Reading Comics: Donner + Blitzen

May 21st, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ve liked this bit from Milestone’s Heroes 04, by Chriscross, Matt Wayne, and Julia Lacquement for ages. I like Static, obviously, but Donner & Blitzen are a great duo. I love speedsters in general, but I like the idea of the brawler and the speedster on the team being involved even more. They had this playful, honest relationship that I enjoyed reading about as long as they lasted, and it was very cool that they were out lesbians without being portrayed in an ultra male gaze-y way at the same time.

Anyway, in this scene, Static is a huge nerd and Blitzen isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. I can’t even pick a favorite part. I love the banter between Static and Blitzen, the panel of her skipping across the water, and all the gross water flooding out of her mouth while she chastises Static.

Heroes was a good comic. Hit them back issue bins. It was just six issues, and they’re probably cheap now.

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Black History Month 2011: Dwayne McDuffie

February 11th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

(pencils by powerful paul pelletier, inks by rocking rick magyar, colors by preening paul mounts)

Dwayne McDuffie
Selected Works: Hardware: The Man in the Machine, Icon: A Hero’s Welcome, Static Shock Vol. 1: Rebirth of the Cool

Just by a happenstance of birth, I was the perfect age for Dwayne McDuffie’s work to have an effect on my, what, mental growth? Racial consciousness? Whatever smarty art type of word you want to use. Spike Lee’s Malcolm X was a watershed moment for me. Less watershed, but still important, was the formation of Milestone Media, courtesy of McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T Dingle.

In hindsight, the Milestone books I was really checking for as a kid (Static, Blood Syndicate) weren’t McDuffie joints. He was working on Icon and Hardware, which I tend to think of being more adult oriented rather than teen. I didn’t read all the way through those until I was grown. Despite that, the fact that Milestone existed was big for me. It showed that there coule be actual black people in comics. The company was full of people who looked, acted, and talked like people I knew. This is a big deal, believe it or not.

Years later, McDuffie helped shepherd Static Shock to beating Pokemon in ratings on TV. After that, he helped make me a believer in the JLA by way of the cartoon. Still later came a sequel to Secret Wars called Beyond! and his all-too-brief run on Fantastic Four: The New Fantastic Four and The Beginning of the End. He did all of this while maintaining a career making successful cartoons.

McDuffie did the job, and he kept doing the job. He’s built up a body of work that most people in his field should be jealous of and that fans should be thankful for. I’m thankful for the fact that he’s cognizant of his power as a creator, and simply tries to create worlds that reflect the ones we live in now. That was a big help as a kid, and his career has been an inspiration as an adult.

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Black History Month 2011: Denys Cowan

February 10th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Denys Cowan
Selected Works: Hardware: The Man in the Machine, The Question Vol. 2: Poisoned Ground, Batman: Lovers and Madmen

I’m usually pretty okay at figuring out an artist’s influences, but Denys Cowan is a mystery to me. There are traits he shares with other artists, sure. He’s kind of scratchy like Bill Sienkiewicz got on Moon Knight once he hit his stride, or maybe some of those really dirty Jamie Hewlett pages. He works cityscapes like Frank Miller used to when he was on Daredevil, where they don’t quite make real life sense but they make perfect visual sense. His figures are a little off, just this side of Kirby’s flexible proportions.

That’s not to say that his art is a hodgepodge of techniques from other artists. Cowan’s art has certain aspects in common with other artists, but his art definitely stands alone when you look at it. Whatever his influences, he’s created something that’s distinctly his. The way he draws muscles are a couple points that stand out to me. Cowan draws some knobby elbows and knees, a couple of joints I generally think of as being bends in comics art, rather than anything with detail. It’s such a little thing, the sort of thing you have to work to see, most likely, but there it is: knobby elbows.

His faces are good, too. If you look at a close-up of Hardware or Barraki, they look black. Not just comic book black, where they look like generic (white) dudes with brownish skin, but actual black. Broad noses, full lips, cheekbones, everything. He nails it.

One last point: I listened to GZA’s Liquid Swords until the tape popped a couple times. Cowan did the cover and liner art for that, and I still love them.

