Archive for the 'brief bits' Category


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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World Trigger: Teen Teams vs Aliens

March 17th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

daisuke ashihara - world trigger

Created by Daisuke Ashihara, translated by Lillian Olsen, edited by Hope Donovan. World Trigger, 2014.

Daisuke Ashihara’s World Trigger is one of my favorite strips in Weekly Shonen Jump. It’s about teens fighting aliens from a neighboring dimension, and while I thought it was going to be a weirdo analogy for illegal immigration (the organization is BORDER, the aliens are Neighbors), it is actually a great teen team comic. It’s cool like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game was cool, but with a boys’ manga swagger—swords made of lasers, customizable weapons that fit your temperament, teams of people with diverse interests and personalitys, coolguys saying cool things right before or while things explode, and heroes thinking of their friendships while effortlessly carving up aliens. There’s a sense of danger, but it’s lessened by the fact that the characters are using fake host bodies made of energy, so if you need to—for example—cut off your own leg to kill a monster, then you can do that, and it’s cool instead of horrific. When they ramp up the carnage, it’s like a video game character booping out instead of wall-to-wall gore and viscera.

It’s not Screaming Shonen like Seraph of the End or Attack on Titan, where uncontrollable and annoying levels of rage power the main characters. It’s…Steady Shonen? It has a lot in common with sports manga, where that lone wolf nonsense only goes so far. World Trigger feels very safe, both in style and in plot, but it has a lot of good stuff within that safeness. It feels good, and that’s because the character work is very strong and the jokes are good.

A good example is this page from a recent chapter, where a nerdy girl who belongs to BORDER wears her fandom on her sleeve. Sometimes you don’t need a laser sword to slash a monster…

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“I think I might be pregnant.”

March 13th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

katusuhiro otomo - akira - nurse 01

katusuhiro otomo - akira - nurse 02
Written and drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo, adapted by Jo Duffy, colored by Steve Oliff, lettered by Mike Higgins. Akira, 1988.

I say I like to re-read Akira a few times a year, but the truth is I do that in addition to reading random passages out of it whenever they come to mind. I get something out of it every time I go back to it, and this latest round, spurred by a couple friends reading the book for the first time, is no different.

This scene and its followup are among my favorite bits in the book and a good illustration of both how callous and awful Kaneda is and how good Otomo is at making comics. This time around, I’m looking at the table the school nurse is holding onto for dear life. I like how the table is the only thing keeping her from floating into the air on the first page. She’s into Kaneda and feeling good, until the second page rolls around and the table is the only thing keeping her from collapsing to the ground.

Otomo does a lot with a little.

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Luke Cage, keeping it realer than most

March 12th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Richard Corben - Cage - fence

Richard Corben, Brian Azzarello, Jose Villarubia. CAGE, 2002.

I re-read this one the other week. It’s one of the comics I got way back when I was getting back into comics, and was probably one of my first Corben comics, too. I hadn’t read it in years, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I re-read it. It looks like the last edition debuted in 2002, and the series hasn’t been re-packaged since, which is a shame. The intro to the hardcover, written by Darius Jones, is called “Straight-up Real Nigga,” something I can’t imagine Marvel ever associating with Cage in the here-and-now, but also an idea I’d love to see the character actually be able to deal with in the comics themselves.

Corben and colorist Villarubia put in work on this page, and it’s probably my favorite image of the character. There’s no tiara, no yellow shirt, nothing that screams “This is Luke Cage!”, but it’s still signifying nonetheless. You get the sense that he’s dangerous, he’s mad, and he’s invincible. You can hurt him, you can knock him down, but you don’t get to win. That background Villarubia threw behind him in panel 4 is great, a bloody sunset that follows in Cage’s wake.

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Presenting “Inkstuds Spotlight”

February 4th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I try to do a couple of big blogging projects a year, whether it’s blacking out on the whole of Frank Miller’s work on Batman or scratching the surface of why I like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. It’s a chance to focus and do just one thing for a while, to empty thoughts out of my head I couldn’t find another place for, and to satisfy my own curiosity. Robin McConnell asked me to think about doing some stuff for his Inkstuds comics podcast over a year ago, and last month, I saw a space in my schedule between a relatively complicated winter and the beginning of con season, had a brainstorm, and took the opportunity.

