Archive for April, 2012


Reading Comics: James Stokoe & Lettering

April 30th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

There’s a lot of little nods to Godzilla and kaiju film tropes I’m trying to cram into the book; some are just visual (drills on everything!), some are part of the story. The second issue even has the first test firing of the Maser, which anybody who has seen a Godzilla movie will know barely ever works as intended. I got completely stumped trying to figure out what the sound effect for Godzilla’s trademark roar would be, so I looked up what it looked like run through an oscilloscope and just traced over that with some vague lettering. Godzilla has almost 60 years worth of movies, in different eras and with some radically different tones, so it’s great to pick through and try to figure out how to make those ideas work in a comic book.

-James Stokoe, 2012

Every medium has its own way, or ways, to wow you. Books may be devastatingly lyrical. Music may sound like a slice of heaven or hell as it crawls its way into your heart. Movies show you another world in excruciating detail. There’s even a certain amount of pleasure in watching someone explain something you’re not interested in, if they’re a good storyteller.

I think of the art that really, really wows me as solutions to a problem, which makes the comic artist. How do you get from A to B? How can I show this insane thing that exists only in my head? How can I quantify the sound of Godzilla’s roar? I can wrap my head around Garth Ennis’s dialogue or Rucka & Waid’s structure or Bendis’s pacing. I may not be able to quantify what’s so great about “Finn Cooley. Anyone not wanting to die for Ireland better clear on out the back” in Ennis & Fernandez’s Punisher: Kitchen Irish — “It’s harder than a Spanish test” is about as far as I’d get there — but I can pull it apart and dig into it in a way that I can’t do with art.

I get writing in a way that I don’t get art, which makes me want to dig into art all the more. Stuff like this, stuff like “Oh yeah, something something oscilloscope, something something vague lettering” would never even cross my mind. It’s a new way of thinking, one that’s not alien to my day-to-day life but definitely on a different track from mine, and that makes it irresistible to me. I’ve gotta figure it out. I’ve got to make it make sense to me, and since I’ve got a comics blog, that means talking it out in public.

I like that Stokoe’s solution to this problem was so literal and figurative at the same time. The oscilloscope shows you what Godzilla’s roar literally looks like. It’s the literal solution to the problem. And Stokoe’s execution is the figurative solution. He sketched a few letters on top and came up with EEYAEEEARRGH and a few letters (?) I can’t parse at the end. Just looking at that doesn’t seem very Godzilla-y to me. But when you combine the two, you get that jagged scrawl of a roar ripping the scene apart and looking great on the page. The sideways creativity there is fantastic.

Y’all should already be reading Orc Stain. It starts off as this raw action/adventure comic about orcs, and that got me hooked. And then issue 7 hit and Stokoe is folding in Vietnam War iconography into orc mythology and man o man o man is it A+ fantastic stuff. Get some.

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This Week in Panels: Week 136

April 29th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Hey there, my Letterites. It was a pretty good week, giving us a fantastic Flash issue (I’m really loving the designs of these new rogues), Eric Powell alternating between funny and whiny as well as FF giving us the best final page in a long time.

The last page of Goon really had me scratching my head. The whole thing, like the issue, was Powell being annoyed at the hold of Marvel/DC superhero comics have over the industry. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that his main point was how the comic industry needs its own Harry Potter.

If Harry Potter were a Dark Horse comic instead of a novel, it would be struggling to sell ten thousand, just because it’s not in a Marvel or DC superhero universe. Where’s our Harry Potter? Where’s our megahit that comes out of nowhere and draws people into comic shops? Why are we denying ourselves the possibility of that?

When reading this, I felt like meekly holding my hand up while saying, “…Walking Dead?”

Speaking of superhero tripe, I’m not going to be reading Avengers vs. X-Men, but I am reading Avengers vs. X-Men Versus. Why? Because I’m weird and I want to experience the Polly-O String Cheese of comic event tie-ins without any context for the sake of seeing how it comes off.

This week, Jody and Space Jawa have my back. Remember, you can help out too. If there’s a series you’re reading that you want represented, you can always toss me a couple panels. Email link’s on the right.

