Tagged: Alex Ross

Marc Alan Fishman is Looking for Inspiration

Thanks in part to a very mystical social media maven, Unshaven Comics has recently enjoyed a bit of a renaissance on our Facebook page. With an increase of likes and, more important, engagement, I’ve been able to hold some really great conversations with our glut of fans. Most recently (as of my writing this), I brought up the question of our favorite artists. I did so because, to me, nothing immediately draws us all into the world of comic books before the art… pun wholly intended.

It’s the depiction – be it overtly bright and heroic or gothic and moody – of worlds impossible to live in that ultimately usher us into the pulp. The writing may, in turn, drive us further into our individual fandoms, but I’ll always believe that the visuals of comic bookery are inherently tied to our collective appreciation. Individual artists will hold our attention more than others. As such, I wanted to share with all of you a collection of these illuminated illustrators of whom I have felt a deeper connection to, that ultimately led me on my own long and winding path to being a creator myself.

Alex Ross

When tracking my love of comics, no artist comes to mind for me personally before Alex Ross. While I may have seen plenty of amazing illustrators in my youth prior, it was Ross and his affinity for the photorealistic that stopped me cold and forced me to enter into my now life-long love affair with sequential fiction. To see Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern per his brush, I was able to bridge the gap that had long stood between what felt like toy-box fodder and an art form. Not to dismiss the pantheon of amazing artists before him mind you. It was merely seeing heroes and villains in a new medium that opened my eyes to the potent pulp of Kirby, Ditko, and the like. Alex Ross makes the impossible seem possible, and because of it, his work on Marvels and Kingdom Come still remain my go-to examples when asked how best to break one’s self into the medium as a fan.

It was Alex Ross’s use of photo reference that calmed my own shaky nerves when it came time for me to dive into interior art. Knowing that I could use the tools of my fine art upbringing to help me build the worlds of the Samurnauts, I was able to overcome my lack of a skillset in creating something from nothing. It had long prevented me from ever trying to make comics. Seeing how Ross walked the line from a photo to a finished panel helped me, in my own meager way, do the same.

Mike Mignola

And let’s just go ahead and leap to the antithesis. Mike Mignola is one of those artists that captivated me the second I saw his angular and moody artwork. The way he balanced his awkward forms with garish shadows and minimal detail helped me see how an artist could make a world alien to our own even more alien. And because his work is most often simply colored, he helped me find an affinity for a less-is-more approach to a comic. While I myself can’t say that I see any of his influence in my own work… I oftentimes find myself with a comic or two of his on my side-table when I am in the very beginning of planning a page. And while someday I may trust myself to push my own style into a Mignola-esque direction, until then, I can simply enjoy the work he produces.

Mike Allred

Like many of my specific generation, my honest-to-Rao first look of Allred’s work was the animated intro to Kevin Smith’s Mallrats. Mike Allred’s simple-retro-hipper-than-thou art leaped off the movie screen far better than the dialogue deluge of Smith’s Generation X stoner flick ever could. Subsequent deep dives into the X-Statix, Madman, X-Force, and others only deepened my considerable admiration. And above Ross or Mignola, Allred’s work is presently on the tip of my own tongue – artistically speaking.

Mike Allred’s clean lines, kinetic figures, and throw-back style is 1000% what is pushing me towards my newest endeavors in the medium. With my forthcoming submission in Mine! to the subsequent spiritual sequel in the Samurnauts series, I am working hard to push my style into a similar vein. At present, my odd mashing of photo-realistic figures with overly fussy coloring served its purpose; continuing to revisit Allred’s work is forcing me to do what the best artists do… reinvent myself to become more myself such as it were.

Next week, I’ll be focusing on the yang to the artist’s ying. Excelsior!

 

Martha Thomases: Save The Day!

Superman was not my first.

