat there. By far my favorite meal of the weekend; I had the huevos rancheros and sausage bread (sausage, pecans, and black coffee, but it was delicious). I left Jill to pay the bill so I could rush back to get to the second auction, featuring pieces from the art show as well as things they hadn’t gotten to in the regular auction. I wanted a piece by Todd Klein of Dream in his library (if you’ve seen our library you know it would fit right in), and I got in a bidding war with one other guy. I thought the piece would go for $300, and set a $500 limit, but Jill kept urging me on, and I went up to $1100 before letting the guy take it for $1200. It was the only hand colored print, but maybe I can find a black and white version. There were a couple other books and magazines I bid on, but I lost all of them (people were just bidding to win). It was good, though, as the CBLDF took in nearly $45,000 from the weekend. A couple more panels and it was time for us to go. We shopped and ate at the airport, and got home by 10. We were wiped, and were in bed long before midnight.
Pictures are now up here.
It’s not quite the end of the year, but it’s time for the year end wrap up of comics. Here, in a more or less order, is my list of the top 10 comics for 1993.
10. Ninjak (Valiant) A brand new book, but a good one. Ninjak is Valiant’s new mysterious ninja, but the best thing about this book is the people behind it. Valiant has been known for delivering good, solid stories, but since the departure of Barry Windsor-Smith, has lacked any superstar artists for the fans to get excited about. Well, now they’ve got one. Joe Quesada (The Ray, Batman:Sword Of Azrael, X-Factor) has accepted penciling duties on this book, and with the solid storytelling skills of Mark Moretti (Eternal Warrior) this book should go far, if the first issue is any indication of where it’s going.
9. Wild C.A.T.S. (Image) While I have a problem with Image creating a work-for-hire situation when they said they’d be nothing like Marvel, I certainly have no problem with the quality of the books that do come out from most of the creators. Wild C.A.T.S. is a team of superheroes gathered together initially to fight an alien invasion. The team book is a tough concept to pull off, since it’s been done practically to death, but Jim Lee pulls it off. The writing is OK, but the main reason to buy this book is the exciting pencils of Lee. Lee manages to keep the book exciting while keeping the characters realistic in their proportions, a tough feat to pull off at Image.
8. Sachs and Violens (Marvel/Epic) Yes, Peter David (Incredible Hulk, X-Factor, Aquaman) strikes again. It seems this man excels at anything he turns his typewriter to. Joining him once again is George Perez (New Teen Titans, Infinity Gauntlet, Break-Thru). These two were first united in last year’s Hulk: Future Imperfect, and their new work looks even better. Sachs and Violens are a model and a photographer, driven to become detectives by the death of one of Sachs’ model friends. The best part of the first issue, aside from the great art, is the text in the back, where David explains his feeling on sex and violence. And what does David think of sex on TV? “Frankly, I think it’s a pain. For one thing, the cable box winds up wedged into your back and gets real uncomfortable…”
7. Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo (DC/Vertigo) An old, lame Western hero. The last story with this guy attempted to send him into a post-nuclear apocalypse. I thought nobody could make him interesting. Boy, was I wrong. Famed horror (and horror western) novelist Joe R. Lansdale brings horror to the Old West, and it will never be the same. Jonah Hex is your average ornery bounty hunter with a price on his own head, who discovers that corpses that don’t stop moving make it hard to collect bounty on them. Lending a great deal of historical background are artists Timothy Truman (Scout, The Spider, Turok) and Sam Glanzman, both well known for their stories based in this time period.
6. Bone (Cartoon Books) Have you ever heard of Pogo? Remember “we have seen the enemy, and he is us”? No? Well forget it then, and go buy this book. Bone is hard to describe. It’s obviously influenced by Walt Kelly’s Pogo, but has a style all it’s own. The star is one Fone Bone, who along with his cousins Phoney and Smiley is trying to find his way back home. That description doesn’t do the book any justice, though. It’s hilarious and must be seen for itself.
