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Changing From the Ground Up

October 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Near as I can tell, the Wednesday crowd at the comic shop is driven there by a few things.

1. New comics come out on Wednesdays.
2. People like to sit around and talk about comics.
3. Continuity-focused tales push you to “keep up” with the stories.

Is that fair? I think that covers most of the reasons, right? Generalization, caveat emptor, etc etc. There are other factors–the Direct Market has encouraged a specific kind of culture, the Big Two push continuity over quality fairly often and emphasize reading it now now now, the way you can build a social circle out of your comic shop’s patrons–but those three are the biggest, I think?

New books, movies, and video games come out on Tuesdays, but you don’t really see people hanging out in Borders to discuss the latest Tom Clancy knock-off or in Best Buy to talk about how crap the packaging on most Blu-rays is. The culture is different.

My question is–how will digital comics affect that culture? That Wednesday ritual? Digital comics saps some of the emphasis on buying comics immediately, doesn’t it? You don’t have to rush to your shop to make sure you get your copy of whatever because it will always be available digitally. Trade waiting will change. Filling up a hard drive with comics is easier, cheaper, and more aesthetically pleasing, than having a stack of floppies on your coffee table. Some of the bonuses of waiting for a trade (complete story, cheaper price, easier to store, durability/longevity of format) will be decreased, leaving really just getting a complete story in one shot as the main bonus. I know that I switched to mainly trades because having a lot of “part 3 of 8″ floppies stinking up the place is frustrating.

What I like about the oncoming digital future is that everything is on a level playing ground, barring name recognition. There is no real difference between Brightest Day and Comic Book Comics. Comic shops no longer serve as the first line of defense/tastemaking. In comic shops, you might see New Avengers with sixty rack copies and King City with just six. Online, they’re both just covers and titles on a list. That in and of itself is revolutionary, isn’t it? I don’t think Marvel and DC will ever stop being the “Big Two,” but I could see their stranglehold on the comics side of things being lessened once the playing ground evens out.

A lot of series are making money off inertia and nostalgia, too. When you introduce a new factor into that equation, a buyer who is ignorant of the past and has no nostalgia for the series, those series don’t have a chance. Comics companies can barely sell Ms. Marvel or War Machine to comics fans, and they’ve been around for thirty or forty years. When you put Ms. Marvel on a level playing field with Empowered or Battlefields, well, what would make you pick Ms. Marvel over either of those, other than personal interest? If digital comics do what they’re supposed to do, which is bring in new readers, then there will be a whole lot of people who don’t care about “checking up on” all these dusty old characters we’ve invested years in. If we’re being perfectly honest, a lot of current comics readers don’t care about checking in, either, so why would newbies?

This is how the nostalgia trap is defused. Comics would have to live or die according to their own merits, not according to how intricately they’re tied into the past of whatever universe they live in.

The more I think about it, the more I think that digital comics is something that could move comics culture from an inclusive subculture to a general part of culture, like books or movies. The general focus of comics would widen, since there’s suddenly a lot less risk in making your action dramedy about wacky romantic hijinx in a slaughterhouse and a lot less money in bowing down to the past. Or, to put it pithier, we’d have more Scott Pilgrims and less Cry For Justices.

Or am I totally insane here?

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Fourcast! 61: Exploitation!

September 13th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Good news!
-If you’ve ever wondered how often we can say “boobs” or “pornography” in sixty seconds, this is definitely the show for you.
-If you’ve ever wanted to hear David and Esther debate the use of exploitation in comics and media, this may be the show for you.
-I mean, what’s the difference between porn and exploitation cinema?
-(The answer is probably “narrative.”)
-Is exploitation ever okay?
-(Yes.)
-If you’ve ever wanted a show that has a debate that ends in consensus, or even a point, then you should probably listen to some other podcast.
-Fifty minutes, whoo.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
-Podcast Alley feed!
-RSS feed via Feedburner
-iTunes Store

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The Cipher 09/09/10

September 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I picked up Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge yesterweek. It’s Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins following up on the run that got me into the Flash.