Yes, I know, I have been adamant in my assertions that I loved superhero comics from the time I was five years old. And that is true. But before I started to read Superman in the comics, before I even saw him on my black-and-white television set, I fell for another. Hard.

And now, Mighty Mouse is coming back to comics.

It is difficult to put into words how much Mighty Mouse meant to me. It didn’t matter that the character was male, and a rodent. I totally identified. Perhaps it helped that I was three years old, and I thought that jumping on my bed and singing the theme song was essentially the same as fighting the bad guys.

There have been Mighty Mouse revivals in the past, most notably by Ralph Bakshi in the Reagan years. It was fun at times, and my husband was a big fan of Bakshi. To me, including references to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll missed what I considered to be the point. Yes, Mighty Mouse was simple and two-dimensional and (you should pardon the expression) squeaky clean.

I thought that was a feature, not a bug.

There is a tendency among some modern creators to think that children’s entertainment must include winks to their parents, some references that will go over the kids’ heads to amuse the adults. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The Muppets, especially, are terrific at it.

(Note: I am not including examples like the classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons because they were not created specifically for children, but rather to be part of a movie program. Le pedant, c’est moi.)

In my opinion, there are many more examples that are less successful. In general, I don’t find the Dreamworks animated features satisfying, because the scripts make me think the writers want me to know that they are absolutely not children but smart, hip adults. Smart and hip, maybe, but give me Pixar’s heart any day.

So I’m not sure how I feel about Mighty Mouse being retooled, even though it seems that I am one of the target geeks. I mean, I love Alex Ross, but his romantic realism seems contrary to the dynamic crudeness of the original Terrytoons aesthetic.

On the other hand, Solly Fisch wrote one of my favorite Superman stories during the New52, starring Krypto.

I’ll probably check it out. You should, too. Let’s hope that we lovingly pass it on to the toddlers in our lives, of all ages.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Rebirther Movement

Ross DC

So, DC Comics is vowing – once again – to reset-ish their universe via the “Rebirth” event coming soon to a comics shoppe near you. And DC’s CCO Geoff Johns posted a heartfelt mission statement into the back of the current crop of DC comics to reannounce it, since Dan DiDio announcing it doesn’t count or something. Well, knowing that some of us snarky malcontents have long abandoned the ship, Newsarama was happy enough to reprint his plea. Let me paraphrase:

Dear Fans, remember when I wrote great books, and you loved DC? Well, pretend the New 52 never happened, and come back. We totally get that some of you got mad and left, but because of reasons… we’re making good books again. Because our creators have passion. And I wrote those ‘Rebirth’ books about Green Lantern and The Flash… so that name is synonymous with not sucking. You know, unlike ‘Crisis’ or ‘One Year Later’, or ‘Trinity’, or ‘Flashpoint’. So, come back. I swear it’s worth it this time, you cynical pricks. Love, Geoff Johns.

All my snark aside, Johns hits on some of the major cornerstones of what did make DC great for me as a fan not that long ago; legacy, a singular and understandable continuity, and solid stories that pit heroes against villains in new and interesting lights. The pre-New52 DCU was good. Maybe even great. The Flash had a veritable family. As did the Bats, and the Supes, and the multi-colored Lantern brigades. But as with all good things, the boardroom saw potential sales stagnation and slammed on the brakes. Then came “Flashpoint,” and a new universe was made. But you knew all this. And you knew/know that the entire purpose of the system shock was to place new #1s on the shelves; because that makes for temporary sales spikes. And new merch. And new opportunities for newness. Newness begets money. And so on.

Plus, Marvel kinda sorta did it too, and their movies are minting billions.

But forgive me Geoff. It’s all a bit “too little, too late”, isn’t it? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? Well, I don’t know how the saying goes anyways. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re doing the same dance again, and somehow expecting different results. As I stated previously, with Rebirth comes the same damned shit in new packaging. It’s enough to make me declare – ahem (and please excuse this harsh-but-necessary-language) fucking stop it.

