Archive for the 'brief bits' Category

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Genius: Renegades, Never Slaves

July 11th, 2014 Posted by david brothers



Way back in the bad old days of 2008, I read a comic called Genius. It was part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season program, an initiative meant to bring new blood into the industry and to the company, and it was created by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson. Now, it’s 2014, I work at Image Comics, and Genius is on the way back this August as a weekly miniseries.

The concept of Genius struck me first. There have been several incredible military leaders throughout the years, and the latest is Destiny Ajaye, a young woman from South Central. Rather than becoming a kingpin or joining the military, she takes another route: armed insurrection. She unites the gangs and goes to war against the LAPD.

I’m an ’80s baby whose life was changed by Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and has spent a lot of time writing about the intersection of black culture and comics. The concept alone spoke to me, it reminded me of conversations and boasts that felt familiar and real. Bernardin and Freeman’s dialogue was on point and natural, authentically “black” without tipping over into parody or offensiveness. Richardson’s art was the bomb, inventive and kinetic and off-beat in all the right ways.

Genius hit me in my heart. There aren’t a lot of comics coming out of mainstream houses aimed at people like me, much less specifically me, but this one? It’s a comic that’s tailor-made for me, it feels like. The concept, the art, the focus on a majority-black and brown cast…there is something about Genius that other mainstream comics are lacking. It’s something different, something outside of the usual Direct Market experience.

It’s a familiar story, a Hero versus the enemy with an army at her back, but the twist is in the character work and the artwork. The characters feel familiar and honest, and Richardson’s artwork ranges from staging natural moments in a surreal manner to perfectly-emotive conversations. The creative team clicks for me.

A side effect of my job at Image is that I got issues 1-4 early as part of the production process. It’s work, but I read them while I was on vacation instead of waiting until I got back. I read them because I believe in Genius and Bernardin and Richardson and Freeman and I’m excited for this comic.

Final Order Cut-off for the comic is Monday. It’s shipping weekly in August, with two issues hitting on the last Wednesday of the month. If you shop at comic shops, tell them you want it. The Diamond Code for #1 is JUN140478, if you need it. Pre-ordering helps comics a lot, and for a book like this that’s sitting left-of-center with what’s prevalent, you’re going to need a little extra legwork to get what you need. You don’t have to pre-order it, it’ll presumably be available in a digital edition, but if you’re the pre-ordering type and you trust my taste, please call your shop and hook it up. I’m a fan, and I hope you will be, too.

I wrote about Afua Richardson for Black History Month 2011 and about Genius for ComicsAlliance in 2010.

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Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia: death

May 20th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Knights of Sidonia, created by Tsutomu Nihei, translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian, published by Vertical. This is volume 2, there are several others, including ebooks on your preferred digital platform.

Set in a far-flung future after the destruction of Earth, Knights of Sidonia takes place in and around a spacecraft that contains the entirety—maybe so, maybe no—of humanity. They’re being hunted by powerful and utterly alien beings. One day, things go wrong and the ship must change course. Imagine being in a car taking a turn at 60mph. Now multiply it by several thousand orders of magnitude.

This happens:

Knights of Sidonia - death - 01

None of these people are named. They aren’t characters, just bodies that transition from human to smears. They’re indicators of scale and trauma instead of people. Imagine you, your best friend, and your circle. Now imagine what happens when they hit God’s windshield at eighty thousand miles an hour.

This follows:

Knights of Sidonia - death - 02

Nihei’s got a killer sense of scale and perspective. It made Blame! claustrophobic despite being full of open spaces and it made Biomega creepier than sin. Here, he goes from a long-distance shot to a close-up one, adding the remnants of human remains to the smears.

I keyed on the couple the first time I read this. They might not even be a couple—they might be two people caught by surprise in the moment. But under Nihei’s pen, they’re here and then they’re gone and that is the entirety of their existence.

The impersonal nature of these deaths, and this scene as a whole, struck me. These deaths happen because someone makes a decision to save the many at the expense of the…well, not few, as you can see. At the expense of those unfortunate enough to be away from safe areas at that specific moment in time.