Here’s something I liked from it:


Bastard cape comics are weird. On the one hand, you can watch Captain Cold in cartoons on TV. On the other, he murders people as needed. There’s such a weird disconnect there, but I think I’m done trying to reconcile it. Who cares anymore, right? Love it or leave it alone.


Amazon stuff: Not much this week. I messed around and ordered Gotham Central one and two on a whim. Went back an hour later to cancel them since I already have the trades and whoops too late, son. I ordered them because I don’t have all of the trades, so I figured the HCs would be a good pickup. Then I realized that I could just buy the trades I’m missing, which is a functional, if less handsome, solution, but c’est la guerre. The end result is that my mom’s getting more books by Greg Rucka free of charge. She likes Queen & Country, and she likes mystery/cop novels, so maybe these will float her boat. (I should start charging her for all the books I give up, this is just absurd.) But yeah: uncharacteristically light Amazon week for me.

Me: A bit of talky-talk on DC Comics, a preview of the new Charlie Huston/Shawn Martinbrough Punisher joint, and an exclusive (clue clue clue) ten-page preview of the next volume of Adam Warren’s Empowered. I’ve read it already, and I need it to come out and all of you to buy it, please. I want to talk about it with somebody. It’s great. The comments section on that post is great, too, Empowered fans rule. If your shop doesn’t carry it or you forgot to order it, check Amazon.

Not me: Kalinara reacts to something I wrote with some points I can’t really deny, Cheryl Lynn talks out her buying habits (I like seeing people talk about why they buy what they buy/don’t buy, have you noticed?), and Tucker Stone delivers the reviewing equivalent of a blunt laced with bubble kush and PCP. Go on. Get wet.


@hermanos: Amazing Spider-Man 641, Amazing Spider-Man 642, Punisher Max: Hot Rods of Death 1, Weird War Tales
@estherschmester: Definitely: Batgirl 14 Maybe: Batman #703, Batman and Robin 14, Doc Savage 6, Red Robin 16
@Gavin4l: Batman And Robin 14, Booster Gold 36, Green Lantern 57, Justice League Generation Lost 9, Welcome To Tranquility One Foot In The Grave 3, Daken Dark Wolverine 1, Deadpool Corps 6, New Avengers 4, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 2, Irredeemable 17

Anybody reading Shadowland? You want to do me a favor and quit that? You’re only hurting yourself.

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Pretty Girls Interlude: Empowered

September 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I screwed up and didn’t prep for the Pretty Girls post I wanted to do today, and then went down my schedule and whoops the next three would’ve required reading, scanning, and digging books out of boxes. So a brief skip week.

In exchange, go read this exclusive 10-page preview for Adam Warren’s Empowered 6 I wrangled at Comics Alliance. It’s really very good.

Book drops next week. Look for a review, maybe on release date????

(I also talked about DC Entertainment being in transition, but Empowered > biz talk, sorry y’all.)

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Jumping on Empowered and Jonah Hex

December 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Two releases last week ended up being great jumping on points for titles that actually deserve it. Rather than being a back to basics issue (which tend to be pretty bland) or exposition hour, these two just present their series as-is, and let you come to your own conclusions about it.

Jonah Hex is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and is fifty issues deep. On the art side, it’s been blessed with issues by Luke Ross, Tony DeZuniga, Phil Noto, Paul Gulacy, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Art Thibert, Phil Noto, JH Williams III, Val Semeik, and Darwyn Cooke, but most of all, Jordi Bernet is the regular artist. The only DC Comics that looks better than Hex month in, month out, is Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s Detective Comics.

Hex #50 is a one-shot tale, like almost the entirety of the series. The artist this time around is Darwyn Cooke, who you should already be familiar with. It features Jonah Hex, of course, his on-again, off-again lady friend Tallulah Black (a great name made greater by the fact that I used to live on Tallulah Trail years and years ago), and a whole mess of bad guys that need killing. It hits almost all of Hex‘s main points: brutal killing, Hex being a bastard, a little bit of black humor, and incredible art.

Hex is a series that I purchase mainly in trades. I know that it is going to deliver a good experience each time I drop ten bucks on a trade, but I went ahead and picked up this issue because of the anniversary and its extra size. I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was a great issue among good issues and definitely worthy of the expanded size.