Once again Johns, DiDio, Lee, and the lot of DC execs are cramming specials, new #1s, and semi-monthly comic drops on us under the guise of “the continuing pursuit of giving our fans what they love.” And, sure, they changed the price point (a dollar less per issue, for an undisclosed page count per book), but that won’t matter when fans of a character are asked once again to invest more money per month to enjoy the adventures of a given character! And DC knows this. Because if you are a true fan, you likely would give a chance to all the new creative teams surrounding a character you like; sort of what DC hoped fans would give nearly every New 52 title at least a starting arc to pique their interest.

Rebirth? Hardly. Consider it just another rebranding. And as always: it’s a game of Darwinian survival; those books that don’t sell X copies will fall by the wayside, lest they be an upcoming movie or animated feature.

Deadpool 13And don’t paint me a complete malcontent here, folks. I loved DC comics from the moment I purchased my first back issue of Shadow of the Bat when I was 13. I followed the entirety of Kyle Rayner’s career until Hal Jordan rebirthed himself. I purchased coffee table books of Alex Ross art, and read the DC Encyclopedia until the spine broke. But a decade worth of decline beginning in my college years through my “spendy twenties” right up until I had a new mouth to feed and a mortgage to pay left me embittered to the cheap tactics of comics-by-committee.

A part of me doesn’t even blame a true fan like Geoff Johns for winding up in this place. He wrote (and still writes) amazing stories. His heart is seemingly pure. In his lament, he mentions terms like legacy, epic storytelling, and my favorite: honoring what’s come before while looking to what will come tomorrow. It’s everything I want to hear as a fan.

But, Mr. Johns, what comes tomorrow is more of the same: a litany of new series I’m supposed to drop coin for, full well knowing we’ll be right back to retcon city long before my son is practicing for his Bar Mitzvah. You know it. I know it.

Sorry, Geoff. Your words were hollow. And much like Rebirth to come? I’m not buying it.

Stay tuned next week, when I tell everyone what I am buying in place of “The Big Two.”

Mike Gold: Well, It Ain’t Much Of A Secret War

Secret_Wars_9_CoverOur friends at Marvel Comics have informed the world that “the biggest Marvel event of all time” will come to an end four weeks from today, on January 13, 2016.

Of course, the “biggest Marvel event of all time” is in the mind of the beholder. Personally, I would have picked the release of the first Fantastic Four #1 back in 1961, or the release of Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939. But that’s just the way I see it, and I’m the one digressing from the point.

They’re talking about the release of the ninth and final issue of Secret Wars, the third such dull mega-event employing that title. The penultimate issue came out last week, and that one was late. This one is later. In fact, it is so late that the entire Marvel Universe which was supposed to be upended by this series (opinions differ) already has been upended to the extent that it was to be upended, and the “All New All Different” #1s started shipping last month. The House of Idea delivered something like six second issues this week alone, plus one or two third issues, plus two All New All Different first issues. Again, I’m talking about what arrived in the stores today.

So, to the extent that the “event” was an event, the ending is not. Well, maybe a little, as Alex Ross’s beautifully subtle cover suggests (as does Scottie Young’s variant cover, but it’s done is a somewhat different style). I’m not knocking the series itself; it’s pretty much as good as those things get and, having stewarded one of these things myself, I know how difficult that is. Well, maybe not: I worked for Dick Giordano and not for the ghost of Walt Disney.

Secret Wars Scottie YoungBut most all of the cats are out of the bag, and the one or two left in were clearly in need of kitty litter. Once you blow the ending in many dozen comics that precede the finish, you’ve got no finish. Just one long, nicely illustrated footnote.

Secret Wars 2015 has been a fiasco. Counting the number of comics that tied in to the series is a lot like guessing the number of jelly beans in the jar at the voter’s registration office: it could be done, but it’s far easier to just talk a walk. There were Ultimate tie-ins, 2099 tie-ins, Age of Apocalypse tie-ins, Marvel 1602 tie-ins, House of M tie-ins… and something called “Battleworld.”

