Tagged: Abrams ComicArts

REVIEW: Star Trek The Original Topps Trading Cards Series

Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series
By Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdman
216 pages, $19.95, Abrams ComicArts

large-DCD617610Few fans today recall that Star Trek has been the focus of several trading card sets through the years, beginning with the Leaf Brands series prior to the better known Topps cards from the late 1970s, launching just prior to the first feature film. The far better card series came much later, but as a part of Abrams ComicArts’ series of books focusing on different genre sets from Topps, that series is the one receiving the focus in this attractive book.

The series, which began with Wacky Packages and has included the legendary Mars Attacks and Bazooka Joe, is a worthy examination of the oft-overlooked time capsules of earlier eras. Topps produced cards based on numerous television properties alongside their popular baseball cards since the 1950s, notably their four amazing Batman sets based on the TV series, so it is a reminder of how minimal Star Trek’s impact was during the 1960s by virtue of the fact they didn’t have cards for a decade.

When the card set was finally released, the 88 cads and 22 stickers were culled from whatever Paramount Pictures had lying around, not yet having a fully functioning licensing department with archival graphics. As a result, Topps worked with what they had on hand and that meant all 79 episodes were not represented. And in a bizarre turn of events, George Takei’s Sulu is never seen full-on, instead glimpsed at his station only once.

Paula Block and Terry Erdman, who have mined Star Trek lore in numerous other book projects, have little fresh to reveal about those episodes and wisely devoted their text, accompanying each card in the set, to a little contextually information and quotes from Gary Giani, who wrote the text for the cards and the headline for the front of each. His use of titles of obscure SF films or episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes is subtle and clever, so identifying their sources here makes for fun reading.

In their breezy introduction, they set the stage for the cards and Trek’s place in the pop culture firmament. Giani and Topps’ Len Brown provide context along with fans turned professionals such as Steven M. Charendoff, founder of Rittenhouse Archives.

After nearly 40 years of neglect, Takei gets his due as one of the several newly created cards packaged in the back of the book. This is a nice touch and makes the book all the more desirable. While you won’t learn much new about the show, this is a nice addition to anyone’s library.

Martha Thomases: The Hotel… Library?

Thomases Art 130802

Do you have to do much business travel? I tend to go for long periods without it, and then have to do a whole bunch. It can be fun, but it’s also, you know, business. I’m staying in a strange place, seeing people I don’t see at home, eating foods I don’t usually eat at hours when I’m not usually eating. And, unlike when I’m working at home, I have to keep my pants on when I do it.

And then there is staying in hotels. The good parts: I don’t have to clean up after myself, I can try new shampoos, and if I get a king-size bed, it’s so big it’s like sleeping on the ocean. The bad parts: no kitty, the towels aren’t big enough, and there is nothing to read that I haven’t brought myself. Also, even with a big bed and a gigantic bathroom, I can feel closed in after a while.

So I was delighted to read in The New York Times that a variety of hotels, from highfalutin’ boutique inns to affordable chains, have added libraries to their list of amenities.

It would be nice to say that the hospitality industry has decided to encourage reading for the sake of the public good, to improve the literacy of the American traveling class. However, as the article states, the purpose of the library is to encourage customers to spend more time in the hotel’s lobby and bars, buying food and drink. At the same time, some of the hotels are making deals directly with publishers to promote their titles, even allowing customers to take the books home and return them during their next stay.

This is an incredible opportunity for comics. And by comics, I mean graphic novels.

If I’m in the lobby of a hotel looking for something to read, the most likely reason is that I’m tired, and I want something to occupy my attention while I’m eating or having a drink. I travel with my Kindle, but maybe I don’t have the attention span to stare at words (usually because I’ve been staring at words for hours already). A self-contained graphic novel, with a whole story, can engage my imagination without causing eye-strain.

In general, I don’t want to start up a conversation with strangers when I go to a hotel bar or restaurant. However, if I was so inclined, a graphic novel is a much better ice-breaker than a prose book. It’s easier to point to an image in a conversation than to read a narrative description. And it’s easier to share a book with a spline than a pamphlet.

It’s also easier to find an audience for books with spines. A businessman (or woman) enjoying some downtime might not want to read about a guy in spandex, but might get a kick out of the source of that new movie he’s heard so much about.

To my mind, the best publisher with whom to make a deal is Abrams Comic Arts. A bar where people are talking about Mars Attacks, My Friend Dahmer and The Carter Family is a fun place to be.

If I was managing a hotel near the Baltimore Convention Center, I would be checking this out.

SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman’s Main Woman

SUNDAY MORNING: John Ostrander


REVIEW: How to Fake a Moon Landing

How to Fake a Moon Landing
By Darryl Cunningham
176 pages, Abrams ComicArts, $16.95

HowtoFakeaMoonlandingThere has been a preponderance of memoirs as graphic novels filling bookshelves over the last few years but with the exception of Joe Sacco’s work, there has been precious little journalism done in the graphic form. Cartoonist Darryl Cunningham, therefore, is a welcome voice, shedding some much needed light on the darker areas of science and culture. He made his name with Psychiatric Tales and then turned his attentions to Science Tales; Lies, Hoaxes, and Scams, which was released in England. Since then, he added a chapter and this month Abrams’ ComicArts imprint releases it as How to Fake a Moon Landing.