5. Superman (DC) In November of last year Superman died. You wouldn’t think that leaves much room for a story, would ya? Especially with four monthly titles to put out. Well, editor Mike Carlin and his team of writers managed to do it. In April, it was established that Superman had survived somehow, and this news was followed by the appearance of four separate Supermen. The surprise was that none of the four was the real one, and one was a villain that took the combined might of the other three, plus the original, to stop. This story has been fresh and original all year, an amazing effort.
4. Cerebus (Aardvark-Vanaheim) This is hard to describe. What do you say about a book that started out as simple Conan the Barbarian parody, but has evolved into the life story of Cerebus. And when I say life story, I mean it. Dave Sim has committed to producing 300 issues over 26 years. And you know the amazing thing? He’s more than halfway there already. This book is fantastic, though. It covers one person’s life, and like life it has humor and sadness, adventure and tragedy.
3. Spawn (Image) You really have to respect someone who can listen to what the critics say, and than proceed to blow them away. The most frequent criticism leveled at Image is that it is a company made up of artists and that it’s writing, to put it mildly, sucks. Todd McFarlane had been writing Spider-Man before he left Marvel, and has been improving since, but he acknowledges he’s no Shakespeare. So in response to the critics, he hired some of the best writers in comics to write issues of Spawn this year. Alan Moore (Watchmen), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Dave Sim (Cerebus), and Frank Miller (Batman:The Dark Knight Returns) all wrote for Spawn, producing some incredible issues along the way. Oh yeah, Spawn is short for hellspawn, he gets his powers from the devil, and every time he uses them, he gets closer to returning to the grave. This is the best book from Image, not to mention the longest running one.
2. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (Marvel) Genius is an overused word, but it certainly applies to Frank Miller. As he makes his second return to the character he gained his fame on, it’s clear that he was born to write the adventures of this blind superhero. Even though his Daredevil has been branded the definitive one, Miller never had before told the full origin of the character the way he had done with Batman. This series answers questions about Daredevil that have remained unanswered for more than ten years, as well as providing a full origin of Elektra, his lover and enemy.
1. Sandman/Death (DC/Vertigo) There’s always one thing that rises above all others. And this year it’s Neil Gaiman’s unparalleled work on Sandman and it’s spinoff, Death: The High Cost Of Living. Gaiman’s amazing ear for dialect, speech, and mannerisms make all of his characters totally unique. Death 1-3 and Sandman 50, in particular, were incredible. The artists, Chris Bachalo and P. Craig Russell provided dazzling interpretations of Gaiman’s scripts, making for the best comics of the year.
[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]
Before I begin this review, I’d like to quote from a favorite cartoon of mine: “Pictures without words: Art!; Words without pictures: Literature!; Words and pictures together: pieces of worthless crap!” This sums up the mainstream attitude towards comics; at least, until now. The problem with comics is that unlike other media, there has been no critical examination of the form. That is a gap that the new book from Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, fills admirably.
The book is basically comics’ first textbook (and isn’t that what college students want, another textbook?). Unlike most textbooks, it is done entirely in the standard comics style, which is absolutely appropriate. It begins with an attempt to nail down a definition of what exactly comics are. McCloud starts with the definition by comics legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) of comics as sequential art (two or more connected panels of art). McCloud expands this definition to “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” (and if you think that’s complex, check out the dictionary definitions for art or literature).
When did comics begin? A good question. Most books about comics start around 1896 with the first comic strip, but McCloud ventures a bit farther back. He examines an Egyptian tomb painting from 1300 BC and finds that it meets his requirements to be considered comics. On the way back to the present he stops in the 16th century to examine a pre-Columbian manuscript and looks at the first interdependent combination of words and pictures in the mid 19th century.