I read a number of the many Battleworld mini-series, and some of those were pretty good. Therefore, some were not. But, really folks, we used to get those sort of stories in one sitting in a giant-sized comic book called What If? Battleworld should have been titled Why Bother?

Having talked with my fellow comics fans at a ridiculous number of conventions and store appearances lately, I know I am not the least bit alone in saying this. “All New All Different” is just more of the same old same old, to be dicked around with in next summer’s Big Event.

Marvel said Secret Wars 2015 wasn’t a reboot, and as far as I can tell it mostly sort of wasn’t. It’s a reboot in the way that the Doctor Who revival a decade ago was: some things have changed, but that change came in a linear fashion. However, there is one important difference: the Doctor Who revival was quite, quite good.

I’ve been a Marvel Comics fan since Fin Fang Foom was a hatchling, so I don’t want to end on a downer. So I’ll say this: despite its many problems, its overreach and its oversaturation, Secret Wars 2015 made a hell of a lot more sense than Convergence.

 

Mike Gold: Sweet Home Comicon

Mike Gold Boba Hawk

Last week, I reported in this space I was about to leave for Wizard World – Chicago, well-known to readers as my home town and the first love of my life. I got back late yesterday, when I wrote (or will write, depending upon your concept of consensual reality) these fabled words, a heartbeat before deadline.

We ComicMixers (Glenn, Brandy, Marc and me) had a swell time, some of it actually at the convention. We met all kinds of people who were interested in ComicMix Pro Services, which gives me hope, and I got a chance to catch up with a whole lot of friends. Unbelievably awesome meals with; Wednesday, Alex Ross, Hilary Barta, Monte Beauchamp and Jim Wiznewski; Thursday, Dean Haspiel, Danny Fingeroth, J.J. Sedelmaier and Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson; Friday, Ty Templeton and KT Smith; Saturday, if I told you I’d have to kill you; Sunday, The Unshavens. Nothing makes me happier with my clothes on than fine conversation, and I was truly lucky to break bread with all these folks. Including the people I can’t tell you about. Yet.

I was on two panels – a ComicMix Pro Services Tells You How To Get Press For Your Comic Book panel where we got to meet even more talented indy writers and artists, and the Chicago Comics History Panel with Danny and J.J., Larry Charet, Ron Massingill, and the completely wonderful Maggie Thompson. It dawned on me that I’ve been going to conventions since 1968 and Maggie has been going to them… well, longer, but this is the first time we were on a panel together. That simply defies the odds. I’d crawl over a mile of broken glass to do a panel with Maggie.

That latter panel provided the opportunity to do a nice and extremely well-deserved tribute to my former partner, First Comics Co-Creator Rick Obadiah. That was very cathartic, and Rick would have enjoyed it. He wouldn’t have believed it, but he would have enjoyed it nonetheless.

I haven’t done too many shows this year, far fewer than usual. That was fine, but it was great to see fans and old friends and about twelve thousand cosplayers dressed as Deadpool. Next show: the Baltimore Comic-Con, in Baltimore (hey, Wizard World – Chicago was in Rosemont) September 25 through 27. I love that show.

One more thing. Shortly before Wizard World closed on Sunday, I was handed the opportunity to take the above picture with Boba Hawk. As a lifetime Chicago Blackhawks fan, that was… well, you can see for yourself in the photo. No, Svengoolie wasn’t there, but I wore his t-shirt anyway. It glows in the dark, and at a comics convention, one can never tell.

Martha Thomases, Mistress of the Universe?

Obama by Ross
It’s probably a good thing that I’m not in charge of the universe. Aside from the randomness of my whims, I am easily distracted by the shiny.

And I’m not good at debates. I froth at the mouth when I get angry, and my opinions require more evidence than I can supply in 90 seconds.

