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Stuff I Like, 10.21.14

October 21st, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I like Zainab Akhtar’s look at the Lakes International Comics Art Festival. Con reportage in comics tends to be of the “I went here and got this” or “a publisher or creator said this on a panel” varieties, which are good, but not holistic the way Zainab’s report is. The vibe of the area, the prejudices, the interests, all of that makes sense to include in a trip report. New York Comic Con has more aggressive crowds than San Diego Comic-con, the nightlife at Emerald City Comicon is more focused than New York Comic Con, and so on. The area and culture around the con matters, and if, as Zainab saw, that culture is hostile to certain groups of people…it’s well worth discussing. I saw on Twitter that Zainab received pushback for including comments about how the town treated her…embarrassing. Better to listen and learn to recognize truth. We can do better. It’s never “just” comics.


Kate Dacey joins Brigid Alverson at MangaBlog, securing that blog’s status as one of the best comics blogs in the land. Kate & Brigid are absolute powerhouses at sifting for good information, and I’m glad to see Kate back on the manga internet. Brigid’s interview with Takeshi Obata (Death Note, All You Need Is Kill, etc) is good, too.


My friend Katie Longua released a new comic recently, Munchies. She’s running a contest (which ends on Monday) to celebrate the release of her book, which was an APE debut. Entering is easy and highly recommended.

Munchies is the story of a young lady with a killer case of the munchies. It’s short and sweet, with an ending I didn’t see coming. A cool thing about being around comics but not making comics myself is that I get to sit on the sidelines and watch as my friends make comics and just get better and better. Katie’s got a cool cartoony style that lends itself well to eruptions of heavy detail, like the popcorn in a bowl, stacked junk food shelves, and wolf monsters erupting from bellies. Here’s some promo art from her tumblr:

munchies-00 munchies-01

munchies-02 munchies-03

Katie’s style feels “cartoon-ready” to me, like if someone picked it up and animated it it’d look just as good. She does simple designs very well, like the Munchie Lady’s halter top and shorts, but she’ll also throw in real-life fabric folds or weathering into the mix for added detail. Each character is distinct, with unique designs even when they share similar aspects…Katie makes good comics.

You can buy Munchies and her other works in print at her Storenvy, or you can buy any of her comics digitally for just a dollar or more. She did a whole risograph thing for Munchies—it looks good. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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Spawn #1: Todd McFarlane on Respect

October 15th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Before I worked at Image, I grew up a fan of stuff like Spawn and Wildcats. I found this essay while re-reading old Spawns and liked it enough to transcribe, since apparently that’s where I’m at in my life right now. It’s from the end of Spawn #1, by Todd McFarlane. Any typos are mine. I added the date to his sign-off, but otherwise, I believe I transcribed this correctly.

Spawn-Letter

Why Image?

This is a question that will be asked a hundred times over the next few months. The answer will be as varied as the creative people involved in this somewhat historical undertaking. Though I wouldn’t profess to speak for any other creator, I can give you some insight as to why I stand with Image.

The entire reason that I am here doing what I am, can be summed up in one word: RESPECT. Or, more appropriately, the lack of it.

Traditionally, comics companies have been the moving force in this industry. They had the name, financial backing, creative pool and characters. Because of this combination, it was almost suicidal to try to ply your trade outside of the company boundaries. (This fear started in the ’30s.) As time went by and options became fewer, the creative pool became more convinced that we couldn’t survive without the big corporation backing us. Luckily there were a few shining lights along the way. The biggest of them, for me, was Jack Kirby.

I was born in 1961 and was too young to be there when Mr. Kirby seemed to be electrifying the industry with his literally thousands of creations. By the time I started collecting at age seventeen his legend had grown to almost mythical proportions. Here was a man who had created, co-created, or at least had a hand in the conception of nearly every character I had ever heard of. In almost any other occupation, a person of his esteem would command respect from both the people he worked for and from those who follow his work. Unfortunately, as far as I could tell, this wasn’t true.

By the mid ’70s, I had heard and read about some of the struggles Mr. Kirby had endured. It was this rude awakening that was always in the back of my mind during my entire career working for Marvel and DC Comics. I mean, if Jack Kirby could be shuffled to the sideline and generally ignored, what chance did I have? The answer was none. Armed with this reality, I kept a close eye on the further advancements of the comic industry as a whole.

New companies seemed to spring up at the end of the seventies, such as Eclipse, Pacific and First. All of them had their time in the sun and all of them ran into a few obstacles too. One of the things they accomplished for the creators was to offer a choice, offer ownership and more importantly, offer the acknowledgement that we mattered. People like Kirby, Mike Grell, Frank Brunner, Jan and Dean Mullaney and a host of other talented people helped to pave the way for a much needed change in the industry. It is these people, along with others such as Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Curt Swan who put in years of service, with Marvel and DC, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Their work affords me the luxury of having creative control and a royalty payment on my work and it is my hope to acknowledge that what they did mattered to me.

Sadly, I do not think Marvel and DC feel the same way. They insist that their characters are always more important in the creative process than the creators. Almost all of us would probably agree that the characters are very important, but not at the expense of forgetting those whose visions led to the popularity of those characters. Somewhere along the process the companies seem to have lost sight that actual human flesh created every one of the characters that they now own. I think you will find that rarely do the companies make mention of the people who initially created the characters. I am not looking for them to go out of their way to give the life history of the creator. However, I have read ten page articles with information on characters given by the companies, without ever a mention of the creator.

As the years went by, my heroes turned into the likes of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, John Byrne and George Perez. I got more enjoyment from these four people than I thought I would at an age when comic books are usually the furthest thing from a young man’s mind. But again, I stood by and watched as one by one they built up enormous popularity and readership for the companies that changed the rules half way through the ball game. Suddenly the company had all the answers as to why the books were selling, with no credit to the creative team that brought the books to the attention of the public. None of these four men are currently working full-time for the “big two.” Frank Miller, in the beginnings of his career—his passions, his visions, his opinions and his convictions—turned out to be the things that the companies couldn’t deal with, or were actually negative factors as the process continued. If he wanted to change the look and feel of a bad selling comic book ten years ago, why didn’t those same things count eight years later? What it amounts to is, when a book isn’t selling it doesn’t matter what you do on it and when the book is a success new ideas are squelched and suddenly a status quo with a bag full of rules is attached to it. Mentally, I wasn’t willing to accept these conditions any longer. Whether that is a lack of character on my part or seeing that there were other options available is irrelevant. I made my decision.

