Archive for February, 2012


take that take that take that

February 29th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I had a bike accident on the way to work this morning, so posting may be light for a few days, unless I get really bored and get back to work. Sorry.

(Yes, it has been a long week.)

Just so this isn’t a depressing post of nothing, do me a favor. What are you reading that I need to be reading? Watching that I need to be watching? Listening to that I need to be listening to? What are you consuming that I need to consume? Why?

Let me know.

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watch who you beef with

February 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I screwed up with the Stephen Wacker thing. I take this stuff seriously, and I shoulda been better than I was.

I took his insults personally. I think he was being a jerk, but that him being a jerk gave me a chance to choose to either be a jerk in kind or bail out. I chose to engage, then I bailed out, then I engaged again. He got me, and he got me good. I helped turn my site into the exact type of comics site I hate. That’s on me, no question.

I shouldn’t have engaged him. I think that I was correct in what I said to him, but I should’ve picked my battles better, rather than stepping in with both feet. My comments should’ve been a expanded into a fully-reasoned post, or something. I don’t know. But I screwed up, and I failed myself and my readers. So I’m sorry for that. I’ll do better in the future.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy with how anything or everything went down, but it is what it is. Wacker’s actions were definitely reason to stop holding out and take a break from Marvel for a while. The company’s a bit sour now, so other than two posts I’ve got in progress, I’m done for a bit. No boycott, no big statement, none of that. I just can’t do it. I’ll reassess later.

Tomorrow, look for a brief post on Marjorie Liu & Phil Noto. It was going to be the third and final part of my look at creative teams, but it feels limp now. Thursday or Friday, look for a 4 Elements on Kaare Andrews Spider-Man: Reign. Whichever day doesn’t have Reign should have an exploration of clothes & colors and why I’ve been consciously branching out past black and dark blue.

Don’t let the comments be a Wacker hate-fest or whatever, please. I’m over it! I would much rather do drugs and play NBA 2k12 than deal with more of that.

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The Flowcharts of Destruction: Undertaker and Kane Explained

February 28th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I’ve been watching wrestling for a long, long time. I only started checking it out two months after the debut of the Undertaker and that was over 20 years ago. A lot has happened with that guy over that time. He’s appeared in Suburban Commando to yell at Hulk Hogan with a dubbed-over 5-year-old’s voice. He delivered a Domino’s pizza to Leslie Nielson, who was at the time hired to figure out how the main event of Summerslam could possibly be Undertaker vs. Undertaker. He died and came back to life a dozen times over and used supernatural powers to mess with the minds of his opponents. He also once called himself Booger Red, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.

Even for someone like me, who was there for all of it, it can be hard to keep it all straight. For someone who doesn’t know wrestling at all, or has only watched for a few years at a time, it can be downright mind-boggling. Luckily, Tony Barrett decided to make sense out of it all. Or enough sense. He broke up Undertaker’s career into two decades.

That’s all well and good, but Tony figured there was still work to be done. Undertaker’s weird in his own right, but what about his brother, Kane? Before being repackaged as Undertaker’s long-lost, masked brother, he was a Kevin Nash impersonator, an evil dentist and a monster made out of Christmas. Don’t ask. Though he hasn’t been around quite as long as the Undertaker, Kane’s backstory is far more febrile-minded and has involved everything from being accused as a necro-rapist to hooking up a car battery to his boss’ son’s testicles. He’s feuded with wrestlers for such reasons as having coffee spilled on him and starring in a horror movie that’s set to be released on a day when something traumatic happened to him. Wrestling, everybody!

Still easier to understand than Donna Troy, though.

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Best Webcomic I Read, 2011: Chris Haley & Curt Franklin’s Let’s Be Friends Again

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Real talk: this strip by the cartoonishly handsome and devilish duo of Chris Haley and Curt Franklin got me a little choked up when I first read it, and again when I dug it up just now to think about so I could write about it.

I’m really, really attached to Spider-Man. Amazing Spider-Man 316 was my first comic, and I was hooked. Spider-Man was the reason I got into comics, and I only bailed on them because the Spider-Man books got pretty bad once Onslaught hit. When I came back, it was thanks to Daredevil, but I soon found my way over to JMS & JRjr’s pretty good run on Amazing Spidey and had a grand ol’ time. I even liked their 9/11 issue. As a kid, I’d be willing to bet cash money that I sang one line louder than all the others on Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers. Which one? This bit from Deck on “Protect Ya Neck”: “Swinging through town like your neighborhood Spider-Man!” Even Deck throws a little extra into it on the song.