Despite these deaths being utterly impersonal, they’re far from bloodless. Something about the way Nihei draws the splatters, the choice of sound effect, and the sheer number of them make the scene feel like one final upset and insult before the victims are sent on their way. It feels like a chill, an Act of God.

There was a person here. There’s not now.

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Happy birthday, Malcolm X.

May 19th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I keep a copy of Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” on my phone.

It’s something I got out of growing up in the church. When you’re going through it, seek out things that comfort you. When you have idle time, remind yourself of why life is good. It’s a reminder, a reinforcement, a gift to yourself.

The Autobiography is a little too long for a quick hit. The various collections of quotes online are too stripped of context to be true reminders. But “The Ballot or the Bullet” is the perfect sampler. I can dip in, get something out of it, and dip back out and be on my way before I get to where I’m going.

I got into Malcolm X’s work as a kid, and his words have been a source of strength ever since. He taught me that rights can not be given. No one can grant you the right to do anything. It is yours by natural law, and the only thing they can do is illegally deprive you of your rights. You can’t ask for freedom. It’s yours already. Don’t let people congratulate themselves for giving you a leg up when what they really did is stop holding you back. Be grateful for advances, but don’t confuse or tolerate half-measures and limp efforts masquerading as progress. Your family deserves and requires your protection. Self-defense by any means. Be honest and be direct. Have patience and integrity. But when push comes to shove, if somebody puts his hands on you, put him in the cemetery.

Know that you are invaluable.

You are bigger than whatever box it is they have chosen to put you in. The world will remind you of how bad and ugly and worthless you are, so that’s hard to remember sometimes. Sometimes you need a second to think. Sometimes you need to flip through something familiar to remind you.

Today is the birthday of Malcolm Little, later Malcolm X and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He was thirty-nine when he died, but he’d be eighty-nine today. “Rest In Power” makes me uncomfortable, like the struggle is infinite and there’s no rest for us. “Rest In Peace” is too small, too generic. So: thank you for reminding me of what I can be.

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Space Brothers: Maybe Next Time

April 17th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

chuya koyama - space bros - nope

Created by Chuya Koyama, translated by William Flanagan, serialized on Crunchyroll. Space Brothers.

Not even humans can defeat the weather.

I like Space Brothers a lot. I’m ninety-some chapters in at this point and it’s managed to be funny, thrilling, sad, poignant, and good without really being anything but a low stakes slow motion kind of comic. There may be death or failure or tragedy, but it’s not really a comic that trades on those. Koyama is telling a story about triumph more than tragedy, so any setback is put into a greater context that ameliorates it some.

Space Bros is good because its two lead characters are a remarkably motivated and successful astronaut and his unlucky older brother, who is attempting to become an astronaut. He’s a dummy, but he’s not dumb, like an adult version of a shonen protagonist, so the series is constantly walking this line between comedy, motivational speaking, and amazing and meaningful coincidences from the past reflecting in the present day. It’s all very unbelievable, but it makes me feel good/sad/good, so I’m into it.

It’s facile, but it reminds me a lot of Twin Spica, one of my favorite comics from a few years back. Twin Spica had a cast of mostly underdogs knocking down obstacles left and right on their way to the top. It was sweet, it was earnest, it was very good. Space Brothers is very similar, though with sibling rivalry and friendship at its core instead of cute stubbornness. Space Brothers is astronomically less melancholy than Twin Spica, but they both share a certain amount of bittersweet sentiment, which in turns makes the triumphs better.

Or the jokes, like this one, where the dummy older brother gets ready to train to become an astronaut, sees the weather, and thinks twice.

(Vertical’s begun releasing Twin Spica in ebook format. You should read it. I wrote about it a little.)

