Black History Month 2011: Kyle Baker Interlude

February 12th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

kyle baker, letitia lerner, superman’s babysitter
you can find it in bizarro comics, which is out of print, but widely available used or new for more than reasonable prices. hey dc! hook up a digital reprint of this tale and everything else from bizarro comics. you could be rolling in tens of dollars!

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Black History Month 2011: Kyle Baker

February 9th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Kyle Baker
Selected Works: Deadpool Max: Nutjob, Nat Turner, Special Forces, Modern Masters Volume 20: Kyle Baker (the Modern Masters volume is really good)

Kyle Baker is mean, man. He’s got a well-deserved rep for being the funniest guy in comics, and his only real competition is Sergio Aragones, I’d say. If you put Baker on a book, he’s going to make you laugh, guaranteed. But at the same time, some of my biggest laughs from his books have been in how he walks that fine line between unbelievable cruelty and amazing comedy.

Take Plastic Man. It was a back-to-basics approach to a goofy character that had been turned fairly serious. Baker took it back to the Jack Cole days, with lots of funny shapes, sight gags, and rapid-fire jokes. At the same time, he slipped in some pretty overt commentary on the state of the general style of DC Comics at the time, which was largely focused around emotional and physical trauma. So Baker took shots at the new Dr. Light, Identity Crisis, Plastic Man being a deadbeat dad, and everything else, while simultaneously having Plastic Man ensure that Abraham Lincoln dies, adopt a goth girl after he killed her vampire dad, work for the FBI, and team up with a fantastic foursome.

Special Forces is a straight up war/action comic, a Bush-era fantasy that’s full of glory, boobs, and great action scenes. The punchline comes when you get to the end of the book and realize that the cast of felons, autistics, and mercenaries are ripped straight from the headlines. That awesome war comic you just finished? That’s social commentary, sucker.

Deadpool MAX with David Lapham is a new level of comedic cruelty. Lapham knows how to inflict emotional trauma (whattup Stray Bullets) and Baker knows how to make it funny. In the end, Baker and Lapham justify Deadpool’s existence by way of a story where he kills Nazi Klan members with guns, swords, and Krav Maga while dressed like a Hasidic Jew.

Baker keeps getting meaner and meaner, and his books just keep getting funnier. I can’t wait to see his next self-published work.

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Happy Annoying Internet Lies Day, Everybody!

April 1st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Today is that annual day when websites like to toss in jokes about how they’re closing or now owned by _____ or how they’re going to make a sequel to your favorite videogame. All that shit. Personally, I’m not in the mood.

But on the subject of jokes, I think of the latest issue of Prelude to Deadpool Corps. For those of you who haven’t been able to keep Deadpool’s multiple titles straight, Prelude is Victor Gischler’s concurrent follow-up to the canceled on-going Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth, which will end in several months. It’s been a weekly, five-issue romp as Deadpool goes from universe to universe to put together a team of his female self, his hungry and decaying head from the Marvel Zombies universe, a kid version of him from a world where he’s a student at Xavier’s school, and a gross dog with regenerative powers. Each issue has a different artist and the quality ranges from good (Paco Medina) to Rob Liefeld.

I made the mistake of picking up #5 without even flipping through it. After all, it features the art of Kyle Baker. I mean, Kyle Baker is awesome! Didn’t you read Plastic Man? That series was brilliant! Okay, sure, the middle issues were a bit uninspired, but the rest of it was tops! He’d be absolutely perfect for a Deadpool comic. But it’s weird, I strictly remember that Baker’s done Deadpool work before. Something about Deadpool #900 and a segment of Merc with a Mouth when Wade went through different universes. For some reason I made myself forget about those issues. Why would I do that? Kyle Baker is an awesome artist.

I look through this issue and… oh, yeah.

Sweet Jesus! This comic has more lens flare than it does yellow word bubbles! Kidpool (not to be confused with the infinitely better, yet forgotten Kid Deadpool) complains about the lack of fries even though there’s two orders of them laying on the table! The Grandmaster and the Contemplator look like unfinished action figures! The textures are eye-rape! Everyone looks like rejects from that Avengers in Galactic Storm arcade game that nobody’s heard of!