Spidey’s the best superhero, the pinnacle of the genre. He’s the best because he’s the closest to us. When he gets powers, he tries to get money. When he messes up, he feels real guilty about it. He’s a working class type of dude, someone who has a skill and exercises it to the best of his ability. He has family drama, job drama, school drama, and girl drama. I love Static dearly, but he’s an updating of a classic. I got a lot out of Spider-Man. He’s us. He’s me. He’ll forever be my favorite, even when I’m not reading or enjoying his comics. Those early Ditko issues are re-readable like crazy, and that’s not all. The first 130, 140 issues of Amazing Spider-Man are a long sprint of pure quality, where the worst the stories get is “Huh, that was weird, but drawn really, really well.” He’s been defined and redefined by Romita, Kane, Saviuk (more for the newspaper strip than his time in the ’90s), McFarlane, the other Romita, Bagley, and Skroce… so much of my taste in artists can be traced back to Spider-Man. I followed McFarlane from Spider-Man to Spawn, even, and that got me into Image.

Spidey’s a big deal for me. I like him, from concept to Platonic ideal, quite a bit. I mean, I’m not crazy or nothing, but I have spent more time thinking about Spider-Man than is probably healthy for a grown man. I’m fond of ol’ webs.

I like that Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli created Miles Morales for Marvel. I’ve got a lot of younger cousins, and I spent a lot of time being around or mentoring younger kids when I was younger (middle and high school-y) thanks to the Boys & Girls Club or YWCA. I think that the next generation should get to experience the sheer joy and… I don’t even know, confidence or happiness or something. The amount of positivity I got out of reading and thinking about Spider-Man as I grew up. (I just looked down and I’m wearing tokidoki’s first Spider-Man t-shirt. I don’t usually wear comics clothes, usually basically meaning never, but apparently I make an exception for Spider-Man. Total coincidence, I swear.) I think that Spider-Man has legs that most superheroes don’t, for a wide variety of reasons, and he should be continuously reinvented for new contexts and shared. Miles is a good step in that direction, and I hope he sticks around a long time.

All that aside, though. Curt and Chris absolutely nailed how I felt about the Miles Morales thing. I look at that strip and I see myself in both of those kids. That’s a good feeling, even if I can’t quite put it into words. I think the word I’m looking for is “beautiful.” So yeah–go with that.

On the other hand, I like this strip because I’m pretty sure I share a sense of humor with Curt and Chris, and this cracked me up near to tears the first time I read it, too. Something about Reed Richards’s face and the captions on the bottom. The “EVERYWHERE” hits like a drum sting in a horror movie.

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Marjorie Liu x Phil Noto: The Glory of Creative Teams

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

One of the nicest things about the complicated mess that is the production of mainstream comics is watching creative teams grow comfortable with each other and up their game. Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s duties evolved over the course of their classic run on Daredevil, Walt Simonson worked with Sal Buscema on a lot of his Thor. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov. Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso and Trish Mulvihill. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke. Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke. Garth Ennis and John McCrea.

You know what I’m talking about–you can tell when people are really in sync and just black out on a comic. The other day, Marjorie Liu said something that got me really excited to see a comic. “The last issue of X-23 is going to be entirely silent, thanks to @philnoto’s magnificent visual storytelling skills.” Consider my interest piqued.

Noto, of course, barely needs any introduction at all. Not if you pay attention to ill artists. He’s the guy who drew these shots of Sharon Carter, X-23 & Jubilee, Luke Cage & Storm, the best Robin, this smile, Domino, and Black Widow. His style is super clean, and if you aren’t a fan, you need to get like the rest of us who know from good.

Liu, on the other hand, has quietly turned into one of Marvel’s best weapons. She turned X-23 into a character worth checking in on, and she did her best work on that book while working with Phil Noto and Sana Takeda. For her to feel comfortable enough with Noto to make the big finale of a series she’s guided from inception to execution a silent issue — something that I’ve rarely seen done well — is great. That makes me want that comic.

That’s exciting, and it’s exciting in a way that I’m rarely experiencing with cape comics these days. The writer/artist relationship is one of those things I associate with cape comics above all, mainly due to their assembly line nature. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes it crashes and burns to an absolutely absurd extent. And sometimes, things like this happen. It’s one of the most pleasurable things about reading cape comics.