All-Star Western #8
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Patrick Scherberger

Aquaman #8
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Avengers vs. X-Men Versus #1 (Gavin’s pick)
Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert, Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen

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I Got So Much Culture On My Mind 02: feh.

April 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

-I’m slowly getting into Michael DeForge’s work. It’s weird and a little out of my wheelhouse of cusswords and violence comix, but I like how creepy and weird and John K his style gets sometimes. He’s put Kid Mafia #1 online for free, asking only that if you read and enjoy it, you kick him fifty cents via Paypal. I read it, I liked it, and I paypaled him fifty cents in Canadian dollars. If you like it, you should do the same.

I like this idea, and I hope more cats who produce minicomics start doing this. I’m not much for paper books and totally fine with making it rain via Paypal. Hopefully you are, too!

I did a podcast with Chris Eckert from Funnybook Babylon about our comic book origins. I really like this photoset he made for the chat, which really says it all:

Is it any wonder my taste in comics turned out like it did? That Batman cover is crazy, though. I also spill the beans on the time I had a nightmare about Terry Kavanaugh, which is one of the stupidest things that has ever happened to me. We talk a lot about Image comics, too. I guess I hadn’t realized how fundamental their stuff was for/to me until this chat, so it was nice to look back and sort of reconcile what I like now with what I liked then.

-Michael Peterson and Kevin Czapiewski have launched Project Ballad, a webcomic about a girl named Kendra Price, RPGs, and maybe… video games?? Start reading it here. It’ll update Monday-Wednesday-Friday from here on out. You should read it. I am.

-I watched Lena Dunham’s Girls, but I don’t really have a thinkpiece in me like the rest of the internet. I hated it, basically, because the experiences and people I watched on TV were so completely and utterly alien to my experiences. Like, magic, kung fu? I can buy that. Asking my mother for eleven hundred bucks a month to pay my rent while I douchebag around town? My mom would die laughing and then haunt me for the rest of my life, telling me to get a job in between ghostly guffaws. So yeah: not for me.

-I watched Frederic Jardin’s Sleepless Night the other night. I liked it a lot. It’s this tight little crime thriller about a cop who robs the wrong guy and gets his son kidnapped. Most of it takes place in one building, there are several factions, and I love love loved that the violence was so awkward and off-putting. Tomer Sisley as Vincent is not playing Jason Statham as Jason Statham, as the fight scene in the kitchen proves. He’s just a cop, rather than a supercop. Also there are father/son issues, and I’m a sucker for those, not to mention gunfights and action.

A lot of Sleepless Night takes place in a nightclub, but it never dragged the movie down like every other nightclub scene does for me.

Sleepless Night reminded me about Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank because… well, they’re both in the same genre, French, and pretty good. Point Blank shakes out a little differently. Samuel is a regular dude, a nurse, put into a tough situation. He sucks a a lot of things, but the movie livens things up by teaming him up with a hardened criminal. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see cross on double cross on triple cross over the course of the movie, though. Gilles Lellouche is perfect as the desperate regular dude, and Roschdy Zem gets a good turn as a gangster. There’s a scene in an apartment that was tremendous, really great writing, action, and film-making.

-My man Sean Witzke put me onto Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, which is a… some type of band. Rock? Noise? Whatever. I really like “Hoshi Neko,” but the entire album is pretty good.

I don’t really have the frame of reference to describe it in proper terms, I guess, so I’m going to copy & paste from their blog:

YT//ST was founded in late 2007 by performance artists alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood, born from the ashes of the late Lesbian Fight Club. Armed with mixed-race identities, mad illustration skills and a whole pile of home-brew junk electronics, alaska and Ruby wrote and performed the first mini ‘Noh-Wave’ Opera, ‘YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN I’ in April 2008. YT//ST continued to perform short homebrewed operas, eventually forming a network of Asian and Indigenous artists through collaboration and formed the current YT//ST collective.