I thank Marvel and DC Comics for giving me the opportunity to provide my family with a living and a large forum to expose my talent. But the fun had gone out of it for me. It didn’t matter that they were paying good money. My mind was wondering: In most other occupations the foreman will ask the workers how to improve the working conditions. That has never happened in comics. And why should it when the creators didn’t count as much as the characters? I can honestly say that in the six or so years I’ve been in this business, other than Jim Salicrup, no one at the office ever solicited my opinion on anything. Not that I had any great vision, but given that I experienced some success, it seems reasonable that they might have wanted to tap into some of my ideas.

What I am trying to say is why wouldn’t comic companies ask Ditko in 1963 why he thought his books sold? And Kirby in ’64? Buscema in ’65? Starlin in ’72? Byrne in ’75? Claremont in ’78? Miller in ’82? Moore in ’85, etc. etc.? Every year, heck, every few months, there is a new hot guy. Why not tap into those people? Because, as far as the companies are concerned, it really doesn’t seem to matter what we think.

Am I being a bit harsh on the big companies? Probably. Were there not any good times? A thousand of them. Then why couldn’t I turn my cheek a few more times? To tell you the truth, it would have been far easier to stick with Spider-Man, collect a big check, fly to conventions and act like a big shot. Instead i am turning my back on a sure thing for some, perhaps, unattainable goal. My wife and I have a new daughter and I know that because I am following my heart I will be a better husband and father. No amount of money could buy me that. Also, I’d like to present a nice atmosphere that I work in to my daughter so that she isn’t turned off by the whole comic process. Some day I hope she will be proud of me instead of thinking that I’m getting the shaft.

Now is the time for me to sink or swim. No one to blame but myself. The future has never excited me more. I can draw cool characters, monsters, silent issues, wordy issues, as a matter of fact no issues if I don’t want to, and better than all that I don’t have to answer to anyone. Sound egotistical? Call it what you will. Doing what I want, when I want, where I want. I call it exciting as hell.

In the future I hope to do a Spawn/Spider-Man crossover. An Image Comics team-up with Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, Tundra, Valiant or whomever. Different characters. Different companies. Different creators. The list is almost endless. I’m excited at the possibilities and I hope that you are, too. It’s time for us in this business to all play together and not divide the ranks. We at Image are not out to burn anyone, quite the opposite. Given that we feel so excited about our work, it should show through on the printed page.

With people working at different companies, such as Liefeld, Lee, Silvestri, Larsen, Portacio, Valentino, Claremont, Miller, Moore, Simonson, Keown, Byrne, Baron, Gaiman, Romita, Breyfogle, Gerber, Layton, Perez, Grell and on and on and on, topped off by the “King” himself, Jack Kirby, we now have the potential to have all of us play in the same playground with the same rules…1) Don’t screw your neighbor and 2) Turno ut the best damn comics that have ever been on the stands.

You out there now have the most important job. Let us, the creators and the companies know what you want and hopefully we’ll be able to pull off a few of them.

In closing, let me leave you with a thought:

If someone gave you something that helped you grow in your life, would you think them for their concern or figure that you would have done it eventually.

I’d let them know they helped. That’s good. That’s honest. That’s respect.
—Todd McFarlane, May, 1992

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Color Cosplay

October 14th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been trawling tumblr here and there for the past few days, looking for people talking about me the panels I ran at NYCC this year (I need the feedback), and also cosplayers who were at the con (cosplay is dope). A side effect is I’ve seen a fair number of essays or statements kinda policing cosplay, drawing lines in the sand in the name of diversity and respect.

A sentiment I’ve seen that rubbed me the wrong way was the idea that white people shouldn’t cosplay characters of color because it’s disrespectful to take those characters from the culture they belong to. Which has something of a point, but technically most of those characters were invented by white men, at least as far as comics go, so the culture point is on shaky ground to begin with.

But I understand where the sentiment comes from. It’s fundamentally coming from a place of good intentions. Our culture is a white supremacist one, and a side effect of that is that fans and characters of color tend to get short shrift. It’s a protective position—”This is yours, it is for you, and I do not want to do anything to take that from you.” I respect that a great deal, but I think a hard-line position here with regard to who does what is ultimately harmful.

Part of the reason that characters of color don’t often get shine is they don’t get market support, and they don’t get market support because they’re viewed as being aimed directly and only at one particular audience, or even worse, the (adjective) version of something else, like the Black Avengers, the Lady Thors, and so on. They’re treated as a niche instead of fitting into the greater spectrum of things like everything else does.

There are no Cosplay Cops to enforce the rules, I’m no dummy, but by suggesting that white people should avoid cosplaying characters of color, you’re reinforcing the idea that these characters are not for everyone, that you must pass some test before you’re allowed to do anything with them.

And that’s silly, because pure, honest enthusiasm knows no boundaries. I met a black female Space Dandy at NYCC who was PSYCHED somebody recognized her. She loved the show but not a lot of people caught her cosplay. I took a selfie with a white female Space Dandy at SDCC. There were two black ladies cosplaying the best versions of Rogue and Gambit at NYCC. Though none of these people were the canonical versions of these characters, they wore the costumes because they loved the stories and characters. It didn’t matter they weren’t the right demographic. They threw their own spin on it and came out looking fresh to death. And I want everyone to have that experience, no matter how much melanin they may or may not have.

Obviously, white cosplayers should be respectful when cosplaying non-white characters. Don’t paint your face, don’t lean into a stereotype…don’t be a weirdo. Don’t be a jerk. But if you love Blade, if you love whoever, you should be allowed to do your thing, because then others will look and realize that hey, maybe this thing isn’t just for the colored folks after all.