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John Rozum & Frazer Irving’s Xombi

December 12th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I’ve given DC a lot of crap over Milestone over the past however many months it’s been since they announced the acquisition and started rolling out content. The JLA stuff wasn’t working for me thanks to Ed Benes’s art, the one-shots in The Brave & The Bold were pretty uneven, and the trade schedule went from reasonable to “none.”

But, y’know, there was some news regarding Milestone this past week that was super, super dope. From the DC’s Source blog:

Creator and writer John Rozum returns to the fan-favorite title to continue the story of David, and to give the DCU a new corner of urban horror to explore. Right from the start, John’s throwing David in over his head, giving new readers and old friends alike the chance to dive into a new story and hold on for the ride. Joining him will be the excellent star artist Frazer Irvingon all visual duties to create a world few have seen and fewer still dare to dwell.

I don’t remember reading Xombi as a kid. I’m sure I did at some point, but in rereading it earlier this year, I realized that it wasn’t the type of comic I’d have wanted as a kid. It was a mix of sci-fi and urban fantasy, but clearly written for adults. Not in a mature readers sense, exactly, but written for adults in terms of approach. I like it. I’m looking forward to more and (hopefully) a fat TPB of the first year or so.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with this creative team. John Rozum was the original creator of the series, and Frazer Irving is hot off a stellar turn on Batman & Robin. Irving is perfectly suited to the tone of Xombi, and I’m having trouble thinking of people who do creepy better than he does. Probably Richard Corben, but even then, Corben’s creepy is different than Irving’s creepy. That sickly looking color scheme Irving likes, with the purples and pinks? That’s perfect.

So, DC Comics: Bravo. I’m looking forward to this one.

Check out Frazer Irving’s blog and John Rozum’s, too.

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4×4 Elements: Icon: Mothership Connection

July 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Icon: Mothership Connection. Words by Dwayne McDuffie, art largely by MD Bright, inks largely by Mike Gustovich, assorted art by an army of creators, colors by a horde of colorists, letters by Steve Dutro.

I read various issues of Icon as a kid, though I don’t think I ever read more than one or two in a row. I think as far as Milestone went, I kept up with Static and bought the rest as I could, probably because Static was about a kid. When I got grown, I read, or re-read, Icon and found a lot to appreciate. Here are four things in particular.

Icon has a point. Stories that have no meaningful content may be entertaining, but they don’t stick with you like stories that have a point do. It doesn’t have to be a sermon, it doesn’t have to reveal some profound lesson, and it doesn’t have to use heavy-handed metaphors to examine life. There just needs to be some level of meaningful content, something you can look at and go “Oh, this. This means _______.” This is true of everything, not just comics.

Batman is about coping with grief. Daredevil is about survivor’s guilt. Spider-Man is about being better than you are. Donna Troy’s stories are about how people will read anything, no matter how bad, just because they liked a character as a kid. X-Men has gotten awful muddy, but somewhere under all of the fetish writing and laborious continuity is the metaphor that made them a hit. You can kick over most of the popular heroes and find something underneath their adventure stories that speaks to someone, somewhere.

Icon is about responsibility. Augustus Freeman is living well amongst other rich people, which has unfortunately segregated him from his history. Freeman, comfortable in his own abilities, leans toward believing that each person can pull himself up by his bootstraps. Essentially, he is responsible only for himself, and everyone else should follow that example. After all, if he did it, anyone can, right?

The problem with that is that it simply doesn’t work. Ignorance holds a lot of people back, and if you don’t know better, you can’t do better. Icon the series and Icon the hero are there to show people that they can do better. When Raquel gives icon a name, she tells Augustus that “[i]t means like an example, or an ideal.” Augustus corrects her, and explains that “it’s a symbol, something that stands for something else.” She asks him, “What do you stand for?”

You hear it all the time. “The children are the future.” (“and Wu-Tang is for the babies.”) (Sorry.) It’s both literal and figurative. The children are who inherit the future, but they are also the guides of the future. Their choices decide what’s going to happen.

Writers are the keepers of the past. They take what happens now and make sure that it lasts into the future. It’s very important to maintain a connection to your past while proceeding into the future. That is how knowledge survives from generation to generation.

Raquel represents the past, present, and future. She’s a writer, charged with protecting and judging the past, and she’s a mother, shepherding and guarding the future. Her knowledge of the past informs her present and provides a foundation for the future of her child. She names him Amistad, after the slave ship.