Cunningham breezily takes us through some of the hot button topics that are used as bludgeons by No Nothing Conservatives or are blown out of proportion by a lazy media. As one expects, the Moon landing is just the beginning, with chapters also dedicated to the MMR Vaccination Scandal, Evolution, Global Warming and so on. Each chapter spells out the facts, sourcing them along the way, and then shows where fact goes off the rails and becomes fodder for others to misuse. While he takes the cranks and critics to task, he also often faults the news media for never digging deep enough or presenting the other side of the argument for a “fair and balanced” look at the issue.

In a sprawling interview with Tom Spurgeon in 2011, he explained, “The comic strip format is particularly good at presenting information in a concise and entertaining way. A comic strip is so easy to read, that you can often find that by the time you’ve decided not to read it, you’ve read half of it. It’s a very immediate format that engages straight away and can deliver a lot of information quickly. It’s the perfect medium for presenting complex information. I’m surprised it’s not done more often. I’ve never thought of myself as part of any social activist tradition. These social and political subjects have naturally evolved out of my own interests, and to some extent, my frustration and anger with the status quo.”

As a result, you might be surprised to learn that the MMR matter was the result of one doctor’s efforts to sell his own medicine or how much money the oil industry spent on lobbying; resulting in Vice President Dick Cheney ensuring a particular bill was effectively neutered. As usual, the common man is left to pay the price or suffer the consequences. Since its initial publication, Cunningham dropped “Electroconvulsive Therapy”, replacing it with “Fracking” which remains a current topic of debate. As a result, the book is exceedingly relevant as it digests the issues down into comprehensible chapters, pointing where you can look next for more detail.

Cunningham’s approach is pretty similar to how Scott McCloud educates us about graphic storytelling and it works. He infuses each chapter with black, white, and one other color, keeping things stark and letting the reader focus on the facts. On the other hand, those who automatically buy into conspiracy theories or refuse to allow facts into the discussion will dismiss the book which is a shame. Wisely, he closes the book with a prophetic chapter on “Science Denial”. Cunningham does a remarkable job with difficult material and for high school students, just opening their eyes to the world around them, this is a terrific primer.

Emily S. Whitten: NYCC – The Good, The Bad, and The Slightly Sad

The New York Comic Con has come and gone like a whirlwind, leaving me, as always, gasping for breath (and craving a week of sleep) as I recover from the huge crushes of people, hectic dashes to see friends or get places on time, and general excitement. No con is perfect but I am pretty fond of NYCC, in part because the sheer size of it means every moment can be filled with something fun (if you have the energy and aren’t afraid of crowds) and in part because I love visiting New York City. Even if you’re in town for the con, it’s not a bad idea to leave the Javits Center at least once or twice to experience a bit of the rest of New York.

In keeping with the spirit of what my brain feels like after three to four days of non-stop excitement and unable to remember in what order anything happened and/or to form coherent sentences, I feel like it’s proper to talk about the highs and lows of my NYCC/NYC experience in a randomly ordered bullet-point list. Ready? Let’s go!


• Terry Pratchett is in town! Terry was here to promote his newest novel, a non-Discworld book called [[[Dodger]]], and it was, as always, delightful to see him. While he was at NYCC, for me the high was not his NYCC appearance (we’ll get to that in a second!) but his appearance at the Barnes & Noble in nearby Union Square. Despite a pretty full house, the store was so quiet you could hear a pin drop (or Terry and his business manager Rob bantering with each other on stage) as everyone listened to an excerpt from the book and a fun Q&A.

We learned that Dodger (which came out in the US on September 25th, so you can go get it now!), is a young adult book in which, among other things, Charles Dickens meets the boy who will inspire him to write about The Artful Dodger. Terry and Rob talked about researching the history of Victorian London, including the fact that the streets of London at that time were so terrifyingly bad that “they made Gangs of New York look like kindergarten.” They also talked about locating the oldest gentlemen’s outfitters in London, and discovering that the shop had not only provided Sir Robert Peel with his personal clothing, but also designed the original police uniforms – a fact which made its way into the story. From the excerpt and talk, the book (which I have but have not yet read!) sounds great.

Other information shared with the crowd is that Terry fully intends that there be a sequel to Dodger; that he has been working on the second Long Earth book with co-author Stephen Baxter; and that (as some may have heard already) he has formed a production company with business manager Rob Wilkins, Managing Director and producer Rod Brown, and daughter and fellow writer Rhianna Pratchett. Upcoming projects include The Watch series (a 13 episode series described in a nutshell as “CSI: Ankh-Morpork”) and the Good Omens miniseries, along with more upcoming Discworld adaptations. Yay!