I get where people who believe this are coming from, and I empathize. But I honestly think this belief is down to inexperience and a lack of examination. They’re trying very hard to be good people, to be people who love others despite or because of their differences, but they’re going absolute with it when real life requires fluidity. Not to mention that it’s an incredibly reductive position since it pits whites against everyone else, which prioritizes whiteness over non-whiteness in and of itself.

It’s a complex situation to be sure, and no one is technically at fault, if you dig me. It’s all good intentions and cultural quagmires. But if it’s love that’s making you do something, and you’re doing it in a way that you aren’t inadvertently spreading hateful messages, why shouldn’t you do it? It’s the respect that makes the difference. Culture vultures swoop in and steal what was created by others, claiming it for their own and icing the originators out of the equation. True fans pay homage to the originals and represent out of love. I was a casual Lupin the 3rd at SDCC this year, despite being neither French nor Japanese. But I love that dumb guy and wanted to do my part to spread the word.

We’re in this together. Fundamentally, objectively, realistically: we’re in this together. It’s easy to go way overboard and land on Condescension Square instead of Supportive Place when trying to better yourself and provide an example for others. If something ends with you putting up a wall between you and someone else, and it’s not for self-protection? Rethink it. Walls aren’t the answer. Walls are how we got here in the first place.

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Comic Cons: Work vs Play

October 8th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I went to my first convention as a fan, though I was ostensibly there to cover it on behalf of Hardcore Gamer Magazine, in 2007. It was a nice time—I finally met Gavin after years of knowing and writing with him online, I put a couple other faces to names, and I had a good time. I went to one panel where a company announced its next crossover and its dozens of tie-ins mere days after they finished their last crossover and the audience audibly groaned. Not just one loudmouth in the back, either, a large enough portion of the audience was so dissatisfied with the news that they straight groaned in disappointment. Even people who are on the hook don’t like being blatantly sold to. I laughed, and then I never went to one of those panels for fun again.

I learned a lot that first year, and I’ve been to a couple of cons a year since. SF-era Wondercon, San Diego, New York, and Emerald City—those are my shows. I worked NYCC and SDCC to make up for the travel costs, but I generally went to ECCC and WC for fun. But even “working” the cons as press means, at most, four-to-eight hours of actively doing things that aren’t for you, with a lot of free time in those hours. You’re essentially free to do whatever you like as long as you hit those meager marks and turn in copy. I took advantage—swims in the hotel pool, posting up at a bar’s patio for hours because the sun’s out, and sometimes even going into the show to see people.

I’m doing cons for Image now, which means I’m working-working, not press-working. Between sales and signings at the booth, panels at shows, and needing to keep up with my day job duties, I don’t know how to do cons any more, at least the hanging with friends and having independent fun part. It’s a whole different animal, going to a con to work versus play, and I’ve been having a hard time with it since I got started at Image last year.

It’s not that it’s difficult or annoying, though I suppose it is both of those—it’s just different. It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and I’m still feeling my way through it. I’m distracted and unfocused when trying to have fun with friends, and I could tell. They could, too. It sucks, but it’s my row to hoe.

I’m finding a balance. I usually have a bad time at comics parties/events, so I focus on what I know works for me instead of the event-oriented nightlife. Finding a dark corner somewhere, leaving the con, walking and talking, whatever whatever. Talking about comics with strangers. I’ve taken to doing quiet, small-scale dinners with close friends instead of the sprawling comics dinners. Starting the show off on a good foot with a no-pressure thing. It works. It’s working.

I don’t really get stressed out at shows, but I do get anxious. Instead of being able to do nothing, I’m representing a company and have responsibilities. I want to make sure that I meet that need, so my down home work ethic says “All work, no play, son.” Which doesn’t work. It’ll burn you out. You gotta find things that work for you. I dress up, too. Nothing too wild, I’m not Dapper Dan over here, but I like to put a little extra effort out there to look nice.

I like doing panels, too. I’m doing four for Image at NYCC:

Thursday, 5 – 5:45PM
Location: 1A21
IMAGE COMICS: I IS FOR IMMERSIVE
Comics can contain entire universes between their covers, and panelists Kelly Sue DeConnick (PRETTY DEADLY), Jason Latour (SOUTHERN BASTARDS), Jamie McKelvie (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), Brandon Montclare (ROCKET GIRL), Kyle Higgins (C.O.W.L.), Tim Seeley (REVIVAL), and Ben Blacker and Ben Acker (THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS… SPARKS NEVADA: MARSHAL ON MARS, THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS… BEYOND BELIEF) excel at creating worlds that you can simply fall into from page one. Anything goes in comics, and now’s your chance to pick the brains of some of the most creative minds around.

Friday, 12:15 – 1PM
Location: 1A14
IMAGE COMICS: I IS FOR INFINITE
Comics are much bigger than superheroes. Kieron Gillen (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), Antony Johnston (THE FUSE), Megan Levens (MADAME FRANKENSTEIN), Amy Reeder (ROCKET GIRL), Scott Snyder (WYTCHES), and Joshua Williamson (NAILBITER) create comics that range from sci-fi/crime to historical romance to horror and far, far beyond. Whether you’re here to broaden your horizons or check out a new work by your favorite author, these creators demonstrate the potential of comics.

Saturday, 2:15 – 3PM
Location: 1A06
IMAGE COMICS: I IS FOR IMPACT
No matter how weird of an idea you may have, if you can hook someone, they’ll be a reader for life. Wes Craig (DEADLY CLASS), Matt Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS), Steve Orlando (UNDERTOW), James Robinson (THE SAVIORS), Roc Upchurch (RAT QUEENS), Frank Quitely (JUPITER’S LEGACY), and Brian K. Vaughan (SAGA) take strange ideas and turn them into intensely relatable and entertaining comics. Now, they’re going to share their secrets and talk about how fun it is to make the unreal real.