Still, I think political discourse is important. And, with a big election ahead of us next year, I think that comic book conventions might be good places to have it.

I’m not saying that we should invite more political candidates to comic book conventions. First, let’s invite more women and people of color and more LGBTQ creators. However, I do think that the people who shape our beloved medium have political (and moral and ethical) opinions that might be of interest to their fans, especially in regards to how these opinions shape their work.

Neither am I saying that panels should feature panelists arguing in favor one political party or another. Rather, let’s hear them talk about how issues – climate change, economic inequality, the Middle East, reproductive rights, the role of religion in the legal system, immigration – affect the kinds of stories they tell.

Decades ago, when I was first reading Philip K. Dick’s work, I remember being surprised by how many of his stories relied on the assumption that the temperature of the planet would rise drastically in the next century. This was long before the term “global warming” was a common expression in general discourse. It was an interesting nuance to his world-building: people had to stay indoors a lot more than they do today, and needed lots and lots more protective clothing. Later, I read a story of his that was very strongly anti-abortion. Politically, I disagreed with him, but it was still an interesting read. And it was a much more effective way to understand the positions of a person with whom I disagreed than the kind of screaming and yelling that passes as debate on our modern media.

Lots and lots of people who work in comics are progressives. Lots and lots are conservative. (If you click on that link, don’t read the comments. Really. Don’t read them.) For the most part, comic book fans are so used to being marginalized that we overlook these differences among ourselves to revel in the joy of finding others who like comics.

I think we can use this to our advantage in the marketplace of ideas.

The panels I imagine wouldn’t be intentionally slanted towards one position or another. The moderator wouldn’t have an agenda. Instead, creators would talk about how the issues of the day influence them creatively. I imagine this would mostly be about superhero comics, with their overlays of science fiction and fantasy. I may think that because of the Philip K. Dick stories I mentioned above.

Certainly, people who have rented booth space can express themselves in whatever ways the convention permits.  This isn’t even anything new. At all sorts of conventions, I’ve seen lots of items for sale that I liked and didn’t like. That’s cool. As long as I’m not personally hassled, I don’t care how anyone else spends their leisure time or dollars.

(Note: I consider myself personally hassled if someone shoots endangered species, describes another person only in relationship to that person’s sexual characteristics, or economically exploits people. I have boundary issues.)

The world is starting to notice that comic book fans are not all like the stereotypical fat kid living in his parents’ basement. As a group, we’re pretty well-educated and productive. We know things.

Let’s use these powers for good.

 

 

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Notes from C2E2

A week ago Friday, my studio mates and I met once again in the hallowed halls of Chicago’s McCormack Place to ring in the first big show of the year for Unshaven Comics. ReedPop’s C2E2 is to the Midwest what SDCC is to the west coast, or Reed’s sister show the New York Comic Con is to the east.

Unlike those two aforementioned behemoths, C2E2 doesn’t come with huge PR stunts, a multitude of multimedia stars, or what I’d personally dub a wave of humanity. Instead, the still-amazingly-large show boasts only one or two A-List celebs, a mish-mash of medium weighted ‘hey, I know [that person]!’, and an endless sea of comic-making talent. I’d dare suggest that comics are still the primary focus of the show. I might be very wrong on that point… but damn it if I’m not an optimist.

The show for we Unshaven Lads wasn’t what I’d hoped. You see, as the business-end of our business (natch), I’ve always adhered to the mandate that when we repeat a show we should see a ten-percent increase in book sales. To me, that represents us continually adding to our meager fan-base, in addition to keeping those on board who are here with us for the ride. This year, the fifth I believe for C2E2, marked the first time we didn’t meet or exceed that goal. And to rub it in, we did nine-percent less than last year. As the dollar and cents guy, my need for explanation has nipped at me all week.