• Happening upon awesomeness while randomly wandering the show floor. This included running into and geeking out about the con with the super-nice Dan Slott, Amazing Spider-man writer; walking through the DC booth at just the right time to snap a picture of Stephen Amell and the rest of the Arrow cast and crew (though sadly I did not have a signing ticket); discovering the terrifyingly lifelike (and life-sized) Chris Hemsworth Thor at the Midtown Comics booth (a Madame Tussaud’s figure); and spotting and snagging the last signed copy of The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon at the Abrams ComicArts booth (which I’d been meaning to pick up after reading a great review and seeing some of the beautiful art).

• Joe Kelly cheerfully signing his way through half of my Joe Kelly Deadpool issues. For some reason, at the last con where I saw Joe, I’d only brought along half of the run for him to sign (well, okay, I know the reason – those books get heavy; or, as Joe said, “you’re basically carrying around a block of wood”). So this time I brought the other half, and had a great time chatting with Joe as he signed and signed. Not only is Joe tied with Fabian Nicieza as my all-time favorite Deadpool writer, but he’s also done a lot of awesome things since then, so it was great to catch up with him at the Man of Action booth (and he mentioned that Deadpool appears in his Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, which I did not know. Ooh!).

• Attending the fantastic book launch for Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s newest anthology, After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia. Like I said, it’s nice to get out in NYC a little bit even at con-time, so when I heard that Ellen was having a book launch on Thursday, I had to pull myself away from the show floor and go. The event, at Books of Wonder, was great, with about nine of the authors reading from or discussing their stories, and a signing afterwards. After includes stories from a host of previously published authors, including Gregory Maguire, who also wrote Wicked, so I picked that up for him to sign as well. The stories sound great and have been getting excellent reviews, so I’m looking forward to reading my copy (which now features a sad-looking “dystopian flower” as drawn by author N.K. Jemisin at my request, and further graffiti’d by Genevieve Valentine).

• Snagging some con merch and freebies, including two adorable new t-shirts (one of which is a sad-looking hedgehog holding a “free hugs” sign, and how can you possibly not love that?), and the Cable/Deadpool Heroclix figure, which I hadn’t been able to find for anything under $25 and got for $3 at the con. Score! I also got several ARCs and a free Phantom Tollbooth poster – and I love that book. Yay!

• The joys of Artist Alley. Artist Alley is really my favorite part of any con, and I rarely manage to spend as much time there as I would like. I had a lot of fun while I was there this year, though, catching up with friends, chatting with the ever-amusing Bill Willingham; finally meeting Ed McGuinness (a favorite Deadpool artist who had not been at any of the cons I’ve previously attended, but was happy to be at this one and mentioned he’d love to get back on the Deadpool book. I approve of this idea!); and talking with V for Vendetta co-creator David Lloyd about his newest project, Aces Weekly (check out the ComicMix review here). Aces Weekly is “an exclusively digital comic art magazine which features some of the world’s finest sequential art creators” from all over the world, and sounds really interesting. It just launched at the beginning of October, so it’s easy to check it out now and catch up on the first couple of issues. David also kindly drew me a V sketch, which made me ever so happy. I also had fun hanging out with Reilly Brown, particularly since I was actually costuming as his and Kurt Christenson’s character the Ice Queen from their fantastic digital comic Power Play (available on ComiXology – check it out!) on Friday. Another character from the comic, Gowanus Pete, mysteriously showed up to be in a picture with me (who was that man behind the mask?), which was pretty fun as well.

• Attending cool panels like the Marvel prose novels panel, in which Axel Alonso, Stuart Moore, Peter David, Alisa Kwitney, and Marie Javins talked with moderator James Viscardi and the audience about the popular storylines they are adapting as almost a hybrid of the comics and movie worlds. I really liked the Civil War adaptation by Stuart Moore, and am super-excited about the upcoming ones, which include “New Avengers: Breakout” (Alisa Kwitney), “Astonishing X-Men: Gifted” (Peter David), and “Iron Man: Extremis” (Marie Javins). Alisa talked about her research into things like how the Helicarrier actually works and how to make an impossible feat of archery seem plausible, also noting that one change she’s made from the comics is that in the prose timeline, Hawkeye is still alive and appearing in the story. Peter talked about his use of Kitty Pryde as a means of sharing new information with the reader, and how through this she really became the heart of the story and his favorite character to write. Marie noted that, like the movie storyline, in her novel Iron Man’s identity will be public, and that she’s having fun trying to channel “Warren Ellis mixed with Robert Downey Jr.” for her work, which she finds “very funny and very disturbing.”