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this is what they think about you

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I grew up on Marvel comics. I liked them as a kid, but our relationship is more complex now. It’s honest. I like a lot of things Marvel does. I dislike or ignore several other things. But overall, I think of Marvel fondly. They’re where all my favorite heroes came from, and their artistic bench is deep. I write about comics online, including Marvel comics. Sometimes I love them and slobber over them for weeks. Sometimes I hate them and write about why. I try to do it without breaking down into ad hominems and all the garbage that litters comics internet. I’m a smart dude, too smart to fall into those traps. I think my posts reflect that. I even have this unspoken rule about cursing on 4l!. Excepting times when I’ve quoted other people, I’ve probably cursed less than ten times over the however many years I’ve been writing for 4l!. I don’t not-curse. I just like the challenge of expressing displeasure without going for the easiest routes. (I think it’s sharpened my sword, personally, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I say this to point out that I’m far from a Marvel hater. I did some freelance work for last year, and I’m not the type of guy who can work for someone he hates, no matter how many cool drawings of Spider-Man are on the checks. Just last week, me and David Uzumeri found an obvious error on Marvel’s website that let people grab jpgs of comics published in the past and, from what I saw, as far as two weeks into the future. Rather than updating the investigative/conjecture post we came up with, I emailed someone at Marvel directly. I’m not a hater, and I was surprised when Marvel editor Stephen Wacker came to my site and treated me like a hater after I expressed my opinion on the creative team changes over at Marvel.

You can see him in this post, which was about why double-shipping as Marvel has implemented it devalues the artist and hurts the comic, and this one, where I talk about instances (including a Marvel example) when art changes have been done, or will be done, in cool ways. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I’m expressing opinions, obviously. David Uzumeri, a good buddy of mine, disagrees with me. He understands why I think the way I do, and I understand the way he thinks, too. I’m not giving the sermon on the mount, here. I’m talking about something I like, and how something else interferes with that thing I like. I skirt up against the edge of insulting someone, but it’s still framed as my opinion of his work, rather than his person.

And when Stephen Wacker finds the post, rather than ignoring it (which is cool) or engaging in discussion with me on the issue (which is rare, but totally awesome), he came out firing shots at commenters and generic pundits before finally condescending to me. He implied that I’m just looking for something to be mad about (a stupid and incredibly ignorant argument to make), that I hate Marvel because I love Image (he did this in the comments of a post where I praise a Marvel comic, and shortly after commenting on a post where I praise other Marvel comics), and then he betrays the fact that he didn’t even read my post before commenting. Instead of addressing my points, he talks about things I don’t even mention, he calls me defensive, he calls me angry, and he generally turns the passive-aggressiveness all the way up in every single interaction he has with me and other commenters. He tells me that I’ve bought into Marvel vs Image before asking me why I think the time I complained about will be different. I tell him this:

I’m not buying into any shtick, and I can’t believe you’d even say something as stupid as that. Especially this idiotic rivalry you’re trying to pitch–did you miss the part where I praise Immortal Iron Fist to the high heavens and point to it as an exemplar of what can be done with multiple artists? I could’ve talked about T-bolts, another Marvel book that does well with this sort of thing, or like Chris Arrant says, DC’s Animal Man. In the post itself I explain exactly what you’re asking me to explain.

But yeah, since you want to come at me with condescension and disingenuous arguments, but sure, let’s get into it.

Other than the “Image-GOOD!/Marvel-BAD!” schtick you’re buying into (congrats to Image marketing for that coup!), what makes you think this isn’t the case here?

I don’t think that’s the case here because you went for the pass-agg condescension instead of explaining what Kano or Samnee bring to the book and how well they work with Waid. We all know they’re good artists, obviously, but how do they fit into the structure of DD? What do they add to the recipe? It would take you two entire sentences to do that. “Chris Samnee’s clean style brings to mind the swashbuckling Daredevil we haven’t seen in a while, and Kano has an incredible aptitude for fight scenes. Pham’s blockier style is somewhat reminiscent of JRjr’s run on Daredevil with Ann Nocenti, and I thought he’d be good for this story because it’s a big classic cape comics action story.”

That’s why I don’t believe you. Instead of talking to me like a grown man or pointing me toward some interview on, you treat me like an idiot. I’m not one of those douchebags who constantly harass you online. I hate Kbox. Why do I get treated like him for saying “Yo, I don’t like this, and here are several reasons why?”

and he says this:

You are very angry. I can see why what with it being a discussion of comics and entertainment.

I don’t believe i’m at your beck and call to explain my creative choices at your bidding, but I do interviews regularly, so my advice would be to look there and or ask our PR people for an interview. (though given your needlessly hostile tone, I’m not sure that’d be such a great way to spend my time.)

Essentially though anyone on DD or any books I oversee is there because I like them (except for Paolo who’s here because he’s dating Waid).