To be honest: I got nothing. The fact is we left that show having sold 330 books and plenty of posters and trading cards. We didn’t meet our goals, but that won’t stop us from returning next year. If anything, it’s motivated us to up our game. More on that to come in future columns.

If I may stray to a tangental story…

You’d be surprised after pitching the same pitch thousands of times we really only hear a handful of responses. Most typically, ‘Wow, what a mouthful!’, ‘Oh my god that’s everything I love!’, ‘Hey [so and so] c’mere and listen to this!’, or the always wonderful ‘Great. Where’s Dan Dougherty’s table?’

Every now and again, a fan when pitched to will turn the tables to present us with unpublished work of their own. Traditionally its done with an air of pity mixed with hope and pride. In their mind, you showed me yours, now I’ll show you mine eventually leads to them hopping behind the table with us after only a cursory glance at their magnum opus. Because clearly our three headed logo deserves a mysterious fourth. Or so I might assume.

As so many of us know, when you want to break in to the comic industry it can feel like an impossible mountain to climb. An artist can produce a portfolio, and if they are skilled enough (and meet deadlines), work is out there – albeit accrued most likely through networking like an insane mental patient. If you’re a budding writer, your choices are far more limited. And every convention we go to… out comes a few of them right to our table. Their hopes placed in our hands, with a pitch in tow. After leaving C2E2, we Unshaven Lads left with a bit of wisdom to share with all those folks who consider this common practice.

The sad truth of it all is that breaking in to comics is as simple as coughing up the time, energy, and money enough to produce work on your own… and then taking that petrifying leap of faith to put it in the hands of unsuspecting strangers in hopes that they’ll want to keep it in exchange for a few shekels. To sell from the fan’s side of the aisle to the creators though crosses an unspoken line. Suffice to say, when we’re on the creator’s side, it’s to sell, not buy. And trust us, we also come to shows to buy.

In an interview long-long ago, the great and powerful forehead of comics, Alex Ross, was noted in saying that the way he broke in was not in effect any particular meeting or casual chit-chat at a con. It was made due to professionalism in his presentation. His portfolio was neat, clean, and presented with confidence. Meetings were sought, and attended with focus and zeal. If Unshaven Comics left the 2015 C2E2 with any advice to give those would-be suitors trying to make it to the other side of the aisle, it’d be to heed that statement.

It could be clear enough that artists in the alley aren’t often seeking new talent to create with. And for those who do, well, they’d be apt to put up a sign about portfolio reviews. But I digress. The truth of the matter is though, that when a fan presents us with their lone copy of their manuscript in a sweaty manila envelope… there’s little to nothing we can do then and there to be of any help. In between pitching, selling, drawing, and networking… being able to focus, read, and absorb someone’s work isn’t going to happen. Instead, a few phrases will be skimmed, while we figure out a way to not be a dick to the fan we’re still trying to sell our own book to.

And when an artist presents his or her portfolio – even if they are amazing – the likelihood that we’ll have the wherewithal to save their contact information and reach out after the show is as apt to happen as DC nabbing a copy of The Samurnauts, and signing us to an exclusive deal.

In the end, we know how hard that road to the other side of the aisle is. And we know because in 2005, we were the ones walking from booth to booth peddling our lone issue of a comic we knew would break us in. Simply put? It didn’t. So we put it out ourselves, and earned our fans one at a time. We’re still doing it now. And faced with less sales than the year past? It’s only made us hungrier for the future.

Consider that a Chicago-sized deep dish pizza for thought.

 

Mike Gold: Our Pulp Roots

Justice IncOne would think that because the roots of comic book heroes are deeply planted in the forest of pulp heroes, adapting such characters to the four-color medium should be a snap. Despite the superlative efforts of such talents as Garth Ennis, Frank Robbins, Eduardo Barreto, ComicMix’s own Denny O’Neil and a handful of others, this is not the case.