Adam Warren‘s Empowered is another series I enjoy a lot, and Empowered: The Wench with a Million Sighs is a great introduction to the series. The story is an examination of the various sighs that Empowered employs in her life, be they out of frustration or of a baser nature. It’s laugh out loud funny, with a mix of both raunchy jokes and clever gags.

The Wench with a Million Sighs feels like a single chapter out of one of the larger Empowered volumes, which is definitely a good thing. As far as getting to know the book goes, this has everything. The humor, action, and personality that make Empowered great are in full effect. Emp spends the book fighting Irresistimovable while her boyfriend, best friend, and caged arch-enemy talk about her sighs and compare notes.

It’s a little self-aware, a little willing to poke fun at itself, and a lot of fun. Doing a one-shot special is a good play to gain attention in the Direct Market, and Warren’s approach to the special makes it easy to hop right into Empowered Volume 1. It’s a good series, and I hope that this works to get more readers for Empowered.

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This Week in Panels: Week 11

December 6th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back, my friends. This time we have a special guest panel from reader taters, who’s been reading The Mighty. Let’s give her a hand!

Blackest Night: The Flash #1
Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1
Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

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Fourcast! 14: The Girlcast

August 31st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

14-notes

(yeah, i don’t even know. we talk about girls and women and things in an extra-special almost-hour long show this time around. save me from myself by subscribing on itunes or straight up RSS.

apologies to jack kirby.)

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Adam Warren Week: The Interview

July 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

gen13_numero_70_cover_by_adamwarrenAdam Warren was kind of enough to consent to an email interview, so of course I immediately bombarded him with way too many questions. As a result, we’ve got a long, and wide-ranging, interview that I think is pretty interesting. We cover a lot of ground, and Warren does it with good humor. And I do mean a lot of ground– this thing weighs in at over 5800 words. I went through and added in links for context or reference, in case you’re curious about a few of the topics that come up.

Thanks to Ken Kneisel for supplying me with the majority of Warren’s run on Dirty Pair, Jacq Cohen at Dark Horse for turning an offhanded Facebook comment into a fun interview, and finally, Adam Warren for answering a million questions.

After you finish reading, you should buy some Empowered (One, Two, Three, Four, Five), Dirty Pair, Iron Man: Hypervelocity, and Livewires. While you’re waiting for those to arrive, visit his DeviantArt to look at some art.

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Let’s get it in.

(and yes, adam warren week is just three days long. shut your face.)

At the time that I’m writing this, Empowered has been out for a couple of weeks. What’s your workday like now that it’s on shelves? Do you take a vacation between books or get right into working on the next volume? What do you do to relax?

Right now, I’m working on an Empowered one-shot (in conventional comics format, for once!) and frantically trying to wrap up a few other miscellaneous art jobs before I head off to the San Diego Comic-Con this week (ouch). This is more or less par for the course, as I usually try to work up other pitches or grind away at brief stints of better-paying work before I go back to full-time work on the next Empowered volume; in a way, though, this almost is a vacation, compared to the crazily long hours I often have to work as a volume’s deadline looms ever nearer.

As for relaxing, well, once the workday’s over, I might read some books, watch a DVD (starting over with The Wire season 1, at present), or crack a Sam Adams or two and catch some Craig Ferguson in the wee hours… (Though the latter’s not an option, of late. Since the spectacular onset of the digital TV revolution, my remote neck of the woods went from receiving about eight different TV stations’ signals to receiving a grand total of none whatsoever; yay, DTV! So, no Craig Ferguson for me, nowadays.) Ah, the manifold joys of the rural-dwelling freelancer’s off-work lifestyle…

How fast are you, art-wise? Do you do any digital work, or are you strictly lo-tech? What do you listen to while you draw?

I certainly wouldn’t claim that I’m an especially speedy artist in general… but, when working in the straight-to-pencil format used for Empowered, I can usually turn around at least two pages per full workday, which isn’t too shabby a production rate.