Sunday, 2 – 2:45PM
Location: 1A10
IMAGE COMICS: I IS FOR INVENTIVE
All-ages comics are crucial to the longevity of the comics industry, and can be an incredible tool in entertaining and education children. Bring your family and come listen to panelists Nick Dragotta (HOWTOONS), Otis Frampton (ODDLY NORMAL), Chris Giarrusso (G-MAN), Sina Grace (PENNY DORA), and Fred Van Lente (HOWTOONS) speak on creating kids’ comics and the importance of libraries in spreading awareness.

A cool thing about my job is that I get an alarming degree of freedom when it comes to coming up with these panels. They all get approved by the mothership, but the rosters, the ideas, the descriptions, all of that is easily 90% my fault. Image does big announcements around Image Expo, which means I’m free to make the panels exactly what I want out of comics panels: an interesting discussion between people who know their stuff. I’m only there to help keep it moving and to involve the audience.

Here’s my approach: “What do I want to know?” That’s it! I’ll prep notes before the panel, and if I’m doing a Powerpoint presentation I’ll have a cheat sheet in there too. I only come in with a few specific things to ask, because I’ve found that if you start the conversation off right and then let it flow from that foundation instead of reading from a list, you’ll end up with a good time that ends up tying back into the theme of the panel. It’s like magic. So I’m up there to fire the starting gun, ask follow-up questions when people say interesting things in passing, and involve the audience. It’s a chance to satisfy my curiosity, and to create and satisfy curiosity in the audience.

The truth of comics panels is that the audience in the room is already on the hook and engaged. They may be the most engaged of all your fans, at least by a certain metric. So selling to them, letting them know it’s going to be X issues and come out on Y day and its ISBN is Z, is a bad tactic. They already know, and if they don’t know, they will know soon enough. So my choice is to engage them. Give them what they want and give them something they’ll remember. I’ve been blessed to have panelists that are gregarious and hilarious. I lose it laughing on-stage at least once a show, oftentimes more. The audience seems into it, too. People dig my approach. We may not have much for breaking news, but I’d put my panels up against anybody else’s for sheer quality.

I’m still finding my balance, though. New York Comic Con is my last show of the year, just a few weeks after a rough one, so I’m hoping I can have a good time and do my job well, too. I could be nervous or afraid, but honestly? I either will or I won’t. None of this is new to me, and I know what I’m doing, so I’m not going to sweat it. I’m just going to do it, and things will work out in the end.

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Tumblr Mailbag: All the Anime Fit To Watch

October 7th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

People on Tumblr ask me questions, I give them answers. It’s a good system.

letao said: got any solid anime recs that’re on streaming services? i’m falling back into it. so far (in the past 2.5 weeks) i’ve watched Ouran (4 times), Psycho Pass, the first two episodes of GitS: Arise, and Kill la Kill, for some context

I saw the first two eps of Arise, too, and I’m…super skeptical about the third! I haven’t tried Ouran but I have friends who swear by it. Psycho Pass and KLK are dope. I keep meaning to rewatch Psycho Pass now that there’s a new (extended?) series or whatever new in the franchise.

But yeah, let’s do this. These are probably pretty flippant but I enjoyed the time I spent with all of these:

Ga-Rei Zero: I just saw that this is not only dubbed, but streaming on Hulu now. I watched it on Netflix a couple years ago and liked it a lot. The first ep is pret-ty dang good, and the story that follows is pretty good, too. It’s about two girls who grow up like sisters in a family of exorcists. The sword-wielding, “spirit beast”-summoning kind of exorcists, not the Power of Christ Compels You kind. This one’s melancholy overall, I think. I might rewatch it now that it’s dubbed. (update: I watched the first two eps while writing this, I still like it)

Knights of Sidonia: The manga is better, but the anime is cool. A young guy returns to civilization after being raised by his grandfather on their own, like Goku. Only civilization is a floating space ark a long ways into the future and monsters called the Gauna are trying to eradicate human life. Luckily, the space ark has a fleet of Real Robot mecha…and this guy computer-trained on an older version so he’s super dope! And so on, but a weird mix of creepy, funny, half-hearted fan service-y, and violent. The manga’s up to volume 11, the show ends considerably earlier.

The Devil Is A Part-Timer: This show is seriously stupid but also pretty funny, like the cartoon equivalent of comfort food? It’s not challenging in the least. The title kind of explains the entire show. There’s the devil, in the video game sense, and he works a part-time job.

Blood Lad: This is about a prince of hell who is an otaku on the low. A living girl comes to hell, accidentally gets killed, and he brings her back to life as a ghost while working to bring her back to life-life. It’s funny and the fan-service is so weirdly inert that it doesn’t register as real service. But the character designs are cool, like if Jamie Hewlett designed characters who wear polos.

Tokyo Ghoul: Ghouls are vampire-zombies, but they’re not so monstrous they can’t like…run a swank coffee shop slash hideout for ghouls and wear butler outfits in-between eviscerating their foes. This one’s pretty grim and ugly, like if Madoka Magica got to the turn earlier and leaned way into it. A lot of scenes are censored due to gore, including my new favorite way to censor things, which is to turn the image negative while still showing multiple impalements. This makes me sound horrible, this makes the show sound evil, but it’s honestly entertaining like Gantz, but with more to say than “Like…boobs…y’know…?”

Future Diary: I think hate-watching or watching so-bad-it’s-good is a crap move. Life is short and I got things to do. But I gotta say, I hated this show and loved every minute I spent watching it. It is vicious and gruesome and it goes a lot of places that I feel like were incredibly bad storytelling choices. But there are also bonkers plot twists, clever violence, and cool ideas. It’s a survival game show—the hero gets a cell phone that tells him what’s going on around him, his stalker gets a phone that tells her exactly what he’s doing, someone else gets a phone that helps him do murders, others get phones that reflect their true love, etc. If you kill everybody else with these special x-men phones, you get to be Deus next but whoops ha ha somebody is sabotaging the game and things aren’t going as expected, I wonder why??? Also there’s a Home Alone episode only the toddler is the villain and the main character is the least palatable since the worst stereotype of Shinji Ikari you can think of. I cussed out my TV at great length probably a dozen times over the course of the series. This show is infuriatingly entertaining, like an exploitation movie written by a bunch of unforgivable marks and busters and filmed by someone pretty good. Honestly, though, by the end of it I was more exasperated than entertained and just wanted to see how poorly everything went. They didn’t even go a third as far as a bunch of people surrounding Shinji Ikari and clapping like a TRUE HERO would have. All killer, some filler here. Personally, it caught me with the cross counter.