• The placement of Terry Pratchett’s NYCC panel. Don’t get me wrong – Terry and Rob were as entertaining as always, and I was delighted to see them. But for the first time in my experience, NYCC committed a major error in planning when they stuck the best-selling adult fiction author in the UK in a giant echo-y hallway next to a music stage (which started playing loud music half-way through) for his event. I can’t even imagine what they were thinking, and can only assume it was done in complete ignorance by someone who has mysteriously never heard of Terry and couldn’t be bothered to look up whether his panel was likely to be popular or anything else about him. Even if they didn’t realize that Terry’s Alzheimer’s necessitates that he have a lavaliere microphone rather than a hand-held, or that he often speaks rather softly and so a loud hall is not the best venue for him, such placement is unforgiveable, and I hope NYCC never makes such an asinine mistake again. Honestly, I doubt they’ll get a chance, since I’m sure nobody presenting on this stage would have been happy to be put there or want to come back. Also, I will note that the seating of that stage looked to be similar to the prose novel panel seating, which was in a nice quiet room and about 2/3 full. Terry’s panel, on the other hand, was overflowing with people sitting and standing in the back, straining to hear, some of whom, I am sure, had not had an opportunity to see him before and were forced to miss out on part of what is a wonderful experience when it can be heard. For shame, NYCC!

• The broken escalators and bottlenecks. I know there’s only so much one can do when working with a set layout, but due to broken escalators, the wait to get from one floor to the next, particularly on Sunday, was claustrophobic and glacially slow. Also, the placement of the TMNT tunnel display, I am told, created a huge bottleneck and traffic jam. Very frustrating.

• The lack of cell service. It’s become a known fact and common complaint around the Javits Center that the cell service from location to location is spotty and unpredictable. It makes it almost impossible to meet up with friends and coordinate with people, even if you try to do so before going inside. Lousy cell service caused me to miss at least two or three friends I’d have liked to see, and almost made me entirely miss seeing a good friend who miraculously found me after I’d unsuccessfully looked for him for two days in a row (and had my calls not go through to his phone). The Javits is a big and popular convention center; they should look into improving this service ASAP.

• Con funk OMG. Seriously, people. Deodorant. Showers. Perfume or cologne or a constant spray bath, whatever it takes. Please, stop stinking up the con and causing me to accidentally inhale all of your nasty B.O. when I take a breath. I’d really, really appreciate it.

Well! Despite the few low points (of which the placement of the Pratchett panel was the most egregious), I had a great time at the con, and am already looking forward to next year’s. I do have a little request, though – my camera memory card is giving me error messages, and so, tragically, I may have lost 2/3 of my photos from the con (which would make me soooo sad). If you did happen to see me and take a picture, and are reading this, please feel free to send any photos to emily@comicmix.com. Thanks!!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis’s Escape From France!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold’s Escape From New York!


Mike Gold: Mars Attacks – Completely!

Mars Attacks • Abrams ComicArt • hardcover $19.95,  also available in electronic format. Publication date: October 1, 2012

There’s a seminal moment in every weirdo’s life where we experience something so outrageous our worldview is altered severely and forever. For Ray Bradbury and Michael Moorcock, it was Edgar Rice Burroughs. For nascent NASA scientists, it was Ray Bradbury and Buck Rogers. EC Comics begat a generation of filmmakers, satirists, and cartoonists. I have no doubt we will be appreciating the influence of The Simpsons and South Park as its early adopters enter the creative workplaces.

For me, it was Mars Attacks.

I love to collect things. I suspect if comic books were unnumbered I wouldn’t have made it to the Marvel Age. So I would dutifully check out the counter-spaces at my local drug stores to see what the Bazooka Joe boys at Topps were offering in the realm of what we now call “non-sports cards.” Their Civil War News series was as informative as it was gutsy. Their Space Race and Funny Monsters cards brought great entertainment to my pre-pubescent little brain. But nothing – absolutely nothing, not Rocky and Bullwinkle, not Mad Magazine, neither Ernie Kovacs nor Steve Allen – prepared this 11 year-old proto-nerd for the glory and the horror of Mars Attacks.

Briefly for those who are not in the know, Mars Attacks was a set of 55 trading cards issued in 1962 that told the grisly story of an invasion from space by everybody’s favorite bug-eyed naked-brain Martians. On the front was a masterful painting by the great Norm Saunders based upon sketches by the great Bob Powell and the great Wally Wood. On the reverse was the next part of the invasion narrative. Cattle were torched, subway cars were eaten by giant ants, soldiers were slaughtered, dogs were vaporized in front of their youthful masters.

Spoiler Alert: We win.

The concept and story, created by Topps’ creative director (and, later, seminal comics fan publisher) Woody Gelman and staff writer Len Brown, later of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents fame, was breathtaking because it was over-the-line. Way over the line. So far over the line you couldn’t see the line in your rearview mirror if you stopped right after you crossed it. Simply put: in 1962 you did not torch dogs and soldiers and cattle and wrap it up in wax paper with a slice of bubble gum.

Were adults offended? Holy crap, yes! You’d think the Martians actually invaded and turned out to be Commies. Topps was inundated with complaints and boxes were removed from store counters. At first, the Bazooka-boys thought they’d simply tone down some of the more objectionable cards, but instead they squeezed the toothpaste back into the tube and withdrew their product… leaving nothing but the legend in its wake. A highly collectible legend.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic event, Abrams ComicArts has released a hardcover book surprisingly called Mars Attacks. Forwarded by Len Brown and backwarded by Norm Saunders’ gifted daughter Zina, all the cards are reprinted (both sides) in their full glory along with the surviving sketches as well as the 1994 sequel cards and other great stuff, including artwork from Zina Saunders, Jay Lynch, Timothy Truman, Frank Brunner, Sam Kieth, Keith Giffen and a whole lotta other swell folk.