So here’s what it is: Inkstuds Spotlight is a chance for me to satisfy my own curiosity about what it’s like to “be in comics.” I made the move from fan to employee last year, and it brought with it a whole new set of things to worry about. But I don’t really care about me, because I’m way more interested in what cartoonists, academics, bloggers, critics, and other people in or adjacent to comics do. Hawking books, working tables, coming up with lesson plans, making minis, covering comics, all of that.

Over the course of the next month, I’m going to put up a bunch of interviews in the 30-40 minute range—I’m aiming for two a week, but I may end up with a few more—with people in and around comics, talking about what they do and why. I don’t have a script, preferring to let the conversation go where it wants to go, but I did ask each person how they came to comics and what their comics community is like. Beyond that, it’s anything goes. This won’t be exhaustive or comprehensive, because there are literally not enough hours in the day for that. But hopefully it will be a lot at the very least.

I’m really happy about this and hopefully you’ll dig it, too. To make sure you can’t escape my voice, my friend Joe Hughes at ComicsAlliance is going to syndicate the posts in addition to them going up on Inkstuds, since I really believe that site has something to offer and I probably miss contributing there a little.

The plan is for podcasts to go up on Tuesday and Thursday morning each week, hopefully at 0900 Eastern. We’re looking at slight technical difficulties this morning, but we’ll get it sorted and then you can maximize your crush on me by making my laugh into your text message alert. (I laugh a lot. Sorry.) I’ll link posts here as they go up if you don’t visit either of those sites.

I promise this isn’t a way to trick you into listening to rap music by accident.

Edit: the Inkstuds post is live, and so is the one from ComicsAlliance!

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What are you saying, really?

January 16th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Steve McQueen & John Ridley’s 12 Years A Slave got nominated for an Oscar this year. That got me thinking, so I dug up a list of winners and nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

You should click through, so that you can accurately answer this brief survey:

-How many black movies, with “black movies” defined as “primarily concerned with or created by black people” for the purposes of the question, have been nominated for Best Picture by the Academy?

-How many of those movies are about how sad it is to be black, or racial strife, or just the black condition in general?

-What does it mean when the organization of record for the movie industry only pays attention to black people, and undoubtedly people of several other stripes and types, when they’re in pain, but eats up movies about white people doing fantastic things?

Eddie Murphy, presenting an award at the 60th Academy Awards:

(and, just to stay on brand, here’s Jadakiss in 2004: “Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar?/Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?”

This year’s the 86th Academy Awards, but it’s biz as usual, isn’t it? According to a Feb. 2012 study, “the Academy is 94% white, 77% male, 14% under the age of 50, and has a median age of 62.”

You can tell.

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October 14th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I try to keep 4l! pretty clean on my part. Outside of quotes—which admittedly is a huge thing to be like “let’s set aside this thing” thanks to how much rap music I talk about but bear with me—I try to avoid cussing in posts. It’s too easy, I think, but also not effective enough in my hands to be worthwhile as anything but an ultra-rare zap.

In real life, though, I could turn the air blue if I had to, and have probably done that even when I didn’t need to. Yeah, I like to say “fuck,” I got a fuckin problem. I know it doesn’t matter or whatever, profanity is just another facet of language with its own strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve gotten into the habit of avoiding it when writing, and I sort of like giving myself the extra challenge. “Can I get my strong feelings across without going profane?”

However, while I worked New York Comic Con this past weekend, my good friends Gavin Jasper and Chris Sims walked up to my booth and stood there for a moment where I could see them. I was distracted, so I just looked at Gavin, a fast up and down glance to see what he was wearing before saying hey, and then I did the same to Chris, and then time slowed down and I looked from Chris to Gavin and back again and realized I was seeing this:

chris x gav

And let me tell you what, I was struck completely speechless, and when I got my words back, the only words I could string together were “You’ve got to be FUCKING kidding me” 100% on instinct.

There’s a whole story behind this, about the return of Paul Heyman to the WWE, but honestly, I didn’t know that when it happened to me. It was just the funniest thing I’d seen in forever. These two guys totally made my con, as you can see in this picture taken by Kevin Church:

sims-brothers-gavok-by kevin church

Thanks, fellas. Gavin’s gonna write about this too, he wants to explain the wrasslin stuff, but I wanted to get my side of the story out there FIRST.

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David’s at New York Comic Con!

October 10th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’m at New York Comic Con! Literally, I mean—I’m at Image’s booth, #1444, doing work, so this is going to be short.

