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Space Brothers: Maybe Next Time

April 17th, 2014 Posted by | Tags:

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 | Tags: , , ,

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 | Tags:

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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This Week in Panels: Week 238

April 13th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , ,

Welcome to the 238th edition of This Week in Panels, the Deadpool Wedding Spectacular. The latest issue featured a bunch of backup stories by all sorts of writers from the character’s past, so I figured I’d give each one of them the ThWiP treatment for the hell of it.

My panel posse is made up of Gaijin Dan, Matlock and Space Jawa. Notably missing this week is Invincible, as I’ve finally decided to drop that series. I’m done with constant, “Oh man, how shocking is THIS?!” moments. It’s been a long time coming, but this week’s installment broke the camel’s back.

In other news, I’ve been trying DDP Yoga. It’s too early for results, but I’m definitely feeling it.

All-New Ghost Rider #2 (Gavin’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ghost Rider #2 (Matlock’s pick)
Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ultimates #1
Michel Fiffe and Amilcar Pinna

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WrestleMania XXX: The Feel-Good Story That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

April 12th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Last Sunday, WWE brought us their 30th WrestleMania, which as you can guess, is kind of a big deal. It turned out to be a blast, unlike much of the last five years. WrestleMania 24 is my favorite, but the only one since that hasn’t been below average was WrestleMania 26, which wasn’t exactly spectacular. This year’s actually felt like something to be excited about going in. The writers did a great job of building up nearly all the matches, from John Cena fighting Bray Wyatt to a battle royal where the winner won a giant Andre the Giant trophy. Hell, that match had better build than this year’s Royal Rumble!

But the real story here was the undercard match of Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H where the winner got to be in the main event triple threat for the title against Randy Orton and Batista, ending in Bryan’s climactic double victory. On the surface of fiction, it’s a well-written storyline that’s been building since August. Hell, it’s one of the best main event builds we’ve seen for WrestleMania in a long time. The thing is, the real story of how this came to be is far more intriguing than what’s going on in front of the camera. This has been something built up for years between the wrestlers involved, the fans and some guys who wouldn’t be competing at WrestleMania 30.

Let’s break it up and look at some of the important players:

THE WRITERS WHO CAN’T BUILD NEW STARS

One of the major problems with WWE in the past few years is their inability to make new names. Writing isn’t long-term enough and Vince McMahon – having final say on everything – changes his mind every other minute. Wrestlers who seem like they’re catching steam all of the sudden get sidelined due to either bad storytelling or the need to feed them to John Cena. Cena is a wonderful performer and all-around good guy, but seeing him stapled to the top of the program at the expense of guys who could use a major win or two is what turns a lot of people off.

The best example is Ryback, who was getting pushed right up the card as an unstoppable and super popular face monster. They put him into the main event scene and had him compete for the title against CM Punk a few times, but they got cold feet. Sure, Ryback probably wasn’t ready to be champ, but WWE put themselves in a bad position by bringing him up so high so fast. So they had him lose. A lot. It kind of hurt his credibility, but he still had some juice. Then they turned him against John Cena, which got a great reaction from the crowd. They couldn’t have that, so they made him go out of his way to be an evil coward all of the sudden. Even though his character had a ton of legit reasoning for why he hated Cena, it was swept under the rug by Cena yelling a lot and by the end of the feud, Cena won decisively and removed what was left of Ryback’s momentum.

Last Sunday, Ryback was performing in a tag team during the PPV’s pre-show.

Other notable names to suffer from the start-stop booking style include Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, Alberto Del Rio, the Miz, R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, John Morrison and Drew McIntyre.

RANDY ORTON

For a while, Randy Orton was the secondary, more intense John Cena. He wasn’t quite as popular, but he was still a major deal. Since at the time, WWE had split Raw and Smackdown into two sort of exclusive shows with their own top belts, that meant that they basically had their own “Cena” for each show. Edge was the top name on Smackdown, but he had to retire due to injury. At the following PPV, they had his best friend Christian face Edge’s previous challenger Alberto Del Rio for the vacated title. Christian won, which was well-deserved and seen by many hardcore wrestling fans as a long time coming.

They taped the next Smackdown two days later. In it, Orton, who had just joined the Smackdown roster, was granted an immediate title match against Christian and beat him. Yes, not only did Christian’s feel-good title reign last two whole days (five in terms of kayfabe, since the show aired on Friday instead of Tuesday), but we weren’t supposed to feel bad about it because Randy Orton! Yay! In turn, they eventually made Christian turn heel over this and get his ass handed to him for his troubles.

While Orton lacked the charisma of Cena, he at least was more likely to put people over, which made him more likeable at times. Then his star started to slowly fizzle over time and he was no longer really on Cena’s level. He was still fairly popular, but just kind of there. He won the big Money in the Bank PPV match that earned him a title shot whenever he wanted, which led to the events of Summerslam…

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Emerald City Comicon 2014: The Videos

April 11th, 2014 Posted by |

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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This Week in Panels: Week 237

April 8th, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome back to another ThWiP. It’s a bit delayed because of my WrestleMania overload. In relation to WrestleMania XXX, I watched sixteen and a half hours of WWE television from Saturday night to Monday night. WWE Network can be addicting if you let it. Speaking of, I wrote an obituary for Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak after his big loss against Brock Lesnar the other night.