In addition to the aforementioned 1994 sequel cards, there have been several attempts to revive Mars Attacks including at least three comics series and a grandiose Tim Burton movie (forgive my redundancy). These have succeeded to varying degrees, but I think the concept is truly a product of its times. The bar of outrageousness has pole vaulted in the past 50 years, and these cards would barely raise an eyebrow if issued today.

But for its time, in its time, Mars Attacks brought the energy of rock’n’roll to the B-movies of the drive-ins and put it all on the doorsteps of the nation’s 11 year-olds. Its quick removal trusted it into legendary status. Abrams’ new book is a very worthy tribute.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Mike Gold: Archie’s Sex Change

I have reported here and elsewhere about the goings-on at Archie Comics. While DC keeps on hitting the reset button like a monkey in a crack experiment, and Marvel keeps on doing endless – literally endless – mega-events, Archie has been slowly making history.

In the past several years they’ve added a major gay character and they’ve had Archie fall in love (on the cover, no less) with a black woman. They’ve taken ongoing looks into the potential futures of their characters, which plays against the assumptions held by our culture for more than 70 years. They’ve tried to make Riverdale look and feel more like the real world: even the hallowed Pop Tate’s has had to endure competition by national fast food chains. Archie Comics continues to be the major force in entertaining each next generation of comics readers; without their efforts and similar, but smaller, endeavors by Boom!, Bongo and others, we would have no future readers for the graphic novels published by Fantagraphics and Abrams.

And, I’m happy to report, now Archie Comics is just getting weird.

In Archie #636 (the alternate cover is shown here; the newsstand cover is done in sort of a traditional 1950s Archie style), the current issue, the Riverdale gang swap sexes. Yep, the boys become girls and the girls become boys. This doesn’t happen voluntarily; Sabrina the Teenage Witch has a snarky cat who casts a spell so that the kids can see things from the other side of the gender bend. Hilarity ensues, and the point is made. Two points, if one wants to infer a warning about the dangers of catnip.

Mind you, I like weird. Weird is the antidote to boring. It’s the elixir that promotes experimentation and new story concepts. But I doubt Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead and Reggie will be getting permanent sex change operations any time soon.

Mister Weatherbee… Well, I’m not so sure.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil’s Autumnal Time Warp


“Daredevil”, “Hark! A Vagrant” Lead 2012 Harvey Awards Winners

lifetime-achievement-john-romita-jr-sr-stan-lee-300x401-6449237If you weren’t following our Twitter feed or our Facebook page in real time on Saturday night (and good heavens, why weren’t you?) the 2012 Harvey Awards were given out at the Baltimore Comic-Con. [[[Daredevil]]] was the big winner of the night with four wins for Best Series, Best New Series, Best Inker and Best Writer. [[[Hark! A Vagrant]]]‘s Kate Beaton won three with Best Online Comics Work, the Special Award for Humor, and Best Cartoonist. [[[Jim Henson’s Tale Of Sand]]] by Ramon Perez won two for Best Original Graphic Album and Best Story, tying [[[Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition]]] with wins for Best Domestic Reprint Project and the Special Award for Excellence in Presentation, and J.H. Williams on [[[Batwoman]]] snagging Best Artist and Best Cover Artist.

The Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award from the Hero Initiative was given posthumously to Joe Kubert, while the Lifetime Achievement Award was handed to John Romita Jr. by his father and Stan Lee, much to JR JR’s shock and surprise.

Phil LaMarr did an excellent job as Master of Ceremonies, speaking from the heart as a true fanboy who’s made good as the voice of Green Lantern and Samurai Jack, as well as (and I didn’t know this until after the ceremony) playing future Mr. Terrific writer Eric Wallace in Free Enterprise. It didn’t really matter that he was a first-time host since, as he commented, the Harvey Awards were starting over and renumbering from #1. The keynote speech was delivered by Ross Richie, Big Kahuna at BOOM! And for our part, ComicMix was proud to be one of the many sponsors of the Harvey Awards this year.

The nominees are below, with winners in boldface.

1. Best Writer

Joshua Hale Fialkov, ECHOES, Top Cow
Laura Lee Gulledge, PAGE BY PAIGE, Amulet Books
Jeff Lemire, ANIMAL MAN, DC Comics
Jason Shiga, EMPIRE STATE: A LOVE STORY (OR NOT), Abrams ComicArts
Mark Waid, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics

2. Best Artist

Paolo Rivera, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
Chris Samnee, CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY, Marvel Comics
Jason Shiga, EMPIRE STATE: A LOVE STORY (OR NOT), Abrams ComicArts
Craig Thompson, HABIBI, Pantheon Books
J.H. Williams, BATWOMAN, DC Comics