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Three Comics Kickstarters

April 16th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Some people I like a lot are doing Kickstarters that make me feel good about where comics as an industry are going. Check it out:

-Smut Peddler 2014: LADYPORN CONQUERS EARTH is masterminded by Spike Trotman. I interviewed Spike back in February as part of Inkstuds Spotlight. Spike’s a great interview, funny, free, and most importantly, she knows how to talk about biz in a way that makes it easy for newbies like me to understand. I came away even more impressed and entertained than I already was, and it’s a delight to see Smut Peddler 2014, a sequel to the porn anthology she Kickstartered years ago, to blow up so huge. She asked for twenty grand, so far she’s up to one hundred five with eighteen days to go, and that means that all of the wonderful pornographers involved in this project are getting a fat stack of extra money on top of their page rate.

It’s 1) an anthology project 2) focused on lady-friendly pornography 3) with a page rate for the creative teams and 4) bonus cash for the creative teams, scaled according to how much money the project earns. Any one of these four things is a pretty wild idea according to common comics sense, but here are all four and it’s already a raging success. I think that speaks to something about comics as we know it right now, that there is an audience for this stuff that is not just being underserved, but not served at all.

But more than that, on a basic “Comics Needs To Be Better” front: artists are getting paid. And as the money coming in rises, they’re getting paid more. This is good. This is what comics shoulda been doing all along. Pay attention to Spike and her gang. Learn something.

-I’ve known Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle pretty much since I moved out west, and I was glad to see them put up THE RATTLER a 96-page graphic novel thriller. Greg’s an artist that people are gonna dig once he breaks out, and Jason’s a mean writer in the best sense of the word, a real blood-in-the-unrepentant-grin kinda guy. They’ve been cranking away at this book for ages, and the Kickstarter is to publish it, rather than complete it. The book is done, so this is more like a pre-order than anything else. I’m stoked, personally, both because it’s great to see these guys succeed, but also because it’s sorta representative of what I think Kickstarter can be great at, which is connecting creators and readers without a middleman or marketing team getting in the way. “Here is my book. If you like it, buy it?” It’s basic, but Kickstarter can enable a lot of people who had exceedingly limited options beforehand, and I think The Rattler is a good example.

-There are a ton of comics out there that aren’t Marvel & DC, and I’ve been slowly figuring that out and dipping my toe into those waters over the past however many years. It’s tough to know where to start, but I’m glad Zack Soto and crew put Study Group Comic Books out there. It’s a webcomics site with a bunch of indie comics from a wide variety of creators, with a few print books on the side. Study Group Comics: 2014 Spring Pre-Order Fest is the Kickstarter for Study Group’s books this year, including new Farel Dalrymple and Sam Alden. A big part of figuring out this side of comics for me has been being able to check out Study Group and following the breadcrumbs. Sometimes finding new dope stuff is as easy as clicking on whatever looks cool.

I like all three of these projects and the folks involved. On top of that, all of them have a digital-only tier with PDFs. That’s my favorite kind of Kickstarter. DRM-free is the way to go, and if you’re looking for a few new books, any of these should be enough. They all have about ten days left and they’ve all met their goals, but it’s still worth backing any or all of ‘em.

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Nisekoi: Love Hurts

April 14th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

nisekoi - jokes 01

nisekoi - jokes 02
Written and drawn by Naoshi Komi, translated by Camellia Nieh, edited by John Bae. Nisekoi: False Love, 2014.

On the one hand, Naoshi Komi’s Nisekoi: False Love, currently being serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump is not my type of comic. It stars a Polite Loser who has girls of various types of specific fetishes chasing after him or aggressively ignoring him, depending on the lady. He’s pretty clueless and he secretly likes someone, but he’s in a fake relationship with another girl to bring peace to their respective Yakuza/mafia clans, so soap opera hijinks result…blah blah blah. It’s a hijinks romcom manga, not a crime manga, which is basically my entire problem. “This comic isn’t like an entirely different comic.” There’s a lot to like about it, anyway, though.

Nisekoi is drawn pretty well, despite not being my bag, so I like to flip through it when Jump comes out to see if anything catches my eye. While it isn’t entirely my type of comics, the joke in the middle tier of the first image and the entirety of the (nonconsecutive) second page have a sense of humor that are definitely my type of humor. I didn’t know comedy suplexes were a thing until I read GTO, and now I get a kick out of it every single time.