There’s more that I’m not showing you. A lot of the time you can barely tell the difference between Deadpool and Lady Deadpool. Horrible filters and color schemes are rampant. When Dogpool crawls out of a crater after an explosive ship crash, his physical damage is portrayed by making random parts of him transparent. A subplot involves the Deadpool Corps opposing an army of Carebear knockoffs, but it doesn’t work. The whole point of the gag is that these guys are fighting and slaughtering a bunch of bloodthirsty space pirates who happen to be cute, but how do you portray that when everything about the comic is so goddamn ugly?

So, yes, April Fools Day is all about jokes. And yes, we get it, Mr. Baker. It’s a funny prank you’ve been playing on us for the past few months, but it’s getting old. You can go back to drawing GOOD art now. Any time, now. Please?

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Black History Month ’09 #10: Stay True

February 10th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I went to New York Comic-con 2009 this weekend and had a grand old time. I met up with Gavin, Tucker and Nina Stone, Timothy Callahan, Julian, Ron Wimberly, the Funnybook Babylon gang, LeSean Thomas, Sean Witzke, Cheryl Lynn, and probably half a dozen more people over the course of the weekend.

What’s striking, though, is how the con doesn’t really represent the make-up of the stereotypical comics reader. Yes, there are the chubby white dudes wheeling carts full of comic books to be signed and being rude (a special shout-ot to the guy dressed as a robot who hit me in the head with his boombox). Yes, there were dozens of Slave Leias clogging up the aisles like half-naked roaches. However, there were a lot of girls, latinos, and black folks.

This wasn’t really shocking to me as much as it was just a confirmation of the song I’ve been singing for years now– we’ve always been here. I grew up on comics. Everyone I know grew up on these books, black or white. We all found something to love. I’ve noticed that most of the black people I know leaned toward Marvel for a variety of reasons.

The con was real life– it’s the world that I’m used to seeing, it’s the world that I grew up in, and it’s the world that all of us know. I saw black dude working a booth with some anime thong on his head (I *smh*’d, seriously), others wearing Naruto headbands (I *smh*’d again, you aren’t tupac), and others just dressed like normal people. Some were even dressed as grown-ups. What matters is that there was a huge variety of people there. Young, old, and everywhere in-between. Some were there for indie books, others for superhero pieces, and still others for that creepy porno people always sell at cons.

I went to two panels on Sunday, which doubled my total for the weekend. The first was the Multiculturalism in Comics panel, which was okay, save for a few bumps which I probably won’t get into later as they’re overall meaningless. But, the second panel was the Hip-hop and Comics panel, which was not printed in the show flyer (It was shown as ??? and had no description). It featured Chuck D, DMC of Run DMC, Kyle Baker, James Bomb, Adam Wallenta, and a couple other guys whose name escapes me.

It was pretty wonderful. Rather than being a shillfest for PE’s comic, which was only mentioned maybe twice, it was about growing up in the ’60s and ’70s and what they were into. It was about the intersection between rap and superheroes. It was about everything I’ve ever talked about in one hour long panel.

One thing I hate are comic fans who get upset when somebody goes “Ha ha, nerds!” It’s stupid self-hating lack of self-esteem-having silliness. This panel was the opposite. It was a bunch of guys in touch with their inner nerd and not feeling bad about it at all. One guy mentioned that he was getting stellar grades in school and was being tested for access to a gifted class in school. The teacher asked him if he knew what espionage meant. His response?

“Like in Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division?”


“Uh, it means spy stuff. Espionage.”

Other notable shout-outs were White Tiger (Hector Ayala from Spanish Harlem, “’cause where else are you gonna put a Puerto Rican in New York City?”), Shang-Chi, Moon Knight, and Spider-Man (who is from Queens, and a favorite of Kyle Baker and DMC, both of whom are Queensborn).

I wish I had recorded the panel, because it was everything I want to do in BHM09 all in one place. It talked about how the fact that Marvel’s characters had problems you could relate to and lived in NYC made them more real and relatable than other characters.

It was as much a celebration of comics, and loving comics, as it was about hip-hop. They often mentioned how secret identities informed the creation of rap aliases and costumes, and even how Peter Parker being a normal kid with an outlandish alter ego helped turn Darryl McDaniel into a Devastating Mic Controller.