Golgo 13: Don’t stand behind him.

Nobunagun: I like that Nobunaga, only (weird adjective) is a genre now. In this one, Nobunaga’s legendary soul or whatever has been reincarnated into this young girl, who then goes off and basically joins The League of Extraordinary Super Sentai Gentlemen, including Bishonen Jack the Ripper (who has a RIDICULOUS origin story, the most PREPOSTEROUS thing anyone has ever said about Jack the Ripper, I love it), Playboy Gandhi (he has a barrier ability), Professor Charles Xavier Robert Capa, Errand Boy Gaudi, :3 Galileo :3 Galilei :3, and New God Barbara Gordon Francois Vidocq. I was pretty into this show when it was new. It’s goofy and stupid but willing to be exactly what it says on the box, but not in a way that’s like “turn off your brain ha ha that will make it better.” It’s just a straight-up “Yo, here are historical figures with science powers versus aliens.” The first ep does a cool thing where all the black shadows (I believe) were replaced with this kind of glowing, moving floral print. It was immediately visually striking, and the rest of the show has a tone I dig a whole lot. It’s gleeful.

Beyond the Boundary: For some reason “half-monster dudes and the violent ladies who love them” is a genre, too, and I think this is the best I saw in that lane. The girl kinda sucks at first, but her power is controlling blood as a weapon, so that’s already interesting to me. it goes a lot of interesting places and is pretty nice to look at, too. All the episode titles are colors—I liked that.

Samurai Flamenco: It’s like Kick-Ass, only about a model who decides to become Kamen Rider and not mean or anything. Then they added a little of Sailor Moon with some Go Nagai attitude to back him up down the line, and then it turned into full-on Power Rangers, and then…look, it’s Kick-Ass, only it keeps doubling down on its earnestness and dedication to and respect for all the different types of tights & fights entertainment until it lands on a rousing ending. It’s superhero as heck, is what I’m saying here, but it is also a love letter to and critique of the genre. Dudes get kicked in the dick by the lead singer of a trio of superheroes who make cash as a girl group, the hero rides around on a bike with a helmet that matches his uniform, many speeches about the necessity of heroism are made.

Gargantia on the Verduous Planet: A guy who pilots a mech crash lands on a ship (think Waterworld)…and the army he belongs to is nowhere to be found in the solar system. So he just like…chills? This show is incredibly well-animated for what it is. If Hajime no Ippo looked like this I would die. This show had the nerve to have either two or three beach episodes in a row—either way, there was a lot of cavorting and bbqing toward the middle bits, way more than most other series dare. It’s charming, has nice designs, and is pretty fun. I like A Boy and His Robot stories. This one’s pretty fan-servicey though.

Straight Title Robot Anime: Three robot girls post-Skynet, post-Judgment Day, post-extinction try to figure out humor! The entire show is explaining jokes using crude computer graphics, but the writing is so unbelievably good. “Here’s how a pun works” sounds dumb as heck but the way they choose to do it is A+, and then there are Super Robot jokes alongside. The running gags are second-to-one.

gdgd Fairies: I don’t know how to recommend this show without hyperbole, but it’s the one STRA is second to. If Eric Andre did an anime, and that anime was so ugly it was aesthetically pleasing because it looks like 1998 and that was a good year, and it starred three voice actresses who mostly stayed in character, and those three actresses had a whole segment where they have to make up dialogue for brief video clips…they might as well have stopped making anime after this, and probably outlawed jokes, too. Nothing will be as gdgd. Here are some clips I reblogged a while back.

DD Fist of the North Star: The Devil Is A Part-Timer for FotNS fans, only Ken is the part-timer, Jagi lives in a box, Ryuken owns the convenience store, and Yuria is a cardboard cut-out. It is almost exactly as funny as gdgd Fairies, but probably not funny at all if you’re square and don’t like Fist of the North Star. (You’re already dead inside.)

The Eccentric Family: This one is a heart-warming tale of a family of cute Japanese monsters who exist in a community of cute Japanese monsters and the sort of trials and travails they go through. It is very warm and melancholy on occasion. Totally worth the time.

Champion Joe 2: It’s a boxing anime with a hero who accidentally killed his main squeeze’s brother in the ring in the prior series and talks a lot of long walks in dramatic rain in between knocking fools out accordingly. This was made for me.

Aldnoah Zero: I kept expecting this to be Encyclopedia Brown Pilots A Robot, but it continually defied my expectations. Mars has tense relations with Earth (Martians are just regular humans only they have the feudal system??) and then things erupt into war. Luckily, there’s a whip-smart kid on the ground who gets swept up into things through sheer chance. There’s a whole lot more going on and this ended up being a very interesting and tight show. It ended recently; I loved it.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun: A high school girl confesses her love to her crush. He takes her back to his apartment, they settle in, and she begins helping him ink his manga. He writes a very popular girls’ comic, you see, and she confessed her love by saying she’s “a fan.” These things happen, and more things like this keep happening, thanks to a freakish and wonderful cast of characters. This show is basically that manga subplot from Nichijou (the only thing that’s as gdgd as gdgd) only with less violence. It’s real funny.

From the New World: Tomorrow, a bunch of kids go full Akira and telekinesis is outlawed. In the far future, there’s a village in a pseudo-feudal future Japan where children learn to control their powers. It’s basically full-on fantasy, but surprisingly down and kinda…1984 about some things. The world-building is good, the revelations are horrifying, and this is a good “serious” anime. It’s not very flashy, but it’s good. I like the opening theme.