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Emerald City Comicon 2014: The Videos

April 11th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I went to Emerald City Comicon, did six panels, and now you can see or hear most of them.

Image Comics Presents Comedy in Comics
Sometimes the best comics are the funny ones, but getting jokes across in print while simultaneously telling an engaging story can be tough. Luckily, we have a panel of experts who can tell you their secrets, tips, and a few really good jokes.

Panelists: Rob Guillory (Chew), Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens), Roc Upchurch (Rat Queens), Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Jim Zub (Skullkickers), Brandon Graham (Prophet)

Image Comics Presents Crime, Adventure, & Fantasy!
Gunfights, heists, cowboys, hoodlums, magicians, adventurers, aliens, and more: are you not entertained? Image Comics’ varied publishing line has something for everybody. Settle in and listen to the experts discuss creating entertaining stories.

Panelists: Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly), Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards), Joe Keatinge (Shutter), Leila Del Duca (Shutter), Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts), Joshua Williamson (Ghosted)

Image Comics Presents Building A Better Dystopia
No matter how good we have it, a future where we have nothing has its own thrill. These creators know their way around a dystopia, whether it’s due to mad science, economic factors, or nightmarish alternate dimensions.

Panelists: Nick Pitarra (Manhattan Projects), Greg Rucka (Lazarus), Simon Roy (Prophet), Ed Brisson (Sheltered), Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered)

I was also a surprise guest on Patrick A Reed’s “Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining” panel. It was a lot of fun. Some details for you:

Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining
Emerald City Comicon, Seattle WA, March 28, 2014
Presented by Depth Of Field Magazine

Featuring:
Patrick A. Reed
179 and Hops of Few & Far
David Brothers
Matthew Rosenberg
Jim Mahfood

The panel I did with Adam Warren and Brandon Graham was recorded, too, but the video hasn’t surfaced yet. Might end up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience…

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Freak-out Comix: East of West 09

April 1st, 2014 Posted by david brothers

East of West 09 - vizier

Drawn by Nick Dragotta, written by Jonathan Hickman, colored by Frank Martin, lettered by Rus Wooton. East of West 09, 2014. I work for Image.

This panel here is my desktop at work. It’s the Vizier from Dragotta & Hickman’s East of West, a character that has only appeared on a few pages of the series. I sat up and started paying attention as soon as I saw this panel, and it still makes me freak out a little. Black women in comics are rare enough, but ones drawn as well as this…well, Storm never had it so good, you know?

I spend a lot of time chasing that feeling. A comic that makes you freak out over some big move (“Now it’s my turn,” “’tis on,” the end of Top Ten, “thirty-five minutes ago,” “Me? I’m magic,” and so on) is cool, but lately I’ve been getting that feeling more from the little things, like a single panel of a comic that’s just perfect, or the way a character moves across a page. That feeling leads me directly to the feeling you get when you want to talk about something with someone else just to share the joy.

This one made me freak out because it’s drawn so well and perfectly staged. East of West is a good comic, I’m into it, but this felt over and beyond what I was expecting, like finding a hundred dollar bill in a roll of twenties. I like finding things that make me feel stupid, like I don’t even know how to explain why it works as well as it does.

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Emerald City Comicon 2014, 4thletter! Edition

March 24th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Pardon my promo, but Emerald City Comicon is this weekend, and I’m headed up to Seattle to work it for Image. It’s gonna be pretty busy for me, I think. I’m running the signings at the Image booth and doing the panels, so I figure I’ll be at the con from open to close, running laps around the booth and to the panel rooms and back.

Here’s what I’m moderating and who I’m talking to. You can find a signing schedule here. The booth’s 212.

Image Comics Presents Comedy in Comics
Sometimes the best comics are the funny ones, but getting jokes across in print while simultaneously telling an engaging story can be tough. Luckily, we have a panel of experts who can tell you their secrets, tips, and a few really good jokes.