Let us politely say that, overall, pulp heroes have enjoyed a mixed reception. Some good, some bad, some wonderful, some insipid. Sturgeon’s Revelation remains in complete control.

In making the transition, some people resort to measures that put these characters in modern times. Usually, that trick doesn’t work: The Shadow, The Spider et al are creatures of their own times. Sometimes they become something different – in the 1960s Archie Comics turned The Shadow into a routine, and boring, costumed superhero. At least the guy who wrote most of it, Jerry Siegel, knew something about capes.

These days most of the pulp hero resurrections are being handled by Dynamite Comics, and by and large they’re doing a fine job. I didn’t care for their approach to The Spider, but I was surprised that their putting Doc Savage in the modern era while maintaining his past actually works. Their Shadow is mostly terrific; there’s a lot of it so some is better than others.

It’s hard to go wrong with Gail Simone, and she fits Red Sonja like it’s her second skin. Probably has something to do with the red hair. Zorro has been in fine hands, particularly the stories by Matt Wagner and then even more particularly those stories drawn by John K. Snyder III. The idea of team-up up Zorro with Django is nothing short of brilliant, and Quentin Tarantino teamed up with Wagner to provide the story.

Because The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Avenger are all owned and licensed by Advance Publications (better known as Condé Nast, which is one of their divisions), it was inevitable that these three would share their own mini-series. Any fan with an appreciation for history felt his spider-sense a-tingling when Dynamite announced they had all three licenses. The concept is akin to skating on thin ice.

Not to worry. This just-completed mini-series, Justice Inc., was written by Michael Uslan, and Michael knows his stuff.

Now, you might be asking “Geez, Mike, what the hell are you talking about?” In fact, you might have been asking this question for several years now, but I’ll just assume you’re referring to Mr. Uslan’s far greater notoriety as a Hollywood producer who specializes in bringing comic book characters to the screen. You know, like all those Batman movies. And the forthcoming Doc Savage movie, the one IMDB says is starring Chris Hemsworth (maybe) and is to be directed by Shane Black. Yep, that’s the guy.

However, he’s also written quite a few comic books. In fact, I regard him as one of our best writers – I will read any comic book with his name on it, and I just might even pay for it. (I heard the phrase “hey, kid, this ain’t a library” so often I salivate at each utterance). And he’s done some truly innovative stuff: he’s the guy who married Archie Andrews off to both Betty and Veronica – sadly, separately – and now he’s got Betty and Veronica out of Riverdale for a year in Europe. He’s written Batman, THUNDER Agents, The Spirit, The Shadow / Green Hornet crossover “Dark Nights,” the revived Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip, Beowulf, and an issue of DC’s original Shadow run. And other stuff.

Joining Uslan on Justice Inc. is artist Giovanni Timpano, who is quite up for the challenge of drawing such a character-heavy story in period. Covers – well, there are a lot of them by a lot of good people. Dynamite tends to approach variant covers the way a 16-year old boy approaches an orgy. But, yes, Alex Ross has one over ever of the six issues.

Since we’ve got at least three heroes and sometimes their associates, I should note the villains are two of the pulp classics: Doc Savage’s arch enemy John Sunshine and The Shadow’s persistent creep Dr. Rodil Mocquino, a/k/a The Voodoo Master. These are choices that might be obvious to the hard-core, but they are so for a good reason: they are solid villains right out of the best pulp traditions.

Even though Michael and I have yet to work together, he avoids violating one of my great many cardinal rules: he keeps the in-jokes accessible to the knowing without getting in the way of those that don’t know. Indeed, in-jokes abound in Justice Inc, ranging from very cute to quite clever. He takes some extremely minor liberties with the characters: Doc Savage is a bit more sarcastic than in the pulps, The Shadow seems a bit more OCD given the fact that he’s hardly a team player (unless it’s his team), and The Avenger’s origin story is bent slightly to accommodate this being set at the very beginning of his career.