Kyousougiga: Probably the best-looking thing I’ve seen in a long while. It reminds me of The Eccentric Family, I think because they both share the same family thing at the center of it, but this is like…if Cowboy Bebop became a genre unto itself, then this is what happens when FLCL is a genre, and someone does a story about belonging and feelings on a Michael Bay budget, definitely fool cool, but not fully fooly cooly. So much fun, too. I’d recommend this to anybody but it can get saccharine. Swear all I like are cusswords and violence cartoons and heart-warming friendship smiley face stuff.

It’s not on streaming any more but I would pay tens of dollars for a boxed set of Nichijou/My Ordinary Life. I remember when anime was new and mind-blowingly realistic compared to American stuff, and Nichijou somehow manages to evoke that feeling and tell some unbelievably good jokes. I think it went off streaming this month or last.

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Do These Things At Rose City Comic Con

September 17th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

The best panels in comics are going on the road to sunny (?), vibrant (??) Portland, Oregon for Rose City Comic Con this weekend. I’m moderating four panels at the show, two for the check writer and two for the con itself.

SATURDAY, I’m talking to a few of the people making comics in the mainstream that connect with people in a way that mainstream books often don’t. We’re talking stories that are human and humane, that reach past the glitter and spectacle and put the big squeeze on your heart, that something something your something something, clever ending that ties it all together.

Image Comics Presents I is for Immediate
Room: Panel Room 2
Time: 12:00PM – 12:50PM
Separately, Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly), Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), and Greg Rucka (Lazarus) have written some of the most compelling and intensely relatable comics on the stands. Together, these three writers are part of a wave of creators creating stories that reflect life as live it and the world as we know it. Join them as they discuss writing comics and striving for more.

SUNDAY, I have a packed schedule. First, I’m talking to Sloane Leong, Leila Del Duca, and Ben Dewey about creativity and storytelling and their approach to comics and so on. Second, I’m talking to Dynamic Dustin Nguyen, an artist whose work I’ve dug since I first discovered Wildcats 3.0. He’s got a unique style, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it came from. Third… Parker/Brothers, son. And immediately after that? I’m on a plane, but baby don’t forget me, I’m a travellin’ man.

Image Comics Presents I is for Irresistible
Room: Panel Room 2
Time: 11:00AM – 11:50AM
Comics art is better than ever and reaching new heights on a daily basis. Sloane Leong (From Under Mountains), Leila Del Duca (Shutter), and Ben Dewey (Tooth & Claw) share the secret to making great comics, sustaining creativity, and just how important artists are when it comes to storytelling in comics.

Spotlight: Dustin Nguyen
Room: Panel Room 7
Time: 12:00PM – 12:50PM
Dustin is one of the most prolific and hard working artists in the comics industry. He has worked on numerous Batman titles including, The Authority, American Vampire, and now the critically acclaimed digital first title Batman: Li’l Gotham, Dustin has truly shown he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Spotlight: Jeff Parker
Room: Panel Room 7
Time: 2:00PM – 2:50PM
From the humble beginnings as a comic artist to being one of the most sought after writer’s in the industry, Jeff Parker has shown that his unique take and sense of humor adds a level of depth to his characters rarely seen in the industry. Come step into the mind of the man currently behind Aquaman, Batman ‘66, X-Men: First Class, and so much more.

If you’ve never been to a panel I’ve run, here’s how it goes: I introduce everybody, I pick their brains a bit to set the foundation for the chat to come, and then audience Q&A is integrated into the discussion. If you ask a question, you get a free comic. If you ask a really good question, I’ll give you a handful of comics. It’s a good deal for everyone.

On top of that, my friend Marissa Louise is putting on a Ladies Mixer at Rose City. It happens before the con opens to the general public, so you need to be either on a panel or tabling. She tells me some wonderful women have already chosen to attend, so if you fit the bill, you should check it out and have a bite to eat. Marissa is cool people, very smart and fiercely protective of her folks. You can tweet her if you need more info.

Saturday September 20th, Rose City Comic Con (Portland Convention Center)
9:00 am to 9:45 am Panel Room 5
Fruit & Donuts

On top of all that, Caleb Goellner, one of the top two stand-up guys in comics, teamed up with Dark Horse editor Jim Gibbons to drop Birch Squatch: The Last Bigfoot this week. I like Caleb, I like Caleb’s comics, you should read Caleb’s comics. He also does Mermaid Evolution solo and Task Force Rad Squad with Buster Moody. All his comics are pay-what-you-want, so throw him a few bucks and have a good time.

Finally, If you see me at the show, and you can do it without being weird, I’ll show you cool comics (American and Japanese) stuff you’ve possibly never seen before on my iPad.

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Kobe Doin’ Work, five years on

August 28th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I re-watched Spike Lee’s 2009 documentary Kobe Doin’ Work: A Spike Lee Joint recently. It’s the story/study of one game during the 2007-08 season, when Phil Jackson’s Lakers went up against Gregg Popovich’s Spurs, featuring voiceover commentary by Kobe Bryant after he went off for 61 against Spike’s Knicks. It was a significant game, thanks to a Lakers/Spurs rivalry (Wikipedia tells me the “two teams combined to win seven of the last nine NBA Championships”) and Kobe gunning for League MVP. He ended up playing 32 minutes, putting up 20 points on six made shots.

It’s a weird documentary, maybe closer to an homage than a true study of the man and his work. It’s uncritical, in that no one ever questions him or his actions, but having Kobe be the dominant voice throughout the feature also reveals a lot more of Kobe than I expected to see.

It’s funny—2009 feels like forever ago, both for me and in basketball terms. That season was the first Kobe/Pau season. Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Ronnie Turiaf spent time in the purple and gold that year. Kobe hit 20,000 career points. Now even Pau is gone.

Kobe’s a good subject for a documentary like this, because he’s so focused, driven, and talented. He’s either the greatest Laker or second behind Magic Johnson. But as a result of the focus on Kobe, the doc is almost entirely unconcerned with the other players on the court, the score, or the team’s performance. There are a lot of shots of Kobe watching someone take a shot or make a play, instead of seeing how that play turns out.