They have this weird multi-disciplinary sound, sort of dissonant but appealing at the same time. The vocals sound like they’re coming in from a distance, or through a filter, and instruments sound like they fade in and out of the mix as needed. I dunno, I could keep putting words that don’t quite fit on it or you can listen to “Hoshi Neko” and “Reverse Crystal//Murder of a Spider” and hear exactly what I mean. I bought the album and it was more than worth my time.

This guy Boulet is so good. I love this strip about childhood dreams, too.

-Philip Bond is still drawing spacegirls.

-Faith Erin Hicks is great. I think she’s super interesting as a person, going by her essays on making a living in comics & animation and whatnot, and of course she’s scary talented. She’s got a Tumblr now, which includes this great picture of Liz Sherman from BPRD:

I really really like this. Liz’s bored expression, which extends to the lazily arcing cigarette smoke, is pitch-perfect. Even the lazy posture, starting from her bent left leg on up. But, and maybe this is weird, my favorite part is Hicks’s signature. “feh.” is the best signature since Walt Simonson’s dinosaur. Someone should do one of those knock-down, drag-out, ultra-long, “here are all of my opinions on every subject ever” interviews with Hicks. I bet it’d be a great read.

Powerhouse blogger Kate Dacey is curating a Manga Movable Feast on Viz Signature, which may well be the best comics imprint since the glory days of Wildstorm. The MMF is a collection of reviews, criticism, and just content in general, all on the subject of Viz Sig’s fantastic catalog. I’m not sure if I’ll have time to contribute this time (my motivation for everything these days is on approximately a negative thousand million, but it’ll pass. I’ve been working on this simple post since Wednesday, ha ha), but I did pick Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond Vizbig 9 and Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka as part of my best of 2010, and I still like this look at Inoue’s writing. I’m down for another Vagabond reread, actually. Maybe that’ll be this summer’s big series of posts? Inouefest, 2012. In-No-Way-Fest 2012. Anyway! Go, read! Kate’s list of 7 essential books is pretty good.

-I’m probably going to pre-order the super deluxe funcrusher plus monster package of El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure (that title!!!!!) and Killer Mike’s RAP Music. I love those guys, and dropping 85 bones on their work doesn’t seem like a huge extravagance. I’ll have to wait to see how next payday shakes out, though. I definitely want the vinyl of both. I just have to make sure the math makes sense. It may be smarter to just order Cancer 4 Cure and R.A.P. Music on vinyl separately, though. I don’t necessarily need the instrumentals or poster.

-Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos have a kickstarter going for their book Fairy Quest. Here’s a video:

And a widget:

I like these guys, especially when they work together. I’m going to kick some cash their way come payday, too.

-Here’s a couple STS videos I liked. I like how regular the video for “Good Intentions” is. It’s just a bunch of guys hanging out and doing things. It fits the theme of STS’s Goldrush, too, which is laid back flips of established songs. And STS is a spitter, too. Always a treat to hear a new verse.

-Tucker’s Comics of the Weak is still the best post every week. He’s got Jog and Abhay backing him up this week, plus Nate Bulmer, so maybe you should get down or lay down. Also, I vote you don’t get to make the Holocaust into a pithy comeback in your stupid fight comics. Been there, done that.

-Next week: I’ve got my uzi back, you dudes is wack, face it, the Wu is back (hopefully, but if the Celtics beat the Hawks on Sunday, I may spiral back into the Pit of Depression)

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4 Elements: Mega Man

April 26th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Kids these days with their video games don’t know how good they have it. They have fully-realized stories right off the gate, treated to enough exposition and neat-looking cutscenes to paint a picture of what their game is all about. Guys like me and our Nintendo Entertainment Systems only got two paragraphs in the second page of the instruction manual and an ending. And if you were renting the game? Chances are you had to make a guess at what was going on.

The Mega Man games always had the barest of plots with just enough to make the sequels different in some way to what came before them. It got to the point where it would be, “The villain is this guy Dr. Cossack… oh, wait. It’s just Dr. Wily,” followed by, “The villain is Proto Man… oh, wait. It’s just Dr. Wily,” and so on. Just an excuse to keep giving us more of the same addicting gameplay. The endings were pretty dull until the SNES days with Mega Man X and Mega Man 7. The latter of which had the crazy-ass moment where Mega Man downright threatened to murder Dr. Wily on the spot.