Buck Wild represents progress. Buck is essentially every black comics character, pre-1990, rolled into one. He’s primarily Luke Cage, from his design to his demeanor. McDuffie and Doc Bright amped up his more stereotypical accents, such as slow wit and fake way of speaking, but you know exactly who he is supposed to be.

At his funeral, we get to see Buck’s parodies of several black heroes. All of those heroes were lacking in various ways. Some were sidekicks. Others were dependent upon white heroes for powers. Some just had stupid villains. Buck represents all of these heroes, and by being presented as a backwards, but useful, hero, McDuffie and Bright are saying something very specific about black heroes in comics of a certain time and style.

Icon, at Buck’s funeral, says, “[F]or all his failures, he died as he lived, trying to do what was right. Let us hope that when our day is done, history remembers us as kindly as it remembers him.” His point is plain: Buck was not perfect, but he was an attempt to do right. Extrapolate from that: all of those stupid black heroes who spoke in fake jive and had powers that boiled down to “has muscles, hates the man” were a necessary step. You don’t get to have great heroes without having the wack ones first. Buck Wild paved the way for Icon, and hopefully, one day, Icon will pave the way for something better.

All of the meaningful content in the world don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. You can preach until your voice goes hoarse and your congregation falls asleep in the pews, but it doesn’t matter if what you’re preaching isn’t entertaining. If you want to preach and preach and preach, go write some non-fiction. If you’re doing a comic, bring your biggest guns and entertain. Fortunately, Icon is entertaining.

There’s a wry sense of humor woven throughout the book. The citizens of Dakota are quick with a flip remark, Raquel is smart-mouthed enough for both her and Icon, and Buck Wild is hilarious, in an Uncle Ruckus sort of way. McDuffie wrote a particularly effective black preacher in Icon: Mothership Connection. Every black preacher has a little bit of James Brown inside him, and McDuffie nailed it, even down to the call and response from the congregation.

When it comes time for action, McDuffie and Bright go big, with Superman-class action. Icon‘s populated with aliens, thugs, politicians, protestors, plenty of other heroes, and inky black alien shapeshifters bound and determined to destroy everything Icon holds dear. Buildings get knocked down, cars get thrown, and people get punched in the jaw.

Make no mistake: this is a superhero comic. Icon flies, shoots beams, and beats people up. It’s a very entertaining one, too, and more than capable of keeping your interest. The meaningful content is simply icing on the cake.

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The Cipher 06/09/10

June 9th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

batman 700: words by grant morrison, art by frank quitely, tony daniel, andy kubert, and david finch/richard friend.

Down at the labor camp, they make a drone of men, mama’s boy once, but now I’ve learned to speak draconian!

I was thinking about picking up Batman 700. Morrison hasn’t been hitting for me like he should lately, but Quitely’s always worth a look. I was even willing to look past buying a book with art by Tony Daniel and David Finch, two of my least favorite artists. Except I read the PDF preview on DC’s site after David Uzumeri shot me a link and had all my goodwill sapped right out of me. For five bucks (!) you get eight Tony Daniel pages, nine Andy Kubert pages, six David Finch pages, and somewhere between one and eight Frank Quitely pages, with the difference being made up by the certainly-capable-but-not-Frank-Quitely Scott Kolins. For those of us who went to public school, that’s thirty-one pages for five bucks. Add seven pages of pinups (Shane Davis, Juan Doe, Guillem March, Dustin Nguyen, Tim Sale, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Philip Tan) and a couple pages of Batcave layouts by Freddie Williams II and you’ve got a book I don’t think I want any more. Five bucks? Get real.

Great art + great story = comics worth buying. That’s the rule.

I know I’m picking up Captain America (Ed Brubaker/Butch Guice) and Heralds (Kathryn Immonen/Tonci Zonjic/James Harren). Amazon just emailed me to say that Icon Vol. 2: The Mothership Connection is on the way. That’s a Dwayne McDuffie joint. I’m not sure which artists are involved, because it’s an odd mix of Icon issues. I know the Buck Wild stuff is in there, though, which means we get some Doc Bright. I’m psyched to reread it.