Kobe Doin’ Work is weird, there’s a lot of slo-mo and some visual flourishes that don’t quite work, but it’s still fascinating. I think my favorite part of the doc was how Kobe subtly dominates every single person around him, from his teammates to his coach. Even Spike gets it—Kobe makes it a point to talk about how he wanted to shut Spike up in New York before recording.

It varies. Kobe talks a lot about how he and Jackson will call the same plays without knowing, and marks it up to them working together for so long. He talks about wanting to teach—not show—his teammates things about the game or the other team. He’ll tell people about double team tactics on the bench or urge them to do basic things.

Once you realize what he’s doing, it’s hard to ignore. Kobe positions himself as an authority in every interaction he has with other people, and reaffirms that position through his commentary on himself. There’s a few minutes where he talks about tolerating misses from himself, because he knows a hit is coming. On-screen, he takes suspect shot after suspect shot.

It grates, but I get it, too. Kobe is an all-time player. He’s the post-Jordan star, the pre-Lebron king, and he’s stuck with one team his whole career. In 2009, he was Kobe Bryant. It’d be one thing if he was Dwight Howard or Dwyane Wade or Ray Allen—they’re good, but he’s Kobe Bryant. He’s a competitor, and while he definitely considers himself the star and focus of the team, an assumption which is true honestly, he understands that teams win games. So he’s doing everything he can to ensure that his team comes out on top, because without the Lakers propping him up, there’s no Kobe.

It’s self-centered and selfish, but smart. Kobe is incredibly good at what he does, and sharing his knowledge undoubtedly makes his team better. He praises his teammates at length, but he’s honest about their shortcomings, too. He mentions that one player needs to get into a rhythm, so he tries to hook him up with good shots. He praises the team’s basketball IQ.

As a picture of a competitor, Kobe Doin’ Work is great. You don’t get to dig too deep into Kobe-the-Person since the spotlight is squarely on Kobe-the-Superstar, but you can see the passion and drive that made him who he is. It’s not much of a highlight reel or even a straight basketball doc. But it’s the kind of project that reveals things that would only be revealed through this specific approach. It’s edited, but still has an off-the-cuff feel, with Kobe audibly smiling and laughing his way through part of it and frowning when he messes up. Spike only pops up once or twice to guide the conversation, so all you really hear is Kobe, the PA system, and the commentary, when they’re incorporated into the narrative.

It’s wild cheap on Amazon at the moment, just five bucks. Watching it now, now that Kobe’s signed what may be his final contract with the Lakers before retirement and he’s giving sunset interviews to Sports Illustrated, complete with outtakes, I feel like I get it now more than I did in 2009. Kobe’s a great basketball player, true, but he didn’t get that way by accident. Kobe Doin’ Work paints a better picture of who Kobe is than his performance on the court or random post-game interviews could possibly reveal.

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Help Kids Learn and Become Superheroes With 826NYC

August 21st, 2014 Posted by david brothers

My friend Chris Eckert, also known as Kenny Bloggins and of Funnybook Babylon fame, volunteers at 826NYC. I’ve talked to him more days than not over the past however long we’ve known each other, and that means I’ve heard anecdotes like the one below here and there. They’re always hilarious and heart-warming, Kids Say The Darnedest Things-type material, but genuinely funny.

He’s raising money for 826, and I’m a believer. He shared this story, which you can reblog on tumblr by clicking his name, to sweeten the pot and jedi mind trick you into donating. It worked on me, and I hope it’ll work on you.

ihopeyourehappyinternet:

Hello Internet Friends and Acquaintances!

If we’ve spoken for more than ten minutes over the past decade, I’ve probably mentioned 826NYC and/or the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. They’re celebrating their tenth year of providing free educational programs and cape testing to folks in the five boroughs, and I’ve volunteered for them for very close to that entire time. You can check out our site for more information about all of the programs: drop-in homework help, creative writing workshops, field trips and publishing projects produced in conjunction with local schools, and even an annual student-made film festival (on August 26th, naturally) where kids get to see their efforts on the big screen at BAM. All of these programs are 100% free for the students and their families, which means that periodically we have to bust out the proverbial-or-literal donation bucket. I’ve never pushed this on my friends and acquaintances because come on, I am a product of public schools and state universities, and I don’t think I’ve even met a hedge fund manager. But this year they’re trying out something called $826 for 826 and how could I turn down participating in something with such a symmetrical hook?

Beyond all of the great stuff 826 does that I listed above — and it is great stuff, I’ve worked on all of it — I thought I would share one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed in the confines of volunteering at 826NYC. 

It was after drop-in tutoring  and two kids around ten years old hadn’t yet been fetched by their parents. One was an 826 lifer who’s been involved with countless workshops and projects. The other was dragged in sporadically by his parents for maybe a year before his sullen eye-rolling brought an end to the experiment. Maybe it’s not important which was which.

The first kid mentions his hopes of getting a dog for his birthday. Or maybe a cat. Definitely a pet. He would LOVE a pet and turns to the second to ask if he has any pets. Second Kid says no, and when pressed on the issue explains because his mother is allergic to dogs.

The first kid is gobstruck. “WHAT? She’s allergic to DOGS? I’m sorry, but that is STUPID. Dogs are awesome. What kind of messed up person would be ALLERGIC to something so awesome? I don’t know man, your mom is DUMB.”

Second kid has absolutely no response to this, and looks at me pleadingly. I attempt to intervene: “Look First Kid, being allergic to dogs has nothing to do with liking dogs. My mother loves all animals, but she’s allergic to cats and a lot of dogs. She can’t help it, it’s just something that happens.”

First kid is deep in thought. “So like you’re born with allergies?”

“Exactly!”

First kid pauses, and busts out an incredible turn of phrase: “Look, what I am about to say MAY BE CONSIDERED CONTROVERSIAL. But I should NOT GET IN TROUBLE FOR IT.” The exact phrasing has obviously stuck with me to this day, and given the gesticulation accompanying I imagine he picked this up from a comedian or something. I still don’t know. For the first time I’m somewhat concerned about being left alone with minors, but I let him continue.