While the later games introduced more story and cutscenes and even alternate futures and realities, the original games remained pretty barren. That is, until they released Mega Man: Powered Up in 2006, a PSP game that recreated the first game with new graphics, included a couple new characters (one of which being pretty racist-looking), gave everything a personality overhaul and allowed you to play through alternate versions of the game where the different boss characters switch places with Mega Man’s role and act as protagonists. While it crapped the bed in terms of sales, the ideas from it would be reused in the current Mega Man series released by Archie with Ian Flynn on words and Ben Bates on art. It’s a great comic and my only wish is that I’d be able to send it back in time to my ten-year-old self.

The series has finished its first year with twelve issues and three story arcs. The first covers the story of Mega Man 1, the second introduces Time Man and Oil Man from Powered Up (they fix the Oil Man controversy by putting a scarf over his mouth) and the third goes through the plot of Mega Man 2. The gist of the origin is that in the future, Dr. Light and his friend Dr. Wily have created a bunch of “Robot Masters” to help perform duties that will help out the human race and make the world a better, safer place. Due to Wily’s checkered past and notoriety in the public eye, Light insists that he stays out of sight for the press conference and the lack of limelight drives Wily over the edge. He rewires the six Robot Masters to do his bidding, has them attack the general public and plans some world domination. The only robots left unaffected are Rock and Roll, two housekeeping robots of Light’s who Wily felt were under his notice. With great reluctance, Rock volunteers to have himself turned into a battle-ready robot so he can bring his brothers back home and prevent Wily’s plot to take over the world.

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“The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.”

April 26th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

If Morrison’s personal history includes magic, wild experiments with consciousness-tweaking substances and reported alien visitations, why does he keep writing about square-jawed guys with capes? “We’re running out of visions of the future except dystopias,” Morrison says. “The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.” Sitting in his drafty house overlooking Loch Long, an hour outside his hometown of Glasgow, the 52-year-old writer smiles. “The creators of superheroes were all freaks,” he says. “People forget that—they were all outcasts, on the margins of society.” And then, inevitably, he shifts from the third person to the first. “We’re people who don’t fit into normal society.”

–Grant Morrison, Playboy, 2012

One minor point: it’s sort of weird to say that the creators of superheroes were freaks when that is pretty much factually not true. It’s the same line of thinking that suggests that “sex-starved geeks,” so described by IGN, created all the sexy ladies in comics. I’m not sure what your measure for freaks is, but I’d guess that Morrison’s is so low as to be meaningless. Here’s a quick sample that I used to debunk IGN:

Sue Storm: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mystique: created by Dave Cockrum (married)
Jean Grey: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and Jack Kirby (married since 1942)
Mary Jane: created by Stan Lee (married since 1947) and John Romita Sr (his son JRjr was born 08/1956)
Elektra: created by Frank Miller (married to Lynn Varley in the ’80s, divorced now)
Rogue: created by Chris Claremont (has a wife and kids) and Michael Golden (can’t find any info on him)
Storm: created by Len Wein (married twice) and Dave Cockrum (married)

Siegel was married, and I can’t find anything on Shuster. Bob Kane was married. Jack Kirby was married, had kids, and served in the military.

And I mean, a lot of these guys were Jewish, and a handful of them probably drew porn comics at some point, but I think freaks is a bit much. Anti-semitic prejudice definitely factored into their lives, but a lot of people deal with prejudice without being turned into freaks. These were regular dudes who had lives and families, not freaks. Freaks makes for a good narrative (Superheroes as outsider comics! The freaks will lead the way!) but all of these dudes fit into normal society in just about every way, other than the (at the time) less-than-distinguished job of drawing funnybooks. I mean, if you called Robert Crumb a freak, sure, okay. But like… Jerry Siegel? Jack Kirby? Freaks? Ehhh.