Who’s KBox? Is he an enemy of some sort? I don’t think you’re an enemy for what it’s worth. I don’t even know you. You’re just wrong about some stuff as are some of your posters here.

And setting aside my surprise at getting u madded (it is the penance stare of the internet, and for a brief moment, I saw the shape and color of my soul), “You’re not the boss of me” is an incredible response to an intentionally provocative request. Either way, I admitted defeat and bailed out. I knew that it was going to go nowhere but south, and frankly, I had paying work to do that was only slightly less frustrating than arguing with this guy.

I could point out more and more of his garbage. He left 18 comments between 1130 and 1430. They’re all generally the same–wondering where we get off telling him what to do (we aren’t, we’re talking about what we think is a problem on a site that isn’t his [it’s mine]) and what, should he just stop publishing Daredevil because some, snerk, “pundits,” heh heh, don’t like Chris Samnee? And when someone says no, we all like Samnee, and you’re not talking about the discussion at hand, he switches tactics again to something else.

I put an end to things by banning him. He said this in a comment: “Again I’m under no orders to deliver whatever information you or David might command at a given moment. The books speak for themselves.” and you know, I’d had enough. No one’s commanding anything. I’m one voice on the internet. My commenters, all fifteen of ’em, don’t have enough buying power to sway anything. Except for a couple bad apples I have to keep on track, my comment section is pretty good. It was all rational conversation. More of it agreed with me than I expected, but whatever, there were still good discussions down there. We’re not commanding anything. We’re doing the exact same thing people do in comic shops.

But let’s recap. I state an opinion on a website in a pretty respectful and civil manner, other than saying that I don’t like one guy’s artwork. Commenters pop up and agree or share stories about books they liked. Wacker shows up and poisons the entire well with his passive-aggressive behavior and constant disses. When called on it, he doubles down, because we are so mad that we just gotta get our Marvel five minutes hate in. When called on that, he doubles down again, because this time we just don’t like the artists. And on and on down the toilet. Later, after a couple hours of nonsense, he @s me on Twitter. I tell him:

I’m frustrated at this point, and trying to decide whether or not to ban him or let him have it out with the commenters. He makes it a point to @ several people I spoke to on Twitter about the argument. I lose my temper and tell him off. Pow.

I called it quits on the argument in the morning, and then he kept on with it and I stopped that, too. I wasn’t going to post about it because the whole situation was embarrassing. I haven’t gotten into many public fights with creators or other writers, but it always looks stupid in hindsight. I’m not that guy. I thought I learned this time because I stepped away. I was gonna stick to my resolve until I see this on my way home from work:

So, okay. Maybe it’s an innocent favorite. Maybe he really liked how I said what I said. But considering how unbelievably childish and passive-aggressive this guy has been all day, I’m going to take this as a shot. I hate being condescended to, and he got under my skin. An hour or so ago, he follows me on Twitter. So fine. Here. Listen.

Stephen Wacker: I’m not your enemy. I’m not those guys that follow you around and ask who would win in a fight, Spider-Man or the Hulk. I’m not that guy that commissions explicit Spider-Man porn while typing missives about how Marvel doesn’t know anything about the real Spider-Man with his withered claw of a jerking hand. I didn’t particularly care about the spider-marriage going away. I don’t spend all my time talking about comics I hate. I’m not even a The Comics Journal guy, not even close. I’m not that dude.

I’m that dude that’s been very fond of your books. I praised Brand New Day to the high heavens, and it still has some of my favorite Spider-Man stories ever. I read and enjoyed 52. Daredevil? Punisher? Avenging Spider-Man? Osborn? Shadowland Elektra? I’m that dude who buys your comics and talks them up to his friends. I buy the floppies and then the trade because I’m too stupid to realize how small my apartment is. I’m your customer, homey, specifically yours over the past few years, and, in a way that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with, I’m also your free PR. But that’s a neurotic meltdown for another day (or a day in November 2011, I think, but tomato, tomato.) I buy your books, I read your books, I enjoy your books, and I like the creative teams you tend to pick out.

I’m not that other guy. I’m me, and I’m over here talking about something I like and my concern about something I see as being a problem with that thing I like. I’m not ranting or screeching out unintelligible complaints. “I like this, but this new thing? I dunno, I’m worried.” And somehow, that gets me treated like the scumbaggiest of your target audience? I get accused of demanding things to you when I wasn’t even talking to you in the first place? I ask in the post for consistency in the comics I spend three and four dollars on a couple times a month, I guess that was the demand? Is that where we are now? You either get blind, unquestioning fealty or I’m an enemy?