3. Best Cartoonist

Kate Beaton, HARK! A VAGRANT, harkavagrant.com; print edition by Drawn and Quarterly
Jeremy Haun, PILOT SEASON: THE BEAUTY #1, Image Comics
Jeff Kinney, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: CABIN FEVER, Amulet Books
Roger Langridge, SNARKED, kaboom!
Comfort Love & Adam Withers, RAINBOW IN THE DARK, uniquescomic.com/rainbowinthedark
Craig Thompson, HABIBI, Pantheon Books

4. Best Letterer

Chris Eliopoulos, FEAR ITSELF, Marvel Comics
Laura Lee Gulledge, PAGE BY PAIGE, Amulet Books
Todd Klein, S.H.I.E.L.D.: ARCHITECTS OF FOREVER, Marvel Comics
David Lanphear, SECRET AVENGERS, Marvel Comics
Jason Shiga, EMPIRE STATE: A LOVE STORY (OR NOT), Abrams ComicArts

5. Best Inker

Laura Lee Gulledge, PAGE BY PAIGE, Amulet Books
Mark Morales, THOR, Marvel Comics
Sal Regla, THE MAGDALENA, Top Cow
Joe Rivera, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
Jason Shiga, EMPIRE STATE: A LOVE STORY (OR NOT), Abrams ComicArts

6. Best Colorist

Elizabeth Breitweiser, CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY, Marvel Comics
Francesco Francavilla, BLACK PANTHER: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR, Marvel Comics
Sunny Gho, ARTIFACTS, Top Cow
Dave McCaig, THE MAGDALENA, Top Cow
Dave Stewart, HELLBOY: THE FURY, Dark Horse

7. Best Cover Artist

John Tyler Christopher, ARTIFACTS, Top Cow
Marcos Martin, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
Paolo Rivera, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
Mark Simpson (Jock), DETECTIVE COMICS, DC Comics
J.H. Williams, BATWOMAN, DC Comics

8. Most Promising New Talent

Nick Bradshaw, ASTONISHING X-MEN, Marvel Comics
Nathan Edmondson, WHO IS JAKE ELLIS?, Image Comics
Laura Lee Gulledge, PAGE BY PAIGE, Amulet Books
Sara Pichelli, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics

9. Best New Series

ANGEL & FAITH, Dark Horse
DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
OZMA OF OZ, Marvel Comics
RACHEL RISING, Abstract Studio

10. Best Continuing or Limited Series

DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics
RACHEL RISING, Abstract Studio

11. Best Syndicated Strip or Panel

BIZARRO, Dan Piraro, syndicated by King Features Syndicate
CUL DE SAC, Richard Thompson, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate
DOONESBURY, Garry Trudeau, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate
MUTTS, Patrick McDonnell, syndicated by King Features Syndicate
PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, Stephen Pastis, syndicated by United Feature Syndicate

12. Best Anthology

DARK HORSE PRESENTS, edited by various, Dark Horse
FLIGHT #8, edited by Kazu Kibuishi, Villard Books
JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER, edited by Nate Cosby, Archaia Entertainment
SHAME ITSELF, edited by Tom Brennan, Marvel Comics
SOMEDAY FUNNIES, edited by Michael Choquette, Abrams ComicArts

13. Best Graphic Album – Original

[[[EMPIRE STATE: A LOVE STORY (OR NOT)]]], Abrams ComicArts
[[[HABIBI]]], Pantheon Books
[[[INFINITE KUNG FU]]], Top Shelf Productions
[[[JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND]]], Archaia Entertainment
[[[ONE SOUL]]], Oni Press
[[[PAGE BY PAIGE]]], Amulet Books

14. Best Graphic Album – Previously Published

[[[BIG QUESTIONS]]], Drawn & Quarterly
[[[DARK TOWER OMNIBUS]]], Marvel Comics
[[[THE DEATH RAY]]], Drawn & Quarterly
[[[ECHOES]]], Top Cow
[[[S.H.I.E.L.D.: ARCHITECTS OF FOREVER]]], Marvel Comics

15. Best Single Issue or Story

DAREDEVIL #7, Marvel Comics
ECHOES #5, Top Cow
GANGES #4, Fantagraphics
JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND, Archaia Entertainment
OPTIC NERVE #12, Drawn & Quarterly
ZORRO RIDES AGAIN #1, Dynamite Comics

16. Best Domestic Reprint Project


17. Best American Edition of Foreign Material

[[[ADVENTURES OF HERGE]]], Drawn & Quarterly
[[[THE KILLER VOL. 3: MODUS VIVENDI!]]], Archaia Entertainment
[[[SINGLE MATCH]]], Drawn & Quarterly

18. Best Online Comics Work

BATTLEPUG, Mike Norton
BUCKO, Erika Moen and Jeff Parker
GRONK, Katie Cook
HARK! A VAGRANT, Kate Beaton

19. Special Award for Humor in Comics

Kate Beaton, [[[HARK! A VAGRANT]]], harkavagrant.com; print edition by Drawn and Quarterly
Jeff Kinney, [[[DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: CABIN FEVER]]], Amulet Books
Roger Langridge, [[[SNARKED]]], kaboom!
Lela Lee, [[[FAIRY TALES FOR ANGRY LITTLE GIRLS]]], Abrams ComicArts

20. Special Award for Excellence in Presentation

JIM HENSON’S TALE OF SAND, designed by Eric Skillman, Archaia Entertainment
SOMEDAY FUNNIES, edited by Michael Choquette, Abrams ComicArts
WALT SIMONSON’S THE MIGHTY THOR ARTIST’S EDITION, designed by Randall Dahlk & edited by Scott Dunbier, IDW

21. Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation


22. Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers

ANYA’S GHOST, First Second
FRAGGLE ROCK, Archaia Entertainment
MYSTIC, Marvel Comics
OZMA OF OZ, Marvel Comics
SNARKED, kaboom!