Anyway, my bigger point (which is rougher than I’d like) regards my thoughts on this:

“The superhero is Western culture’s last-gasp attempt to say there’s a future for us.”

Me and Morrison differ pretty drastically on the subject of the superhero. From my perspective as a dude who grew up on capes under the shadow of Reagan and later Bush, I don’t see much difference between, say, westerns, cape comics, crime movies, and those dystopias that Morrison thinks are a cynical depiction of the future.

There are a few things that I feel like are an integral part of American (pop?) culture. We prize the individual who chooses to go his own way, at least up to a point or within certain accepted standards. America is built on a mistrust of authority, whether we’re talking about the Revolutionary War or the pervasive paranoia that infested films noir. We prize violent solutions not because we are bloodthirsty, but because they are permanent, and there is safety in permanence. There’s a certain beauty and honor in being an outlaw, and while we dislike when outlaws enter our life, there’s a vicarious thrill in watching them work.

I once tried to describe film noir to a lady I know as “the most American of genres” for a lot of these reasons. She thought I was being jingoistic, but I mean it in as genuine a way as it gets. That distrust of authority, wresting control of your life from those who control it, and having a driving need to uncover the truth even if it destroys you… There’s sort of a siege mentality there, like you have to protect yourself and repel the invaders at all costs, because you’re the last righteous/honest man, no matter your sordid past. Redemption and destruction, over and over again, shifting shape a little each time.

This is a story that has repeated itself throughout American culture, whether it’s Malcolm X transforming himself from a street hustler into a truth speaker or corporate whistleblowers or film noir or westerns or crime flicks. It’s all about being your own man and making your own way.

Dystopias are just another way for us to exercise our will. The dystopias are usually not the fault of the main character, but that main character is often the last of the righteous, or at least one of the last willing to stand up and fight back against the darkness. I really liked The Book of Eli, with Denzel Washington, for those reasons. In the world of the lawless, one last man holds tight to the law and lives his life accordingly. Or the Punisher — in the ’80s, he was explicitly a ripped from the headlines revenge fantasy. He went after fake versions of Norieaga, the dude who was poisoning medicine, gangsters… he fought against our fears on his own, because no one was strong enough to shoulder that burden but him. We excuse Rambo’s violence because he’s getting things done. We celebrate Ripley because she’s a problem solver, and John McClane because he knows how to not just get things done, but be charming and relatable while he does it. I mean, “Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” and “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” isn’t just a cool one-liner.

(I think it was Dennis Culver who pointed out that Hans is a form of John, which shifted that movie a little bit for me, thematically. I haven’t quite quantified how, yet, but it’s something that’s going to run through my mind next time I watch Die Hard.)

So I think Morrison is wrong when he says that capes are the last-gasp at a future. I think that’s extremely myopic. We have a future. That future is that there will always be some rugged individualist willing to stand up and say, “No” or “Not in my name” before blowing the head off whatever scientist or priest or politician or cop put us in such a terrible condition. It doesn’t matter whether that future is dusty and barren or colorful and filled with costumes. It’s rap music and Scarface and rock music and The Godfather and Blade Runner and all the rest.

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Before Watchmen: “there’s a war going on outside no man is safe from”

April 25th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

This was going to be a simple round-up of a few recent posts on DC’s Before Watchmen, but ha ha, I realized I still have stuff to say. Sorry.

The other day, out in the hardest part of the tweets on the wrong side of the twacks, a comics pro tweeted that the conventional wisdom that sequels or prequels don’t affect the source material isn’t true, because now that he was aware of Before Watchmen, it was impossible to read Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen without that kicking around in the back of your head.

He’s right. Before Watchmen colors what came before it. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Mel Gibson outed himself as being cartoonishly racist and bigoted (and somehow so ultra-Catholic that he thinks the Pope isn’t Catholic enough, or something, which is definitely some supervillain-type thinking) has definitely changed Lethal Weapon, hasn’t it? If I buy that new box set, I’m putting money in the pocket of somebody who told his old lady that he hopes she gets raped by a pack of niggers. WHOA! Am I down with that?