Program date and time: Friday, March 28, 3:00 p.m. in Room TCC 301

Panelists: Rob Guillory (Chew), Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens), Roc Upchurch (Rat Queens), Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Jim Zub (Skullkickers), Brandon Graham (Prophet)

Image Comics Presents Sex Criminals
Sex Criminals debuted in 2013 and quickly became the book of the year. Now, a few months into 2014, the same looks to be true! Sit down with creators Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky and bare your soul, fetishes, and anecdotes with the Sex Criminals.

Program date and time: Saturday, March 29, 2:00 p.m. in Room 3AB

Panelists: Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals)

Image Comics Presents Crime, Adventure, & Fantasy!
Gunfights, heists, cowboys, hoodlums, magicians, adventurers, aliens, and more: are you not entertained? Image Comics’ varied publishing line has something for everybody. Settle in and listen to the experts discuss creating entertaining stories.

Program date and time: Saturday, March 29, 5:00 p.m. in TCC 301

Panelists: Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly), Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards), Joe Keatinge (Shutter), Leila Del Duca (Shutter), Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts), Joshua Williamson (Ghosted)

Image Comics Presents Building A Better Dystopia
No matter how good we have it, a future where we have nothing has its own thrill. These creators know their way around a dystopia, whether it’s due to mad science, economic factors, or nightmarish alternate dimensions.

Program date and time: Sunday, March 30, 3:00 p.m. in Room TCC 301

Panelists: Nick Pitarra (Manhattan Projects), Greg Rucka (Lazarus), Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Simon Roy (Prophet), Ed Brisson (Sheltered), Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered)

On top of that, I’ve got a non-Image panel I’m running on Sunday featuring a couple of cool cats:

Harsh Realm: Adam Warren and Brandon Graham
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 1:40PM – 2:30PM

Adam Warren (Empowered) and Brandon Graham (Prophet) are two creators at the top of their game. The two gather to discuss how they incorporate their influences in their work, creating comics that don’t look like any other comics on the racks, & more!

This is probably my biggest con weekend ever, at least in terms of responsibilities. I should probably quit trying to figure out what I’m gonna wear and start thinking about what I’m going to ask, huh?

Holler if you see me, forgive me when I’m busy.

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My Grandpa’s Stories Can’t Be This Weird

March 18th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Kazuhiro Urata - Grandpa 01

Kazuhiro Urata - Grandpa 02

Written and drawn by Kazuhiro Urata, adapted by Tania Fukuda, translated by Abby Lehrke. My Grandpa’s Stories Can’t Be This Weird, 2014.

Kazuhiro Urata’s My Grandpa’s Stories Can’t Be This Weird, which runs in the free Manga Box app, is dumb. It’s the same kind of dumb that made Akira Toriyama’s Dr Slump one of my favorite comics. It’s aggressively-but-knowingly dumb, a shaggy dog joke with digressions that are actual jokes instead of distractions.

The hook is almost always the same. There’s a boy who just wants to go to sleep, a grandfather hellbent on reading a story to his grandson, and a storybook that is a wacky version of an established story. The kid reacts to each absurd new element with disbelief until the end, when the story kinda-sorta comes together.

There’s just one main joke here, and the fun is seeing how the joke is twisted into a new form with each new strip. Everything about this excerpt makes me laugh, and it’s just the first three pages. There was one a while back where he replaced all the characters in a fairy tale with murderers, good and bad, that has me ready to cry laughing by the end of page one, and the Red Riding Hood story is a new twist on an old joke with several utterly incredible bits.

There are a few other comics that have that one-joke framework that I like. I was an avid reader of Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics for years, and ONE & Yusuke Murata’s One-Punch Man has a surprising number of gags based around one punch. (My favorite is a background gag, a bear that got knocked out in the woods.) My Grandpa’s Stories is more steeped in anti-humor than any of those series, but I’m really into it. Reading it is kind of like waiting for the point where a balloon tips over from inflated to burst.

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