I don’t make big proclamations about boycotts or quitting series or whatever whatever. It’s easier to just do it and not tell anybody. Not everything is a statement. I’m not going to do that here, either. But, Stephen Wacker. I want you to do one thing. Look at yourself, look at how you treated somebody who committed the cardinal sin of expressing concern about something he likes and wants to continue liking, and then think about whether or not being talked down to, insulted, and harassed is something that would make me want to keep buying Marvel comics. That’s not a threat, either. I’m one drop in a bucket that’s several hundred thousand people deep, I know, but take a step back and look at yourself and maybe conduct yourself with some class instead of immediately pulling the knives out.

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Help Me Help You Buy That New Empowered Hardcover

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

All right, listen. Lean in close. I want to let you in on a secret, okay?

I want you to buy Adam Warren’s Empowered Deluxe Edition Volume 1. It hits your local comic shop this week, but if you’d rather get it off Amazon, you’ll have to wait until 03/13. In exchange, though, it’ll cost you just 37 bucks instead of 60. The choice is yours. (edit: The HC is in-stock on Amazon as of the morning of 02/29)

That’s a steep price for a comic, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s a nice hardcover with Empowered volumes 1 through 3. For your money, you’re gonna get 712 pages of sexy superhero comedy, including 40 pages of bonus material like sketches and designs and ideas. It’s a pretty good deal, I’d argue, and I already own all these books. If the price is too steep for you, and you have some way to enjoy digital comics, give some thought to picking up digital versions of the series. They’re 7.99, which is a steal. If you don’t do digital comics, then you should buy Empowered Volume 1 in print, maybe?

I’ve written about Emp and Warren’s work a lot. Maybe more than anyone else on comics internet? I dunno — probably, if I had to guess — but that’s mostly irrele except to point out that if you want to know about Emp, I’ve got you covered. A (surprisingly thorough) selection:

-I talked about his fantastic runs on Gen13 (you’ll not find a teen comic better, for my money, even though I guess the cast was early 20s by that point?) and Livewires. You can find his Gen13 (with a variety of artists, including a not-terrible Ed Benes!) in a couple of volumes– Gen 13: Superhuman Like You and Gen 13: Meanwhile. Livewires Vol. 1: Clockwork Thugs, Yo is kinda-sorta the type of hard sci-fi I’m not into, but Warren makes it work, and throws an ill espionage angle onto the whole works. I can’t recommend them highly enough. They’re clever, they’re pretty, they’re well-plotted, and they’re just good comics. Everybody who likes “fun” in comics, whatever that means to you, should pick them up.

-I reviewed Empowered 6 for ComicsAlliance. It’s the volume that comes after the incredibly devastating emotional landmine that was volume 5, and it’s pretty good.

-I did another Empowered thing for CA, about why the sex scenes work so well in this particular cape comic and not so well in others, but it isn’t up yet. I’ll edit it in when it goes live, if that happens in the next couple days. The short version is “It’s funny and makes you care about the characters before they get down to the old in-out.”

-I typed a little about Empowered: The Wench With A Million Sighs and why it’s a good jumping-on point. You can buy it here.

-I typed at length about Adam Warren’s writing abilities, and how his work on Iron Man: Hypervelocity with Brian Denham was a brutally effective way to do an Iron Man story. It’s all about the ideas and pushing things forward using real-world cutting edge technology, rather than like… boring looking robots and smart cars. I like this bit I wrote:

Adam Warren is an idea guy in the best possible sense of the phrase. If you want to kick something into high gear, really peel back what makes it work and throw a whole bunch more stuff into the mix without breaking your character, he’s the man to come see. Hypervelocity is what Iron Man should always be like. Something fresh, something moving at Mach 8, and something that takes something from real life and makes an ill comic book concept out of it. Warren just pours ideas onto the page at a rate no other writer can match. He drops them out there into the world where they’re just aching to be explored.

Of course, the trade’s out of print and Marvel hasn’t put up the digital version. Dig this one up, though. It’s a trip.

-Remember The Dirty Pair? Warren worked on those back in the day, and I wrote about that, too. They’re a dynamic duo, masters of disaster, and a whole lot of fun to read. Good luck finding trades, but definitely check your local comic shop for the hookup. I like these a lot.

The character of Sistah Spooky in Empowered is actually a really deft and fantastic exploration of black pathology. Hating the skin you’re in, wishing you were white (or at least not-black)… it’s all self-hatred and it’s all poisonous. And this gem is hidden in what looks like a fluffy and sexy superhero comedy. I mean… yowza, I can’t really over-state how awesome it is that Warren did this, and that it was intentional. It’s a lightning bolt out of the blue, the saddest thing in the world, and totally great, too. You want emotional resonance in your funnybooks? Spookums has so much of it that your head will spin.