And so it goes with Before Watchmen. A connection has been made, and even if you consciously put it out of your head, the fact that Before Watchmen exists is still there. The creators’ rights skullduggery, Moore & Gibbons being cheated out of profits, the creators involved who’ve been throwing ill-advised bombs… it absolutely affects the work. More than that, it affects other work. I was digging Spaceman by Azzarello and Risso. I like Amanda Conner’s work. Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels are more or less my favorite comics each year. I got that Martini Edition — have you seen that thing? It’s wonderful, easily the best packaged comic I’ve bought in ages. The next book, Parker: The Score, is probably one of my top 5 Parker novels. I’d like to read it.

But Before Watchmen makes me stop and start thinking about ideologies and differences of opinion, instead of the work. It doesn’t make me think that their work sucks. That’s stupid. They’re as talented as ever. But, like my newly complicated relationship with Frank Miller’s public persona and his work, I’ve got to think this through instead of just hitting pre-order on Amazon. Which sucks. “Ignorance is bliss,” right? Ugh.

Anyway, three must-read posts today. I have a round-up of stuff I’m reading & watching, but that’ll keep til tomorrow.

Chris Roberson was interviewed by Tim Hodler over his… his whole situation, I guess. It’s a great interview. I’m super, super touched that I played even the smallest of small roles in him publicly parting ways with DC.

I can’t really summarize it, except to say that Chris has clearly thought all this stuff through and has a good head on his shoulders. I agree with him, obviously, and you may not, but I don’t think he says anything controversial or false. Please read it. It’s good, and a nice look at what it’s like making corporate comics. He spotlights Kurt Busiek’s fantastic idea about retroactive equity for creators, which I am 100% behind. I’m tired of hearing that the people who created characters I love are destitute and left begging for money every time they get sick. That’s pathetic, and a true failure of the comics industry and basic kindness. You made millions of dollars off a movie? Cool, then you can afford to chip in on the hospital bill of someone who helped turn a kernel of an idea into a comic that then became a movie.

Oh, and Roberson’s bit about there being no Creators section on DC’s website really says it all, don’t it? Welcome to Corporate Comics, 2012.

Heidi Mac chimes in on Before Watchmen from an angle I hadn’t considered. I’ve had email conversations about this recently, actually, and they were eye-opening. I was born in 1983. I didn’t read Watchmen until… I dunno, 2004? I knew it was a Great Work, like I knew that Camus’ The Stranger or Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov are Great Works when I first read them. I didn’t know the actual history of the Great Work, just that I Needed To Read This.

Finding out that DC was pitching Watchmen as a triumph for creators’ rights while the entire community was rallying behind Jack Kirby feels like a sick joke in the light of Before Watchmen. At the time, it was, but then they saw dollar signs and whoops, sorry mates. Before Watchmen is a project that basically flies in the face of any type of advance in creators’ rights. It’s about prizing characters & concepts over creators, strip-mining history in an attempt to shore up today. In that light, Before Watchmen is the ultimate betrayal of what DC once claimed to stand for. It’s taking an icon for the creators’ rights movement and turning it into more grist for the mill.

It’s amazing how each new wrinkle from people who were around when Watchmen was making history and each new interview from DC Comics staff makes me like this project less and less. There’s so much… not lying, exactly, but dissembling and empty hype going on.

The Spacemen example is brutal, too. The only preview DC put out for that series was for the second issue? Even though that exact same team was hot off the best-received Flashpoint tie-in? Who is running things over there?

Tom Spurgeon weighs in on the Roberson interview. Here’s a quick quote that I think is pretty good and relates well to Heidi’s point:

As much as you and I might shake our heads and do the Little Rascals surprise face when we hear someone say some of the things that have been said in support of and defense of Before Watchmen or the Superman lawsuit, imagine how distressing it would be if these were your creative partners, the people on which you hoped to build a foundation for a fulfilling life. The humor in the title is that Watchmen was seen as a creator-rights forward title with ambition; this new thing is certainly reflective of a time before that.

This is also must-reading.