Shame about there not being any other Milestone books on the schedule, though. I’ve got the two Icon volumes, the Brave & the Bold: Milestone book, and the Hardware and Static trades. With the exception of the JLA trades that reintroduced Milestone (which I didn’t buy because every time I look at them I want to fire shots DC’s way) (don’t forget industry rule 4080) I think that I own all of the currently in-print Milestone books. We’re missing Xombi, Blood Syndicate, Shadow Cabinet, Heroes, and a few odd miniseries or one-shots. Wise Son and Milestone Forever. C’est la guerre, I guess.

What’re you folks buying, or not buying, as the case may be? Any trades you wish happened? I’d kill a man dead for Flex Mentallo, and I may be adding “more Milestone trades” to that list.

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This Week in Panels: Week 24

March 7th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Time for another look at– holy shit, we’ve got new headers now! Look at the top of the site! Then refresh a bunch of times! Plus the site is all different and rounder now! Neat!

Amazing Spider-Man #623
Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Paul Azaceta

Deadpool Team-Up #895
Christopher Long and Dalibor Talajic

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DC Comics: Meanspirited, spiteful, and childish.

March 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I don’t think anyone reported on it when it happened, but DC pulled several subtext-laden quotes from Milestone Forever #1. They said that the quotes weren’t covered under fair use and they didn’t want to get sued. However, rather than informing McDuffie of this at the time and giving him a chance to alter the quotes or create new ones, they waited until the book was at the printers. That’s shady, but okay, maybe they really would’ve gotten sued.

Milestone Forever #2 comes out later today, and whoops, it happened there, too. Click through for the quotes. Read them? Okay, now look at this one again:

“Sometimes I suspect that we build our traps ourselves, then we back into them, pretending amazement the while.”
—Neil Gaiman

Whoa! Neil Gaiman! That’s a good one, right? The thing is, it’s from The Sandman #75… a book wholly owned by (wait for it) DC Comics.

So! Let’s recap. DC Comics pull quotes from Milestone Forever #1 and #2 because they didn’t want to get sued. They wait until the book is at the printers to let the writer (and owner of the work) know, preventing any changes from being made. At least one of the quotes they pulled was from a property that they own completely, it being a legacy character and created pre-Vertigo. It’s the latest in a long line of shady, but legal, moves they’ve made regarding McDuffie and Milestone, and possibly the last, considering that McDuffie has no announced DC work coming up.

Were they gonna sue themselves? Is that it? Was Karen Berger gonna run across the hall and whack Dan Didio with a shoe if a quote from The Sandman made it into a comic that isn’t from Vertigo?

Or is someone at DC a petty, childish, scummy, shell of a human being? I don’t know who, nor do I have any ideas, so I’m not dry snitching here. I honestly want to know: who’s dicking around McDuffie? ’cause at this point, beyond of a shadow of a doubt, somebody up there is a firm believer in Industry Rule #4080: comic book people are shady.

I could go on and on and pile insult upon insult, but you know what? This situation should be clear to anyone with half a brain and half a shred of basic human decency. Someone there is prizing beef over money, and someone up there is mighty stupid. End of story.

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Black Future Month ’10

February 27th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The end of Black Future Month is a point in time where “black comics” don’t exist. Comics by, for, or about black people exist in this theoretical future, of course, but they aren’t black comics. They’re just comics. They aren’t set apart from their brethren because they happen to star a black dude or is set in the hood. But, let’s put all that pie in the sky Kumbaya business to the side and talk about the here and now.

For a while, I was trying to keep up with every black character in mainstream comics. After a few months of reading about Bishop try to murder a toddler, DC Comics screwing over Dwayne McDuffie, John Stewart not appearing ever, and Cyborg being stuck in Teen Titans Hell, I was officially burnt out.

I was suddenly faced with a dilemma, though. When it comes to mainstream books and black people, you’re generally gonna be SOL. At the same time, I’d carved out this niche as a “race blogger.” I felt like I was supposed to be paying attention to all these characters. That’s the conscious thing to do, right? No. Absolutely not.

Here is the thing. If you’re supporting black comics by purchasing books from Marvel or DC, you’re not supporting black comics at all. They do what they do, and sometimes they do it well, but they are targeted at one very specific audience. Tom Brevoort has owned up to this in a refreshingly frank blog post. If it doesn’t make dollars, Marvel and DC will not do it. If it does make dollars, Marvel and DC will definitely do it, no matter the consequences. Don’t believe me? Ask Dan Didio about Milestone sometime.
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