-Finally, I did a 5800 word interview with Warren around the time Empowered 5 dropped about a lot of things. His process, his tools, his history, his craft… we cover a lot of ground. It’s still pretty interesting, and it’s cool to see hints of stuff that ended up being worked into the book. I’m pretty sure one thing he says hasn’t been seen in cape comics before has been seen in Emp since, but I don’t want to ruin it. It has to do with the character Mindf–k, though.

-Oh yeah. If you want to see images, click any of those posts, or check out his deviantart.

If all of that can’t convince you to buy some Empowered… I dunno, man. There’s cute girls and buff guys in it, I guess? Will that do the job?

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The Prophet Exception: More On Artist Changes

February 26th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I said that artist changes due to double-shipping mainstream comics devalues the artist. Not all art changes are evil, though. Sure, some of them are of the Final Crisis variety and result in terrible comics, but every once and a while, people get them right. Artist changes, guest artists, however you want to call them–they can be used tactically, as a way to showcase an artist or add a little extra punch to a storyline.

This may be weird, but follow along for a minute. One of the best examples of the way a guest artist can make something extra dope is a song. It relates to my point about unwanted art changes being like new actors showing up in old roles in a movie or a song changing direction mid-stream. It’s Big Boi’s “Fo Yo Sorrows,” off that Sir Lucious album:

It happens around 0:55. Too $hort, the legendary rapper out of Oakland, pops up to drop four bars and then bounce. That’s a quarter of a verse. It’s a cameo, but it goes deeper than that. At 0:47, Big Boi flips the word “bitch” just like $hort made famous, and then says that $hort was one of his favorite rappers. For Too $hort to pop up on this song for something that’s little more than a cameo is ill. It’s rappers playing around and having some fun. It’s not really a guest spot. It’s something you smile about, because you’re in on the joke.

That’s the feeling that art changes should give you. A little spike of glee, or a chance to explain to everyone you know exactly why what just happened is so good.

The Immortal Iron Fist did it well, for the most part. The flashbacks to adventures of other Iron Fists were drawn by a variety of dope artists, each one tackling a different Iron Fist. David Aja drew the modern pages, and his art served as connective tissue between the flashbacks. He set the tone and stage for the book, and then when the story required that the tone and stage change, Travel Foreman, John Severin, Russ Heath, and Sal Buscema tagged in to get it done. Aja is Big Boi, and John Severin is Too $hort. He brings with him a history and pedigree that people on the inside will get, while others will just go, “Yo, that looked pretty cool.”

Big Boi/Matt Fraction/Ed Brubaker had a good reason for their guests showing up, too. It’s not just a willy-nilly thing. There’s a point. It’s an enhancement, rather than someone just plugging another gear into the mix so that the machine goes faster. It turned Immortal Iron Fist into a jam comic. It provided variety.

There’s a really good example of what I’m talking about coming up later this year. Prophet started life as a Rob Liefeld/Dan Panosian joint. As part of the big Extreme relaunch, it’s currently in the hands of Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Richard Ballermann, and Ed Brisson. It’s really good, actually, part of the continuously rising wave over at Image. Graham is writing, but working closely with Roy to make the story the best it can be. Sometimes that means layouts, other times it means Roy making sure that Graham’s on point or vice versa. It’s a collaboration. And there’s going to be guests popping in. From Graham’s blog:

So I’d written on here before that Prophet would come out 6 times a year but some cool shit has happened and now it’s going to be 12 issues a year monthly.

So here’s the schedule:

Starting Jan-

#21(number 1 in our hearts) -#23 art by Simon Roy (Jan’s Atomic heart), then #24 &25 are drawn by farel dalrymple (pop gun war) I’m drawing #26 and Giannis Milonogiannis (Old city blues)is doing # 27- 32. I think we’ve come up with a cool way to make this work storywize.

The situation isn’t too dissimilar from Marvel, and I’m sure a lot of people will say it isn’t different at all. There’s a comic, and the people making it want it to come out more frequently, so more artists are joining the team. The original draw of the series was the Graham/Roy/Ballermann/Brisson team, and that’s changing. I think that there’s a difference here, but a very, very fine one. I don’t think the difference is “I like these guys,” either. I like a lot of them dudes who are coming onto books I like, too.