True facts: I would have never written about Before Watchmen if not for Spurgeon. I don’t remember talking about it with him at Emerald City Comicon, but we probably did. But really, what prompted my posts was reading his “Sometimes They Make It Hard To Ignore Creators Issues”. Specifically, this: “I’m not sure I have much of a point here, except maybe please look at this. Look at this.”

That sparked something in me. “Look at this.” I took a look around to see what other people were saying and I realized that the sum total of Before Watchmen opposition online was Spurgeon, Eric Stephenson, and Abhay’s wonderful tumblr. I mean, we all had drive-by jokes on Twitter or in passing in posts… but organized dissent? The sort of thinkpieces that make comics internet interesting and valuable to me as a reader? Zilch.

So I looked at it. I sat down and thought about how I felt and dug up as much as I could on the history and I sat down and wrote The Ethical Rot Behind Before Watchmen & Avengers in maybe an hour and a half, if not an hour, on that Friday. I sent it to a few friends to read over and point out my mistakes and I edited it over the weekend. In between, though, JMS said something stupid about Alan Moore and I threw a jab. One jab turned into two. Two, eventually, turned into five posts about creators’ rights and Alan Moore.

It’s important that we talk about this, whether we is comics press or fans or creators, because no one else is going to. There’s something to be said for an objective press, sure, but part of the role of the press is looking at what the news actually means. Looking at trends, at history, at contradictions, at controversies. The comics press isn’t journalism, but we’re part of that same family tree.

So pointing out that there’s chicanery going on with Before Watchmen or how a company treats creators isn’t negativity. It’s doing our job. It’s shedding a light over wrongdoings that some people would rather were left in the past and unsaid. I mean, yo, if someone is lying in public, you nail them to the wall. You point that out. You don’t hem and haw about whether ethics matter. (They do, and you’re a moron if you think otherwise.) You look at the situation, you consider your own personal values, and you choose your position. You pick whatever feels right for you. There are no easy answers, no. But there are answers. Basic ones.

You like Before Watchmen? Fine! Cool. I get it. You don’t? Also cool! But it is vital that we talk out our positions on this issue. It is very much a creators’ rights issue, something that will have an effect on how the Big Two do business. If we can show them that we prefer that creative types be treated like people, we have a better chance of having a better, healthier comics industry.

So I want to publicly thank Tom Spurgeon for forcing me to put pen to paper, and Shannon O’Leary, writer of the PW piece and the person who asked the tough questions at the LA Times Festival of Books, for showing me that speaking out can actually have an effect in the real world.

I would like it very much if DC and Marvel had to answer as many questions about creators’ rights this year as they do about dumb plot twists and fan-favorite characters. If they dodge the question, they dodge it. But asking the question, and pulling apart their dodge, is honest work. It’s inside baseball, sure, but it’s also necessary. These questions need to be asked.

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The UCB Improv 101 Graduation Spectacular!

April 24th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Sunday was my first time ever performing on stage as I ended my Improv 101 class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center. Ultimately, I think I did decent for a first-timer in an entry class and luckily it was filmed. After hours upon hours of figuring out editing software and almost getting it right, I’ve uploaded the 45 minutes of show into four segments.

The class was of 16 students. One dropped out and one sadly had a family emergency, so we were split into two groups of seven. The plan is to get a suggestion from the audience, do a monologue, do a handful of skits based on the ideas of that monologue, do another monologue and so on. Of the nine skits my group did, I’m in five, plus I did a monologue at one point. I’ll do some commentary on my stuff after the fold.

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Reading Comics: Arcudi, Harren, & Stewart’s BPRD: Hell on Earth: The Long Death #3

April 23rd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ll probably do a longer post on this subject in the near future, but I’m positively obsessed with how every act of violence in this bit from John Arcudi, Mike Mignola, James Harren, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robins’s BPRD: Hell on Earth: The Long Death 3 flashes orange. It only flashes when depicting specific aspects of violence, though, like in a video game. But the shade of orange Stewart used here reminds me of Jurassic Park and the flies trapped in amber more than anything else. Every comics panel is a specific moment captured in time, but the orange and the context makes it feel like these moments are extra important. They’re preserved.