“There are people in our community who are… I don’t want to say the word… it’s like when a boy likes a boy or a girl likes a girl.”

“You mean people who are gay?”

“YES! Now… I know that being G-A-Y isn’t a big deal, it’s just how some people are born, and it’s not weird, and no one should ever make fun of them for it. I shouldn’t get in trouble for saying this!”

“You haven’t said anything that will get you in trouble, First Kid. And if you’re just stating a fact it’s okay to say gay.”

“I don’t want to get in trouble. But like… Second Kid’s mom was just BORN allergic to dogs?”

“Right.”

“Okay, so being allergic to dogs is the same thing as being gay?”

“I mean… yes?”

“Second Kid, I’m sorry I made fun of your Mom for being allergic to dogs. It’s just like she’s gay or something, she’s not stupid.”

Second kid begrudgingly accepted the apology, and seconds later his mother came in to pick him up. First kid felt a little bad for being prejudiced against allergic people, but I told him he’s fine. And he is.

Beyond watching sullen eight year olds who hate homework growing into high-achieving teenagers who will patiently walk a second grader they barely know through multiplication even if it interrupts their own studies, beyond watching kids discover their hidden love of acting, poetry, claymation, or fashion design, beyond even getting to walk through A SECRET PASSAGE HIDDEN BEHIND A BOOKSHELF multiple times a week, this is why I volunteer at 826NYC and want it to continue to flourish. It’s a safe space for people to ask questions, explore topics, and learn tolerance for people with dog allergies. 

If you can, please donate whatever amount you feel appropriate to support 826NYC. And regardless, if you are ever in the need of a cape and are in Brooklyn, I can hook you up.

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Ghost in the Shell: an interrogation

August 13th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I’m really enjoying Claire Napier’s ongoing interrogation of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell property. There are three entries in Napier’s “Ghost in the Shell: The Major’s Body” thus far. The first focuses on the first film, the second on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and the third on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a television series. Napier’s doing a kind of writing I like a lot, where she takes a close look at what the work is saying and figures out where she stands in relation to it. The subtext, the themes, the shots the animators choose to create versus how we perceive them…this is good stuff and well worth looking over.

Napier’s posts are extra-interesting to me, as a lapsed Ghost in the Shell fan. I remember watching the movie for the first time on VHS with a few family members, and I watched all of Stand Alone Complex, but it’s been years since I really dove into the franchise, if I ever did at all. Everything I consume now gets passed through a critical lens that I wasn’t capable of back then, so this works as both a trip down memory lane and the revelation of new data.

She asks a lot of questions or points out a lot of things I’d never thought about, like the subtext of the Major often being nude while her male coworkers are clothed. The thing I like the most, something that’s sprinkled throughout the posts so far, is the way she discovers meaning in small things. We all do it, and sometimes it’s derived from subtext (Yes, Superman IS the perfect dad you never had!) and sometimes it’s pure conjecture based on our own experiences intersecting with the text in different ways.

I really appreciate that kind of writing. When I was doing comics journalism/criticism on the reg, a lot of it was boiled down to The Work and The Work alone, thanks to deadline and market pressures. There’s not a lot of outlets that’d pay for those weird, personal, noodly projects and an even smaller audience is interested in reading them. But I cherish posts like that, because it’s like getting a shot directly from someone else’s brain. “This is what this means to me,” freed of any concern about explaining whether the subject is good or worth buying or whatever. It just is what it is.

“The Major’s Body” is particularly poignant for me, because I know Shirow’s work reasonably well, and like most of my friends, I’m disappointed that he’s descended fully into “galgrease” softcore pinups to appeal to otaku instead of the ground-breaking, thought-provoking, world-building comics he made his name on. Appleseed is amazing. A poster of a lady coated in baby oil embracing a dolphin? Much less amazing. So Napier’s thoughts on GitS and The Major join my thoughts on Shirow and galgrease, giving me more ammo to mull over and figure out.

That kind of enthusiasm and conversation is infectious. I watched the first part of Ghost in the Shell: Arise, a prequel series, the other night specifically because I saw these posts and wanted to brush up before reading them. I’m finally going to rewatch Stand Alone Complex now, just to see how it looks and feels with adult eyes.

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Good Reading On The Internet

August 7th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Here’s what’s up:

-Everything We Love About Ultraviolence: I like the Strawberry Fields Whatever gang, and when Liz Barker goes “hey, wanna write about Lana Del Rey with me?” the only right answer is “yes, let’s do it.” So we did.

-Inkstuds on the Road – Part 12 Rob Liefeld: I loved Liefeld as a kid, hated on him as an adult, and now I’ve come back around to getting it. He’s a beast and this interview is pretty good. He talks a bit about his influences and how he works. He also talks about the influence Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed had on his work, proving yet again that Shirow is one of the best secret pass-phrases to find exciting people in comics.

-I got a tumblr question about nourishing future creators, and the short version of the answer is “Marvel and DC should be secondary or tertiary in that conversation at best.”

-The Garfunkel & Oates pilot is great:

-I only watched 9 movies in July, and only one of them was as good as Tranformers 4.

-Bauer Hour: the 24CAST.: I sit down with three of the best dudes in comics to talk about the best show on TV, the almighty 24, featuring Kiefer Sutherland, king of this counter-terror ish.

-Here’s Why Comic Con 2014 Was Actually Great For Comics: I donated 1300 words to io9 to talk about SDCC this year and why it was great. It’s bad business to donate anything to Gawker, but they’d run a pretty poor piece on the same subject and I got gassed up. It’s probably good reading, though. I like “That sounds like a Marvel & DC problem.” I might have to use that again.

-Diversity in Geekdom: I did an interview the Monday after SDCC about diversity and comics. I ended up getting cut for space reasons, but some of what I said are available as b-sides, sorta. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, though!

More soon!

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