McCloud next explains the attraction comics have via their depiction of life not being quite realistic. His theory is that a realistic view is the way we see others, but the image we have of ourselves is more cartoony, so we are able to identify more with the characters in comics. The level of reality used can affect how one views the work, and a combination of realistic and cartoony styles can result in a totally different style, such as Japanese comics (referred to as manga), where the humans and animals are done in a cartoony, but the environment they inhabit is extremely realistic.
However, the most abstract a picture, say a face, can get is not “:-|” but rather “FACE”. McCloud believes that “words are the ultimate abstraction” and that most comics have emphasized the difference between words and pictures. Writing and drawing are often seen as completely separate disciplines, even though the best comics are those in which the words and pictures seamlessly flow together. What is needed is the formation of a vocabulary for comics consisting of words and pictures. There’s a problem in the combining of the two, though. Pictures are received information, instantly transmitted and received, while words are perceived information, requiring time and knowledge to understand. In their simplest forms, the most abstract picture and the simplest word, they are close to another, which is desired to build a vocabulary, but which is often at odds with the desire for sophistication. McCloud envisions a classification for comics based on the triangle, which has three points: reality/nature, meaning/ideas, and pictures/art, into which all comics can be placed.
McCloud next introduces a concept that is extremely crucial to comics, closure, where we observe parts but perceive a whole. This has applications to everyday life, when we assume that the GMU Student Senate exists, even though most of us will never see it. Also closure is evident when we look at a photograph in a newspaper (actually just a series of dots) or watch a movie (24 pictures a second, which we interpret as action). In comics, a static medium, closure is used to simulate both time and motion. He introduces several specific types of closure, such as moment-to-moment (eye blinking) and action-to-action (ball approaching, batter hitting it) and looks at some statistics of uses of different types. He discovers that American comics almost exclusively show things happening, while manga often uses closure to set a mood. He believes that these differences are cultural, in that we are more goal oriented and the Japanese have a tradition that emphasizes “being there over getting there”. The power of closure is seen between panels when the reader is asked to see what isn’t there. With two panels of an eye open and closed, the reader will supply the motion of the eye closing, an act unique to comics.
Time is expressed mainly through panels and closure. The panel is comics’ most important symbol. A stretched panel in company with several narrower panels can denote a longer period of time. Motion is often shown with the help of a motion line (like a circle around a batter as he swings). Emotions can be shown in several different ways; with symbols (teardrops for sadness, crosshatching on the face for embarrassment) or with lines (harsh lines for anger, gentle for affection). Sound is conveyed through the word balloon, which can change in shape or typeface of the words to simulate different sounds.
McCloud looks at early cave paintings to show that when we first tried to communicate, it was through words and pictures (or show and tell). We drifted away from that until at one point words and pictures were totally separate. They slowly drifted back together around 1900, when comics as a popular medium first started. McCloud focuses on several types of combinations of words and pictures, ones which depend more on one, ones where they are seemingly unconnected, and the most important, interdependent, where together they “convey an idea that neither could convey alone”. He then provides several interpretations of a short story using these styles.
Next, McCloud answers the question: “Is comics art?”. Of course it is, especially since his definition of art is “any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction”(I guess this means Expulsion is art; frame it). He covers 6 basic steps to creation of any work of art and explains the different approaches one might take to be a groundbreaker or storyteller. He briefly mentions color, that it has been limited by money and technology, and may assume more importance in the future.
McCloud closes by mentioning that comics are unique as being a communication media where the artistic vision stands the best chance of making it to the reader. This is due both to the limited number of people usually involved and the art form itself. He encourages discussion of his book, and there has been response. In particular, one reader objected to the exclusion of single panel comics strips from the definition and argues that there is closure between the strip and the caption.
The book has already gone into its second printing and is available now in your favorite comics shop. My opinion? I agree with Neil Gaiman, award winning writer, who said of the book, “If you read, write, teach, or draw comics; if you want to; or if you simply want to watch a master explainer at work, you must read this book”.
[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]