I’m not sure if it was Harren, Arcudi, or Stewart’s idea, but I’m in love with this effect and their execution of it. Especially the bottom tier of the second page here — that fist swung out wide like a pregnant pause and then the gross, flat “whump.” You ever hear a “whump?” It sounds like a car wreck from a couple blocks away, and a really hard hit to the stomach.

Now to figure out how to explain to other people how cool this is, without just going “look how cool this is omgggggggg.”

You can buy all three issues over on Dark Horse Digital. A-one, a-two, a-three. It follows up on a couple years of BPRD tales, but I think it’s raw enough to stand up on its own. You might miss the finer points, but you should be reading BPRD anyway. Catch up.

(I can never figure out why some actions in BPRD get SFX and others don’t. Extra emphasis, maybe?)

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This Week in Panels: Week 135

April 22nd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

What a day! Today is when I got to take part in my Improv 101 graduation performance, which apparently came off pretty well. I can’t speak for myself too well, since that was my first time performing on stage and being up there was just a gigantic blur. Had a strong turnout, though, including a visit by Chris Eckert.

I’m in there somewhere. I might possibly be the black woman, but I can’t say for sure. I’ll talk more about my experiences at UCB in the coming days, as well as hopefully have something from YouTube to show for it.

Lot of contributors this week. David has my back, apparent from all the manga, but I also have Was Taters, Space Jawa, Jody (also nice enough to check out the show) and luis. With all the comics read by all of us, the most gripping question asked is, “Why does Scarlet Witch write ‘DREAM JOURNAL’ in the middle of her dream journal?”

Amazing Spider-Man #684
Dan Slott and Humberto

Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week #4
Christopher Yost, Eric Pearson, Agustin Padilla, Don Ho and Wellinton Alves

Avengers vs. X-Men #2
Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction and John Romita Jr.

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Villains Reborn Part 4: Only the Good Die Young

April 21st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the extended break. Last time, I finished off Kurt Busiek’s knockout run on Thunderbolts, ending at #33. While Mark Bagley stays on board for a little while longer, the new writer is Fabian Nicieza. Nicieza is a great writer (listen, he’s posted in previous comment sections, so he might be reading this. Follow my lead) that you can usually count on. His pro is his great grasp on making characters interesting. His con is his habit of making plots a little too confusing and complex at times. Like, I loved his Cable/Deadpool run, but he had a thing for introducing maguffins that needed three pages of exposition to set up. After those three pages, I’d come out cross-eyed. Odds suggest he ghost-wrote Inception. One of the great things here is that Nicieza simply picks up where Busiek left off, not choosing to kill the setup for his own specific take. It’s very seamless.

While they are still investigating the Beetle appearances that have popped up in the media, the Thunderbolts continue to try and make themselves look better in the public eye. Hawkeye publicly states that they’re going to bring in the Hulk, a statement that the others aren’t so pleased with. Luckily, he has a plan. He has Moonstone in street clothes confront Bruce Banner and try to talk him into turning himself in for the betterment of society. Banner doesn’t agree, refusing to give up his freedom so the Thunderbolts can gain brownie points and turns to leave. Unfortunately, this guy named Clay Brickford is in town and he has a tense history with Banner and the Hulk. Without thinking, he punches Banner, who transforms and skips the scene.

The team of Hawkeye, Moonstone, Songbird and Atlas more or less fight Hulk to a draw. They use teamwork to set up an attack meant to exhaust and knock him out, he lashes out in a way that takes them all out, jumps away, then collapses and turns into Banner. Hawkeye is partially buried under wreckage and when that Clay guy shows up to kill Banner, Hawkeye fires an arrow into Banner’s shoulder, knocks him off a ledge and onto the top of a moving truck, where he rides off to freedom. The team decides to regroup, accepting that they failed. Still, that isn’t the real story of the issue.

Jolt and Charcoal are forced to sit things out so they can go to school instead. After school, they hang out with their friends – the kids who have previously asked the Thunderbolts for help – and the cliffhanger shows someone watching them through a sniper rifle.

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