Congratulations to all the winners!

REVIEW: The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy

The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy
By Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy
304 pages, Abrams, $40

There is so much visually wonderful about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films that this book seemed an obvious event. An oversized hardcover, it has amazing production values with gorgeous photography on heavy paper, cleanly designed (thank you, Chip Kidd), and overall appealing. Clearly, the authors had access to everyone from Nolan on down and they spoke freely about the challenges of conceiving themes to marketing the films.

And yet, everything feels like we’ve just touched the surface and each chapter –Screenplay, Production Design, Cast, Costumes & Makeup, The Shoot,  Special Effects & Stunts, Editing, Music & Sound, Visual Effects, and Marketing – all leave you wondering about what else happened. For example, during the Shoot, one chapter per film, you never get a feel for how Nolan directs his cast, or how he adjusts to the needs of each actor. How did Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal differ in their interpretation of Rachel Dawes. We’re left wondering why the comic book antecedents for most of the characters are referenced but not Henri Ducard nor are we told about the various reveals through the films (such as Ducard really being Ra’s al Ghul, echoed in the third film by Miranda Tate being revealed as Talia). Michael Caine writes an introduction that extols Nolan’s virtues as a director, but after that, we’re still left wondering what those are.

This reads about two steps above the usual press materials sent out when films open, the canned features sent to media outlets hungry for content. The writing is clear and facile, but a little too fawning in spots and far from critical about things that worked and didn’t work.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is a real in-depth look at the wildly successful viral marketing. This section needed more content, more images of the viral marketing at work, and more examples of the Internet phenomena, especially for The Dark Knight, which raised the bar for films.

You get some great shots of how the costumes, sets, and vehicles were built and see some of the shooting challenges that were presented over the last decade. It certainly works as a primer to Nolan’s take on the caped crusader and his world, but you don’t necessarily get into the filmmaker’s head, especially why he felt he was done after three. Nor does he comment how his successful reinterpretation of the hero led to supervising next summer’s Man of Steel. The contributions from screenwriters David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan are acknowledged but hearing more from them would have certainly helped us better understand how the films evolved, especially the themes for the final film in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death. Nolan writes in his foreword, “I never thought we’d do a third – are there any great second sequels?” Well, there’s The Last Crusade for starters, but Batman has endured monthly for seventy-five years so the answer is yes.

The book is a fine read but given the size and weight of the tome, one would have hoped for depth in the written content. It leaves you want much, much more and at this price, readers deserve all that and more.

REVIEW: Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?
By Brian Fies
208 pages, $14.95, Abrams ComicArts

The future never turns out like people predict. Nostradamus was wrong. Authors, philosophers, painters, and clergy have all been wrong about what the world of tomorrow will turn out to be. Depending upon when you were born and where you were raised, the future is either shockingly surprising or deeply disappointing. Brian Fies’ Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? falls into the latter category.

The 2009 book is now out in softcover and a personal essay on what the world has become since the 1939 World’s Fair, which also parallels the development of geek culture since, after all, that was the first place Superman made a personal appearance as his popularity was just beginning to soar. The sky was the limit, it seemed, and the World’s Fair promised peace and prosperity at a time that war was already being fought in Europe and Asia. The fair seemed to be willing to war to stay away from our shores.

The promise of space adventures, which first appeared monthly in the pulp magazines, took off at this same period thanks to adventure serials in newspapers, radio exploits doled out in fifteen minute installments and then fifteen chapter serials shot on a shoestring but told at a such a breakneck pace you just had to come back next week to learn what happened next. At the same time, war shook America out of the Depression doldrums and forced manufacturing, technology, and science to stay one step ahead of the Axis powers.

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, the long-awaited follow-up to Mom’s Cancer, is a unique graphic novel that tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with his father.

Spanning the period from the 1939 New York World’s Fair to the last Apollo space mission in 1975, it is told through the eyes of a boy as he grows up in an era that was optimistic and ambitious, fueled by industry, engines, electricity, rockets, and the atom bomb. An insightful look at relationships and the promise of the future, award-winning author Brian Fies presents his story in a way that only comics and graphic novels can.

Interspersed with the comic book adventures of Commander Cap Crater (created by Fies to mirror the styles of the comics and the time periods he is depicting), and mixing art and historical photographs, this groundbreaking graphic novel is a lively trip through a half century of technological evolution. It is also a perceptive look at the changing moods of our nation-and the enduring promise of the future.