Everyone reads comics. Comics are a mirror to our society. It shows our fears, hopes, dreams, failures, vulnerabilities, and possibilities. For comics not to reflect us (and by us I mean “people,” not “black people”), even as it reflects all this other stuff, is silly.

No, silly is the wrong word. It’s stupid. It’s stupid because it’s so glaringly obvious a child can see it.

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Kyle Baker, as usual, wins

January 11th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Kyle Baker gets it.

The internet went from a weird thing nerds used to do whatever it is nerds do to being a day-to-day part of all of our lives. The best place to put something where somebody can find it is online, so he put the first issue of his mean, beautiful, amazing, heartbreaking, and totally 100% worthwhile comic book about the war in Iraq online for free.

Go and read it.

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Kyle Baker on The Spirit

January 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Kyle Baker on Frank Miller’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit:

Miller seems to think comic books are a joke. Well, Mr. Miller, just because something’s called “comic” doesn’t mean it’s humorous! Watchmen is a comic, and it’s sad!

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Some Books Are Important

September 4th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

There’s a line from the Atmosphere song “Always Coming Back Home To You” that I like and reference probably too often for my own good. “I swear to God, hip-hop and comic books were my genesis.” It was true when I first heard it and it’s still true. Rap and comics have been two of the handful of constants in my life so far. It isn’t exactly a question of which one I like more. It’s more that both have had different effects on my life.

Comics helped a lot in teaching me to read. Obscure science terms, made-up words, and things that sounded like made-up words but were actually real words after all littered my early comics reading experience. So, comics taught me a love of words.

Rap taught me to love wordplay. It’s about taking a phrase you know and turning it on its head. High School Me would hate me for being about to quote Young Jeezy, but this part from his verse on Put On is great and he’s from the next town over, so suck it, 2001-me.

Passenger’s a red bone, her weave look like some curly fries
Inside’s fish sticks, outside’s tartar sauce
Pocket full of cel-e-ry, imagine what she telling me
Blowing on asparagus, the realest shit I ever smoked
Ridin’ to that trap or die- the realest shit I ever wrote
They know I got that bro-cco-li, so I keep that glock with me

And yeah, it’s typical ignant thug rap– this is still Jeezy, after all. He makes the extended food metaphor work, and for some reason, it ends up being pretty clever. There are other great examples. Big Pun had that killer tongue-twister flow (Dead in the middle of little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn’t do diddly) and Ghostface is still rap’s very own Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Another place where rap and comics intersected for me was in that they both portrayed heroes and role models for a very young David Brothers to take in. The difference between the two is that comics had heroes, black or white, who were generally written for white guys by white guys, while rappers were generally black guys who were usually aimed at a black audience.

The majority of black comics characters were, for years, either black characters filtered through an extremely non-black lens (Storm), unrelateable (Panther), parodies (Cage), or awful (Bishop).

Rap offered a slightly different perspective. I was just old enough to sneak in on the tail end of the pro-black movement of rap. Midnight Marauders hit when I was nine or ten (along with the Malcolm X movie). I had the Wu. I had Nas. I had a ton of people who taught me that being black is awesome, having money is great, and that crime is exciting. When it came down to choosing Iron Man or Tony Starks… I went with Ghostface Killah.

Most comics, with the notable exception of Milestone and occasional “outreach” books, aren’t aimed at me. That’s changed somewhat in recent years, but Marvel and DC are still relying on the same fanbase they’ve had for forty-plus years.

This brings me around to what I think are the two most important books in comics since… I dunno, the Jemas-era began. Nat Turner by Kyle Baker, and Sentences by Percy “MF Grimm” Carey and Ron Wimberly are books that are aimed at me. They’re by black people and aimed, if not at black people directly, at a wider audience than just “fanboys.”

Both aren’t necessarily the most marketable “comic books.” One is a book about a guy whose claim to fame was killing a lot of white men, women, and children after he was given a sign from Heaven. The other is about a rapper, but the greater message isn’t about “bitches and switches and hoes and clothes and weed,” which is what you’d usually see out of basically anything involving rap in the media at large.