Instead of just slipping new dudes into the rotation to boost the schedule, editor Eric Stephenson and writer Graham have found artists to work with and crafted the story around them. My understanding is that each artist will be working on a story tailored for them, rather than simply being used to keep the ship on track. All of the artists are doing covers, too, I suppose as a type of introduction. There’s a creative reason here, and I think that has more value than the purely economical reasons Marvel has to have artists playing musical chairs.

Here’s the covers for Prophet 22-24 and 26. The covers are by Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, and Brandon Graham, in that order.

They have absolutely distinct styles, right? Roy & Ballermann’s palette is dusty and soft, Dalrymple’s muted and night time-y, Milonogiannis’s is aged, and Graham’s is soft, but in a different way than Ballermann’s. Firmer, maybe. Roy & Ballermann’s art is rough and loose. Dalrymple is detailed and gloomy. Milonogiannis is… I don’t even know the right word for it right now. Majestic? Ominous? I get the feeling of mankind making contact with an entirely alien and apathetic intelligence, something that sees us as being beneath its notice. And Graham’s cover for 26 reminds me of nothing so much as the passage of a lot of time.

Things like this make art changes into events. It’s not just “Oh, we want to make people buy this book sixteen times a year instead of twelve.” It’s “We want this book to be the best it can be.”

I think it’ll work. I’m looking forward to finding out.

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This Week in Panels: Week 127

February 26th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Heyo! This week I’m joined by Was Taters, new fish Tobey Cook and Jody. This week introduces the badass redesign of Krang (or General Krang) in the TMNT comic as well as Hawkeye being a stupid, mean jerk.

All-Star Western #6 (Taters’ pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Phil Winslade

All-Star Western #6 (Gavin’s pick)
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Phil Winslade

Aquaman #6 (Gavin’s pick)
Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

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that’s a one hot team every ten issues average

February 24th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Marvel’s been double-shipping comics lately, taking advantage of an increased shipping schedule to pull a little more money from their fanbase. As a result… the quality and consistency of their books has slipped over. Here’s a quick copy/paste from my buddy Ron Richards’s Marvel May solicitations post that does a pretty good job of explaining the situation:

To put it in perspective, here’s a rundown of several single issues coming out in May. Series that previously featured a “hot” artist who received critical and fan praise, and the artist replacing them:
Secret Avengers #27 – you loved Gabe Hardman on this book that JUST relaunched with a new creative team, so HERE’S RENATO GUEDES!
Ultimate Spider-Man #10 – you loved Sara Pichelli and her new take on Ultimate Spider-Man, so HERE’S DAVID MARQUEZ!
Ultimate Comics The Ultimates #10 and #11 – Esad Ribic blew your minds with the opening chapters of Hickman’s run, so HERE’S LUKE ROSS!
Scarlet Spider #5 – you loved Ryan Stegman after he launched this title, so HERE’S NEIL EDWARDS!
Fantastic Four #605.1 – you loved Steve Epting, so HERE’S MIKE CHOI (Speaks for itself after last week’s Green Lantern #6 atrocity)!
Defenders #6 – you loved Terry Dodson, so HERE’S VICTOR IBANEZ!
Daredevil #12 – you loved Paolo Rivera SO HERE’S CHRIS SAMNEE – oh wait, this is a good one…
EXCEPT, next issue…
Daredevil #13 – you loved Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee, so HERE’S KHOI PHAM!
Don’t mind me, my head’s too busy spinning.

That’s a lot of changes. Most mainstream artists can just about keep a monthly schedule. Previously, you’d see two stable art teams alternating arcs on a book to keep the book on schedule and with something of a cohesive look. With the double-shipping, stable art teams are looking less and less likely.

Daredevil is a good example of what I’m talking about, and why these art changes are so frustrating. At launch, it was announced as a book that would feature Mark Waid writing with Paolo Rivera (and his pop Joe Rivera inking him!) and Marcos Martin alternating on art duties. Javier Rodriguez was going to color Rivera, Muntsa Vicente was going to color Martin, and Joe Caramagna was going to letter all of it. That’s a good team–an astounding one, honestly. Alone, Rivera and Martin are beasts. Putting them on the same book is like having putting on a concert with fifteen Michael Jacksons on stage at once, or going to a basketball game that’s Jordan on Jordan. (It’s a pretty good comic.)