Fies, best known for his award winning Mom’s Cancer, followed up with this look back at the promises of the past and the failure of the future to deliver. The story stretches from the World’s Fair to the final Apollo mission in 1975 and is told entirely from the point of view of Pop and Buddy and thanks to the miracle of comic book storytelling, the two age incredibly slowly while the world moves ahead in real time. It’s a conceit, using them as metaphors not actual characters, that doesn’t entirely work despite an Author’s Note up front, but it’s at worst a minor annoyance.

Interestingly, the book also tells the story of American society by showing the mindset as world events changed around us, going from the anything is possible 1940s to the disillusioned 1960s. Also reflective of this evolution are a series of faux comics featuring Commander Cap Crater and the Cosmic Kid. Imitating the styles of the 1940-1970s, these stories also show how comic books have grown ever more sophisticated in reaction to the changing readership. Fies does a terrific job matching the bad color registration and subtly adjusts the paper yellowing to reflect the ages as well as the ever more complex indicias.

The book also nicely integrates actual photography from space or of the fair along with images taken from the great futurist artist Chesley Bonestell. The storytelling, artwork, layout, pacing, and color are terrific and does a nice job taking us era to era even as our main characters oh so slowly grow and age. Dad remains representative of an American society whose time has passed and maintains his conservative stance which ultimately causes conflict with Buddy, who yearns for the future to be here now.

It’s the 1960s when everything changes as the Russians reach space before the Americans and it has become clear that the promises of the 1930s will not be kept. There’s a sense of anger and loss at this realization which also makes the 1970s a sad period when there’s little to believe in.

Still, Fies offers up an optimistic ending, pointing out the current technology boom of the last 10-15 years has once more awakened the endless possibilities offered in the years ahead. We may not be getting jet packs and interplanetary travel any time soon, but we are reminded there is a lot to look forward to.

REVIEW: Economix

By Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr
304 pages, $19.95, Abrams ComicArts

economix_cover-300x426-4222079Having never taken economics in college, I find the world of high finance needlessly complicated and confusing. You spend what you need to make a good; you sell it for a reasonable profit. Repeat. The problem, though, is that the world makes it far more complicated to determine how those goods are made or what a reasonable profit might be. And as globalization has altered the way everyone on Earth lives and works, things have grown ever more complex.

Thankfully Michael Goodwin saw the need for a basic primary on how the economy currently works and how we got here. Better, he decided to really make it easy to follow thanks to using the comic format, hence the graphic novel Economix. Nicely illustrated by Dan E. Burr, best known for Kings in Disguise, the book from Abrams starts off in The Distant Past and walks us on a parallel path between what really happened and how the early economist philosophers thought it should happen.

Along the way, Goodwin makes it clear that for too long, people hewed to theories that sounded great on paper but were impractical in the real world which is why the early bubbles occurred. He also introduces us to the keep economic and political players, and how he talks about them makes it clear which ones he finds laudable and which ones deserve mockery.

This is not a classroom textbook but has a distinct point of view so the result is that some people and events have their dimensionality stripped away, leaving a caricature to make his point. This trait is on display beginning with the Industrial Revolution all the way through the modern day economic woes (the book’s information is nicely current through mid-2011 so it remains relevant).

He makes it clear that the bigger corporations got, the less and less they were to be admired. Instead, they prove to be the villains you expect in graphic fiction and while there’s a lot here that’s true, it’s certainly just one point of view. Goodwin is also harsh to many people, notably Calvin Coolidge and Warren G. Harding, who watched America’s economy grow, burst, and couldn’t figure out how to pick up the pieces. Using their own words against them, certainly sounds convincing.

Where Goodwin excels is simplifying the verbiage so even guys like me can follow it. He also pauses to show what is happening around the world, since opening trade with Asia or the Russian Revolution certainly had a bearing on American dollars and cents. The book also doesn’t expect you to remember everything, constantly pointing you back to relevant pages such as “That’s right – we live in a mixed economy, not in pure capitalism. For instance, let’s take another look at modern New York. We saw on page 24 how trying to control everything wouldn’t work…”

Obviously, the most interesting chapters are the ones covering the times we live in. The book pointedly takes us from Reagonomics through the housing bubble, pausing to chart how our National Debt has grown through various presidential administrations and the decisions they made.  Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan both get taken task in this recounting. Clearly, today’s mess began in the 1980s and continues today.  A large part of the problem was the repeal of the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act in 1998 and today, many a politician and businessman has come to regret that – note the comments sandy Weill made last week.

Burr’s artwork nicely captures the text and makes it visually comprehensible with some fun portraits of how the economic machinery works, using iconic images of farmers, merchants, businessmen, and so on. He caricatures key figures and keeps his pages packed but not cluttered. On just a few cases his page layout and balloon placement challenge even the most veteran of comics readers so this might be a tough read for some novices but its well the effort.

A text like this would certainly help high school and college students gain their first taste of financial literacy and it comes recommended for the rest of us.