Sentences was probably my favorite complete book out of ’07, including single issues, and it totally got robbed for that Eisner. I think it’s an important step in a lot of ways, and the least Vertigo-style title Vertigo has published. It isn’t a long and boring, goth-y, about vampires, religion, or your usual Vertigo cliche of choice. It’s just about a dude, his life, and the choices he made that got him to where he is now. It’s also about growing up black, falling into traps, and digging your way out of a hole you’ve dug for yourself.

There were any number of scenes and references in that book that I immediately got. I thought the bit with the mom in the beginning was hilarious. Why? Probably because I’d seen my mom swing on a grown man for messing with my little brother and any number of verbal sonnings while out shopping. I can relate to Carey’s love for his grandmother because we’re on the same level there.

In a very real way, it’s a book about me and my experiences. It’s about someone who looks like me, has gone through some of the same things I’ve gone through, listens to the same music, and even hung out with some of my own heroes. I don’t have to play down the obvious racial and class differences between me and most comics characters. I don’t have to worry about shocked stares when I say I haven’t heard of some apparently huge band. It’s the power of shared experience working in my favor. I finished the book feeling like I could go “Midnight Marauders or Low End Theory?” and “Ether or Takeover?” and get into an hour-long fight or an hour-long conversation, depending on the answer.

(Midnight Marauders and Ether are the right answers.)

Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner was my Sentences for when it came out. I recently re-read it on a long plane ride few weeks back, and finishing it prompted a few things. First, it made me realize that I had to do this essay. Second, I resolved to give the book (which I had just purchased a few days earlier) away the first chance I got, because people need to read it. And I did.

Nat Turner, the person, has been an interesting figure to me since I first heard of him. It could have been from a rap song, or from one of the footnotes in a school textbook that Baker mentions in his text pieces in the book. I know (off the top of my head) that he was mentioned on Wu-Forever, Sean Price’s Brokest Rapper You Know, and the Talib Kweli + dead prez joint off Lyricist Lounge.

Nat’s claim to fame, and I’m not embellishing anything here, is that he killed fifty-plus white men, women, and children. He led the largest slave rebellion in the States. Obviously, he was a murderer, and that isn’t something to be proud of. At the same time, though, he stood up tall and spat in the face of a system and country that believed him to be less than human. There’s a lot to appreciate in this story, though that probably makes me sound like a sociopath.

Baker’s approach to the book gives it a storybook kind of feel. There are only a few word balloons, leaving the action to stand on its own. The majority of the text is taken directly from The Confessions of Nat Turner. It comes in chunks and often relates to the scenes being depicted on the page, but its tone is jarring. The rebellion happened 160-some years ago, so the language and times are different. It’s like peeking into another world, or reading about a faraway land. The essay is very methodical and sometimes stilted. Premediated is an apt description, as well.

The art sells every emotion and scene perfectly. Sadness, determination, hate, and love all come through clear as a bell. One scene expertly shows a situation in which killing your own child is the greatest act of love you can perform. It’s depressing, it’s tough, and it’s a downer, but it’s a necessary one. It’s like medicine. You have to take it, and after you get past the taste, you’ll feel better.

I feel like it’s a book you should have to read at least once. It tells a story that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but is still well-known and loved by a lot of people. It’s a story that illuminates both universal rights and what happens when someone is pushed too far and too hard.

Nat Turner and Sentences were like comics dipping their toe into the pool. They were warning shots. They are saying “We are here, we have always been here” to the industry and “Don’t go anywhere, there is something here for you, too” to the audience. I really wish that these books had been around for when I was younger. They’re exactly what I was looking for, but didn’t know I was looking for.

It was the equivalent of one of my favorite images from the past.

“We are here.”

Now, though, I just want more. My two loves are on speaking terms. Let’s keep at it, yeah?

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Special Forces @ PCS

August 25th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

My review of Special Forces #3 is up at PCS. I got a shout on today’s Journalista,, too.

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All-Star David and Gavin the Boy Wonder

May 16th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Before I do anything else–

Have you guys heard the new DJ Jazzy Jeff record? It is sick. Every single track is dope.

Anyway, I am in SF right now. Got a place, did some time at my job, and did a bunch of things San Franciscans do. I drank Chai Tea Latte at a Starbucks (it is good), rode the bus, and played phone tag with Comcast for two hours plus. On Friday, I get the honor of doing it again, this time in person with a four hour window for installation. Hurray.