You know the drill. I have Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa, Matlock and a rare appearance by Was Taters. In the end, I read an excessive amount of comics this week. Highlights include Batman ’66, Moon Knight and Ultimate Spider-Man.

What If: Age of Ultron #1 is a hot mess.

All You Need Is Kill #10
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

Aquaman and the Others #1
Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina

Batman ’66 #31
Jeff Parker and Jonathan Chase

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Freak-out Comix: East of West 09

April 1st, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , ,

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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This Week in Panels: Week 236

March 31st, 2014 Posted by | Tags: , , , ,

Lots of Avengers stuff this week. Holy crap, there are a lot of Avengers comics that came out. Between Matlock and I, I think we have them all covered. I’m also helped out by Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and Dickeye.

At Den of Geek US, I’ve written some neat stuff. Here’s a lengthy look at all of Hulk Hogan’s appearances at WrestleMania over the years and here’s a review of Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher, which has very, very little to do with the Avengers.

Three of us read the latest Deadpool, which was just lovely. The very first page is a blatant reference to Downfall, the film about Hitler’s final days that’s been used to fuel a couple hundred YouTube videos about Hitler ranting about any given thing to be outraged about.

I couldn’t help myself and had some fun with it. Enjoy.

With that out of my system, here are some panels.

A+X #18
Gerry Duggan, David Yardin and Matteo Lolli

All-New Ghost Rider #1 (Matlock’s pick)
Filipe Smith and Tradd Moore

All-New Ghost Rider #1 (Gavin’s pick)
Filipe Smith and Tradd Moore

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how we talk about social justice

March 25th, 2014 Posted by |

In pretty much every social justice debate, once things have flared up and we’re off at the races, someone in the conversation is going to say something about how people are just mad to be mad, something something lynch mobs (with varied or veiled phrasing), blah blah the negativity of the internet, and yada yada some people are just looking to be offended. Sometimes they mean well, sometimes they want to defend their friends, and sometimes they’re just jerks. It happens. This commenter always frustrates me, because those remarks work to undermine the point of the argument, and the burgeoning movement, in what feels like very dishonest and cruel ways.

This kind of semi-support often acknowledges that harm was done and mistakes were made, but then positions the person who did the harm as the victim of an angry, lying mob, and the mob’s sin as greater than the original offender’s sin. The problem becomes the (so-called) mob and not the person who actually did the thing that kicked off the whole conversation.

We treat the concept of racism as this awful, verboten thing that’s defined largely by cartoonishly bigoted historical figures and anecdotes. The problem with that is that when it’s time for someone to acknowledge the iota of poison that might have been instilled in them by a poisonous status quo, they reject the idea entirely. Racism is strictly defined as something without, not within. And nobody wants to be a bigot, so we sympathize when someone gets hit with that brush and our first instinct is to prove that they aren’t racist, irrespective of whether or not they did a racist thing.

Treating the application of the racist label as being worse than the original offense is a problem. It removes the responsibility and attention from the person who did the thing and pushes it onto the people who reacted to the thing. The conversation becomes “Is this guy racist or nah?” instead of “Was this hurtful, and why?” It’s a fine point, but one worth standing your ground on. It paints the people as folks looking to smear someone’s reputation instead of anything approaching the truth of the matter, and once you pair that with the idea that they’re just a mindless mob looking for trouble, you’re in even hairier territory.

The idea that people are really into dog piling, with the implication that they receive some type of cred for getting at somebody, is the part of this phase that grates the most. I can only speak to my lived experience and my time writing about this stuff at excruciating length, but being offended? Getting mad at somebody for saying or doing something? It sucks. It’s not fun. It doesn’t get you any cred. Being offended is like having something really frustrating happen to you, and every choice you can make in that situation to make yourself feel better—to answer the offense, to ignore the offense, to even acknowledge the offense—has a psychic toll that is positively draining. If there is an upside to being upset, I definitely missed a memo.

Are there people out there going super hard for dubious or nebulous reasons? Sure, anything can happen. But why would you assume disingenuous motives with no proof at all? Why would you attempt to discredit, instead of accepting and rejecting? “I disagree, here’s why” is one thing. That’s a discussion worth having. “You made this up,” no matter how many layers of faux-politeness it’s buried in, could and should get you slapped.

The vast majority of people believe we should all be treated equally and that the various -isms should be eradicated. But when we are faced with a situation where an acquaintance or someone we like has messed up, we’ve got to be careful. Our first instinct is to defend and deflect instead of examine, but in something as complex and important as social justice, that’s not the best route.

We’ve got to be more compassionate. We’ve got to try to be understanding about where people are coming from and why they might be hurt, especially if it’s utterly baffling to us. You don’t have to agree or like what they’re saying, but please respect it. Be very careful with the words you choose and what they imply. If you disagree, disagree with words and thoughts of substance, instead of throwing veiled stones about “social justice warriors” and “lynch mobs” in an attempt to discredit them.

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