By the time we hit issue 13, we’ll have seen Rivera, Martin, Kano, Chris Samnee, and Khoi Pham illustrating the book. That’s five artists over thirteen issues. Some will have done one issue, others just a few. And on a certain level, sure, all of these artists are pretty good. Daredevil is going to be a good looking comic regardless, and will presumably remain well-written. But on another level, good looking isn’t a binary proposition. Martin’s good looking is different from Rivera’s good looking. Samnee and Kano are two entirely different types of good looking. With alternating teams of two, you can maintain a real visual identity. That’s what a stable art team does–it gives the book a look. Bringing in five artists onto a book in just over a year is far from stability. It’s another hoop for your suspension of disbelief to jump through so you believe in the story.

I saw a Marvel editor going off on Twitter about how artist switch-ups aren’t a problem, because hey, you’re still buying the comic, aren’t you? What’s the deal? It’s not like they’re ugly. I disagree. Vehemently disagree, in fact.

Think of it like this. When you hopped on Daredevil, you hopped on for Waid, Rivera, and Martin. They set a specific mood with their first issue. For another artist to tag in, even a good one, muddies that mood. Samnee doesn’t draw like Kano, who doesn’t draw like Martin, who doesn’t draw like Rivera. Rivera and Martin are complementary (though perhaps not as complementary as Javier Pulido and Marcos Martin, another killer duo), and their mood (which is aided and abetted by Waid’s script, of course) is a very specific thing.

When you begin adding to that mood, Daredevil becomes a different comic. It’s like if the actors changed forty-five minutes into a film, or if the new hot single by your favorite artist changed BPM and singers halfway through, but kept the same subject matter. It’s not that strange a comparison, I don’t think. There’s a skipped beat there. Every artist is unique, and swapping an artist out of one story (and make no mistake, Waid is clearly scripting one story) and slotting another in changes that story fundamentally.

I’m actually having a hard time explaining why because it’s so obvious and basic to me. It looks different, and comics are a visual medium. You don’t just read comics–you look at them. The art matters, and when the art changes, the story changes. All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is such a beautiful hot mess because Jim Lee is the quintessential superhero artist of our day and Frank Miller scripted a story that needed a more cartoony, flexible style. I talk about it here a little, but Lee is simultaneously the best and worst choice to illustrate what Miller was trying to do. If Miller drew ASBAR, it would have been received differently. It follows, then, that Lee’s ASBAR is not Miller’s, just like Rivera’s Daredevil is not Kano’s. It isn’t a value judgment. It’s an objective fact. Blue is not red, but they are both nice colors. Same thing.

These changes also have this unwanted effect of devaluing the artist, in a way. It sets the writer up as the prime mover on a comic book. The writer is the one constant in all these creative changes, and that changes the conversation from “Waid and Rivera are doing Daredevil!” to “Rivera is drawing Waid’s Daredevil next issue!” There is a difference there, and it affects how we think and talk about comics. It gives the writer ownership of the book, and makes the artist secondary, despite the artist being such a huge part of the success of the book.

(I realize that I’m giving short shrift to the inkers, colorists, and letterers here, but please believe that I love you guys, and do not wish to underestimate your influence. Pardon my shorthand.)

I don’t expect every creative team to stay together forever. But the constant musical chairs, right when things are getting good, is off-putting. We’re paying more money for less content, and we can’t even get consistent content. I understand why Marvel double ships comics, but am I really going to keep buying two issues a month when the creative team is compromised like it is on so many books in the latest round of solicits?

I buy cape comics because I like seeing what a small, dedicated team can do with these old characters I grew up on. Spider-Man has no value in and of himself. I might get curious about a series featuring Spider-Man and Hypno Hustler, but without a strong creative team, it’s nothing. It’s worse than nothing. Uncanny X-Force is a dumb idea on paper. It’s the team of X-Men that go out and murder people at night. But it came roaring out of the gates with Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, and Dean White firing on all cylinders, including cylinders I didn’t even know Marvel had. That team made that series. By issue eight, Billy Tan was drawing the book, the quality took a nosedive, the magic was broken, and I bailed out. Why was Tan drawing it? Because Marvel shipped six issues of the series between the cover dates of May 2011 and July 2011, tossed out another two in October, and will consistently double-ship the book from February to April.

Uncanny X-Force 17-22 feature five different artists. That’s seven issues, including 19.1. There’s no in-story reason for the double-shipping. It just happens. That’s not a problem? It’s enough of a problem that I quit the series, and I’m absolutely positive that I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s just us elitist hipster douchebags dropping books over changes, but I doubt it.

Boiled down, though, my only request is this. If you want us to pay four bucks for 20 pages of comics, then at least let us trust that the reasons we’re reading the series are going to stick around. Let us get a story from a creative team that’s had time to grow together and get in sync. If you want us to pay more for less, at least do us the basic favor of giving us something approaching consistency.

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