I’m going to be super busy at the con, but I’m running a few panels I’m pretty stoked for:

Eat, Read, Love: CHEW’s Ascendance
Friday, October 11th / 4:15pm – 5:15 pm / Location: 1A10

ROCKET GIRL! Here From The Future To Save Us All!
Saturday, October 12th / 11:15 am – 12:15 pm / Location: 1A08

LAZARUS: Family, Wealth, and Violence in the Near-Future
Sunday, October 13th / 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM / Location: 1A14

I like all of these people a lot, so it’ll be fun to get to pick their brain live on stage. If you’re around, stop by and ask some good questions.

ALSO, a book I worked on that I’m really proud of came out yesterday: Greg Rucka & Michael Lark’s first Lazarus collected edition. It’s on pre-order at Amazon for eight bucks and a 10/22 release, but your local comic shops should have copies. I edited this one, and I enjoyed working with the creative team a great deal.

That’s it! Back to work.

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I’m running a charity 5k on 9/21!

September 9th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’ve never run a 5k before, but I’m going to do one in about two weeks for the sake of Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer, who are sponsoring a 5k walk/run to combat cervical cancer in African women. Here’s the details:

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancer causes of death for women in Africa, even though it is the most preventable! Worldwide, over 500,000 women are diagnosed, and more than 280,000 women die of cervical cancer, every year. Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer (PINCC) creates sustainable programs that prevent cervical cancer by educating women, training medical personnel, and equipping facilities in developing countries, utilizing proven, low cost, accessible technology methods.

Each walker or runner has a goal, sort of an optional minimum buy-in. If you don’t make it, that’s fine and you can still run, but if you do make it, or exceed, then you’re helping out a little more. The goal for runners is $250, and I hit that over the weekend, but surpassing the goal is great, too. The more money we raise, the more resources PINCC earns, and the closer we get to meeting the $25000 goal for the entire 5k. Competitors have raised around $9000 so far, so we’re a little under halfway there.

So, if you have the money and inclination, I’d appreciate it very much if you’d pledge for my run. I don’t have anything to offer you in exchange, though if you have ideas let me know, but the donations are tax deductible. I’d like to blow past the goal, personally; double or even triple it, but whatever we do is whatever we do, and every bit helps.

The run is on 9/21. You can check the site out and pledge on my page here. Thanks for whatever you can do.

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Dark Knight Strikes Again: Politics as Usual

August 26th, 2013 Posted by david brothers


I always liked this page from Frank Miller & Lynn Varley’s Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book, alongside all of the stuff with Supergirl. I like it more for the dialogue than anything else, though Miller’s formless, chunky Batman is an obviously great take on the character’s design. But this bit is killer, from Hawkboy’s mouth to Batman’s heart: “Thanagarians do not believe in fate. We do not believe that anything is beyond the power of mind and bone and muscle and will. I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.”

I really dig that bit, despite the Ayn Randiness of it. I like how it perfectly sketches that character out, giving him a moral immovability that’s also present in characters like Rorshach. There is Justice and there is Crime, and one must be eliminated at all costs.

Hawkboy discusses his life as if it were a conflict, a constant series of battles between Us and Them, the Just and the Fallen. There is always something To Be Triumphed Over, which ain’t necessarily the best way to look at the world. The directness of the statement appeals to me a great deal. It posits a world where change is not only possible, but possible due to the direct intervention of human hands. If something’s gone wrong, you reach out a hand, you take hold, and you fix it, and that thing has no choice but to bow to your will.

“I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.” That mentality sits at the root of a lot, if not most, superheroes. With precious few exceptions, your average superhero is doing something that is wildly illegal, but they’re doing it for “good reasons.” When people talk about how cape comics have fascist or authoritarian elements, they’re talking about Superman bending a dictator to his will, Batman creating a surveillance state for the protection of the people inside it, the Punisher playing at executioner. They are the Good Guys, so what they do is by definition Right and Just, even when it is illegal and horrible, because we know their hearts are in the right place.

This sort of doctrine really only works in comics, where you can “avenge” someone’s death and have that be an actual ending or provide closure. Real life doesn’t work like that. There are a lot of things that will bow to the power of mind and bone and muscle and will, but then there are greater things that will never bow. You will have to accept death. You will have to accept crime. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you’re too poor to afford boots, right? But it’s nice to think about a world where we have total control, instead of none.

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