That’s the whole point of the format, really: to move on to the finished page as quickly as possible, leaving out all the intervening stages that used to slow me down as an artist. As in, my technique used to progress from scrawled roughs to very tight but undersized layouts to even more tightly penciled, full-size pages to final inks that were even tighter still; on Empowered, I jump from the thumbnail/rough stage straight to final, penciled pages (at the wee 8.5” X 11” size, BTW), a considerably more streamlined process.

gen13cov69While the technique I use on Empowered is indeed extremely “lo-tech”—nothing but graphite on letter-size copy paper, without resorting to such high-tech, cutting-edge, space-age innovations such as bristol board or inks or a separate lettering stage—I  can’t say that it’s strictly lo-tech, as the pages still wind up getting scanned into Photoshop, then tweaked and cleaned up (and lettering-corrected, as necessary) at Dark Horse. Contradictorily enough, only modern scanning and printing technologies make Empowered’s primitive process viable in the first place…

Nowadays, I listen to a helluva lot of talk radio when I’m working, mostly of the sports-related variety (I am a New England native, so Pats/ Sox/ Celts interest comes naturally to me), occasionally mixing in some books on CD for variety… I do, however, switch over to music from the ol’ iPod when working on scripts, due to the sad fact that talk radio’s babble frequently derails my train of dialog-related thought. (Unless I actually want to mix references to KG and Jonathan Papelbon and Randy Moss into my scripting, which is rarely the case.)   

While doing research for this interview, I realized that you don’t sell your original art. I don’t think that you travel to many cons, either, so genuine Adam Warren Sketches(TM) are pretty rare. Do you prefer to keep your art within the confines of published books, rather than sketches and such?

It’s not that I’m particularly opposed to selling my artwork; it’s just that I’ve never clawed out enough free time to set up some means of actually selling the stuff. (Plus, I am a tad paranoid that some Empowered material might need to be rescanned at some point; such are the problems inherent to working in the ever-tricky medium of grayscale.)

I should say that, back when I used to attend considerably more conventions than I do now (the invites dried up a long time ago, for better or for worse), I did crank out a goodly number of commissioned sketches every year… Empowered is descended from the last major clump of such commissions (mainly of the “damsel-in-distress” variety) I took on, after all. Now, though, I no longer have the time to deal with many (or any) more such requests along those lines.

Side note: Come to think of it, my attendance at San Diego this year will mark my first convention appearance during the entire time that Empowered has been coming out… Alert the media! Well, perhaps not.

In general, I suppose that I do prefer to keep my artwork within the confines of a published book, or at least within the confines of a story… Drawing as such doesn’t interest me all that much, save for as a means of conveying a narrative. I’ve never filled a sketchbook, I don’t draw people in the subway (er, that is, assuming I moved to a location that had a subway), I don’t hang around sketching with fellow artists after conventions (though the first part of the social “Drink & Draw” experience does appeal); in short, I don’t do the things that a real artist, someone who’s Crazy In Love With Drawing, should do. Luckily, this isn’t a major, psyche-twisting source of angst for me, as I pretty much see myself as a writer who happens to be able to draw.
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Black History Month ’09 #22: Shake This

February 22nd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I really like Adam Warren’s Empowered. I’ve been a fan of his since Gen13, and Empowered, though pretty pervy, is one of the best superhero comics out. I can’t get enough of it. Though the art would make you think that it’s a T&A-focused title, and that isn’t necessarily untrue, the book has the kind of character work and evolution you don’t usually see in mainstream books. There’s no chance of a character suddenly reverting to a personality from decades ago because it’s Warren’s own work. You end up with well-rounded characters who can go through surprising changes.

One of the more interesting characters in the book is Sistah Spooky. She’s a black member of the Superhomeys, which is basically the premier super-team of the Empowered universe. Empowered is her rival, for lack of a better word. Here’s a few pages that basically explain their relationship. Scans mildly NSFW.

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emp168emp169emp170emp171emp172

This thing that’s afflicting Spooky is something that I think affects all black people on a certain level. For years, though things have changed to an extent now, white was the default race in pop culture. Cartoons starred almost exclusively white people, and what black people existed were either sidekicks or garbage (Black Vulcan). TV and movies showed white people as the main characters, even if they lived in the middle of New York City. You never see anyone like you in a position of positivity.