Anyway, I live roughly a mile from Isotope Comics, so guess what my new comics shop is! Sending in the pull list later tonight, most likely.

Ed Brubaker signing there this Saturday at 8 til midnight. I’ll be there with the copy of Coward I bought last week!

Speaking of buying comics, and because I am a little short on content right now, here’s what I picked up at the Isotope. Haven’t read any of it yet, though.

All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder 5
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Shot Callerz by Gary Phillips and Brett Weldele
Static Shock Trial By Fire by like six dudes with long names
The Annotated Mantooth by Fraction, Kuhn, and Fisher
Kyle Baker: Cartoonist
Nat Turner v2

Reviews coming soon as I work through my 4l backlog.

edit: I am maybe six pages into All-Star Bats and this is easily the best issue yet. I don’t see how people don’t like this comic!

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Civil War: The Confession

March 31st, 2007 Posted by david brothers

(feed problem fixed!)
Here is my confession.
I love comics.

But, I hate having to bag and board them.

It’s by far the worst part of comic collecting and part of the reason why I vastly prefer trades. With trades, I can read them and toss them on a bookshelf near similar or related titles. With monthlies, floppies, pamphlets, singles, or whatever, you’ve got books without a spine. You can’t stack them like trades, because they’ll fall over, and you can’t stand them up like trades, because they have no backbone. Monthlies are cowards, ladies and gents.

Bagging and boarding comics is awful. I don’t like it, so I tend to put it off for months at a time. I boarded fifteen weeks of comics tonight. I know this because I buy 52 and the earliest issue of that I had was #32. Fifteen weeks is, what, almost four months? 3.75 months. That’s a lot of comics! I usually spend around 20-30 bucks a week, excluding trades, so that works out to probably an average of 8 books a week on the low side. Ouch!

Another reason why this is so bad is because, in order to sort comics, you’ve got to go through a longbox. I’ve managed to keep myself to one longbox by trying to sell off the comics I don’t love. (Speaking of, I’ve been looking for the best way to do that. eBay lot of them all? It’s nothing particularly valuable, so a lot would probably get me the best bang for my buck.) As I go through the longbox, and this happens each and every time, I come across a book that I really like and have been thinking about rereading.

So I pull it out of the longbox. I sort a few more books and see something else. “Oh!” I say. “Union Jack. This was a good one.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

This doesn’t happen with a bookshelf, man, I swear. It’s just that when sorting things for a longbox, you kinda have to look at all the titles. With a bookshelf, you can skim or rely on memory. I don’t have to know where to put We3 on the shelf because I’ve got an entire shelf dedicated to Grant Morrison. I can just sling it up there. It doesn’t have to go between Kill Your Boyfriend (also due for a reread) and Kid Eternity.

(I also have a Frank Miller/John Romita Jr shelf, a David Lapham/David Mack/Ed Brubaker/Geoff Johns shelf, and a Garth Ennis/Mark Waid shelf. Bendis gets to share a shelf with almost all the ’90s X-Men crossovers and all the Mark Millar trades I wish I hadn’t bought.)

So, right now, I’m looking at Stray Bullets v2: Somewhere Out West, Loveless v2: Thicker Than Blackwater (counts, because it reprints an arc I want to reread), Iron Man: Hypervelocity 1-3, The Other Side 1-5, Criminal 1-5, Casanova 1-7 (though I am missing 2, 3, and 6 somehow), and The Intimates 1-12 (missing 5 and 11 here). This is in addition to the books I’m already working on, like The Mighty Skullboy Army (my first reviewer’s comp! review will be up soonest), Kyle Baker’s King David, and Jim Mahfood’s One Page Filler Man.

The cool part is that I read fairly fast, so I can be done with all this probably by Tuesday or Wednesday, where the cycle will begin again.

One last thing– you know how when you wash clothes, you always end up with a sock or something missing? That happens to me with comics. This time, though, I got lucky. I’m only down one book, and that’s Spider-Man: Reign #3. I don’t know where it could’ve gone, because I know that I purchased it.

I really want to reread that series, too.

C’est la vie, right? This isn’t really as negative as it sounds. These are all good stories and worth rereading.

Maybe I should just learn the ancient art of self-control?

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