This sets up a series of domino effects. If all you see are white heroes, white women presented as beautiful, white people as upstanding members of society, and very few black people of substance, it associates the idea of “white is right” in your head. This ties into the trend of black guys getting rich and going for white girls, black girls who hate their hair and their skin, and bias against people lighter or darker than you are. I’m always surprised when non-blacks tell me they didn’t know about intra-race racism. The darker you are, the further from white you are, the less good you are.

I find this video fascinating, and it helps illustrate my point very well:

If you want to see the full video (yes, you do, even if you think you don’t want to) you need to click this link and spend 7:15 on Youtube 4:50 is heartbreaking.

And I mean, that’s the long and short of it. It isn’t anything malicious. There aren’t evil marketers out there wearing Klan robes and planning on turning a little black girl into a roiling ball of self-hatred and no self-esteem. It’s how things have shaken out. It’s the saddest thing in the world. It’s that first couple verses of Saul Williams’s Black Stacey.

I remember being a kid (and this is something that I’m ashamed of and disappointed in myself for now) and being very uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d go to sleep daydreaming about having hair like Zach Morris or the other white guys on TV or in comics. When they’d jump or flip their hair would bounce. My hair didn’t even do that after I got dreads. It was too nappy, too thick, and too black. Even trying to dye my hair is an ordeal.

Ever heard of somebody who “got that good hair?”

Nowadays, I hate that I felt that way. It’s so stupid and ignorant and juvenile, but I didn’t know any better. I just knew what was cool and handsome and wanted to be like that. I realize now that I’d bought into something I shouldn’t have. It was self-hate, and it’s disgusting, but I was a child. Children learn quickly and absorb knowledge like sponges. I didn’t know why I had those feelings, but I knew that I had them. It burned.

If I had to pin a name on it, it’s an implanted inferiority complex. These implications are never stated outright, but they build up inside your brain like cholesterol. This kind of thing can ruin a person without them even realizing it. Even recognizing it can, rather than opening your eyes, smother you in bitterness. It’s really an amazing trap. Not recognizing it can destroy what you could have been, and recognizing it can do the exact same thing.

It’s what Sistah Spooky fell prey to above.

Cheryl Lynn of Digital Femme is a big fan of Empowered. When I mentioned that I was writing about Spooky, she hit me with a few comments that I wanted to address here.

But what’s so sad about [Sistah Spooky] is that she never had to make a deal with the devil. She would have been hot anyway. When she loses her powers and reverts in the last Empowered volume, none of the bystanders make any mention of ugliness, they only mention how young she is. She would have likely grown up to be that same beauty, she just couldn’t see her own potential, which is a running theme in the book, actually.

Cheryl says it better than I can. Sistah Spooky, and everyone else who has fallen prey to this kind of self-hatred, had no idea of her own potential. But, because she’d lived a lifetime of seeing bottle blondes held up as the only standard of beauty, that idea had set inside her mind. She was blind.

And that’s what makes this self-hatred thing so terrible. It makes you blind to your own worth and potential. How are you supposed to even suspect that you’re beautiful when every standard of beauty around you says the opposite? You don’t even get a chance.

Again from Cheryl:

What’s really interesting is that SS could have easily made herself white and blonde. She could have taken the Lil’ Kim route and didn’t. Why not?

I have an idea, though it’s half-conjecture and half-wish fulfillment. I figure that going the full Lil’ Kim route is giving up completely. It’s taking what Spooky was and could have been and throwing it into the trash. By keeping herself black, Spooky was making a statement. If the world were fair and everyone was on an even keel, she could be just as pretty as the rest. While taking the deal, she’s giving in, but she isn’t giving up, if that makes any sense at all. She made a concession, but she drew a line in the sand and said “no further.”

I’d like to think that it was her subconscious telling her that to go further than she did would be committing a great sin against herself. Like I said… conjecture.

This sort of implanted self-hate is one of the reasons why I care so much about seeing black faces in comics. How are you supposed to shake this off you if you never know about an alternative?

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