You might ask why I’m plugging this mini-series after its conclusion last week. Outside of the fact that I’m absurd, it is possible that your friendly neighborhood comics store has a run left, and you should always support your local friendly neighborhood comics store. Aside from that, the trade paperback collection comes out in mid-May and is available for advance order from Amazon.

I doubt Uslan is going to give up his day job in order to churn out more great comics. That’s just a guess, but, damn, I can hope.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Dr. Photoshoot…

or

How I learned to stop caring what someone more talented than I can do, and love my models instead.


When last we spoke, I’d revealed the initial steps to Unshaven Comics building a book from the ground up. We covered our notes process, outlining, and then the breakdown. That leads us to the first steps that require artistic direction. Shall we venture forth then, true believer?

The Gestalt of Gestures

With our breakdowns in hand, Matt Wright (penciler, inker, craft beer drinker) and I then build each page in loose gestures; I create the final digital page and the panels, and Matt and I frame each figure within the panel. When complete, we’re better able to see if the story we’re telling is compelling. We can test the ebb and flow of action, as well as pace out the most dramatic beats. In short, our gestural comps help us literally sketch out a complete comic.

DreadnutsThis is by no means a step to wash over quickly, albeit it’s not one that takes incredibly long to complete. Case in point, we finished an issue this past Saturday night. Most of the time we would read aloud the beat from the breakdown and then discuss how we envisioned it being laid out on a page. Matt had a trusty sketch book next to him, alongside my open page in Adobe Illustrator, where I lay out the panels, as well as digitally ink my pages. Over those final six hours we tend to bicker and banter about the best ways to capture action, and drama. We pour over graphic novels of our favorite artists (John Romita Jr., Alex Ross, and Brent Anderson come to mind and to finger, often). We sketch, erase, debate, sketch, agree, and then retranslate to loose (“terrible looking”) sketches within the pre-made pages. These comps now serve as visual shorthand for our next steps.

While we’ll obviously refine compositions and continue to craft the page as we go… this step is the most heavy lifting we do during pre-production. Shortly thereafter? It’s time to gather our resources. In simpler terms, it’s Photoshoot time!

Just Shoot Me. Well not me… Them.

The picture that came emblazoned at the beginning of this post was taken a week ago at our fifth Samurnaut photoshoot. A bit of backstory:

When Unshaven Comics sported mere stubble on our chinny-chin-chins, Matt was our only artist. While I did do all the coloring, letter, half of the writing, and all of the graphic design… I feared venturing out of my comfort zone. Because Matt is very much my brother from another mother, he had no fear looking me in the eye and calling me out – get drawing, or die trying. I did get a BFA with a concentration in drawing and printmaking. I did know how to draw. But my fear that a comic creator worth his salt had to be able to work without reference kept me clinging to those tasks I was more than qualified for. Long story short, I swallowed my pride and accepted the fact that I could make sequential panel art that I was satisfied with (as in: I’m happy with it, but I’d never be one to say it’s anything more than passable)… so long as I had reference for literally everything I’d need to draw.

So when we created the Samurnauts, we needed models. Lucky for me, I am wealthy with friends. Even luckier: many of them are naturally gifted and funny folks willing to become super heroes and zombie-cyborg space pirates for the price of some pizza and access to my cache of Nerf weaponry. With each comic we create, Unshaven Comics open-casts our way through each part, and rents out a local venue that will leave us alone long enough to literally stage each panel, and capture it on digital film. Thank Rao we have no shame acting like 13 year-olds around each other.

And, after a few short hours of contorting, twisting, punching, kicking, nerfing, and general whackado, we break so that we Unshaven Lads can return to our lair for the next portion of comic creation.

Sage Advice I Was Once Given

“Learn to highlight your strengths and hide your weaknesses from the public eye. But behind the scenes, never stop learning or challenging yourself to overcome those things you fear. If you can’t draw hands, then you need to draw them everyday until you no longer fret over them. You’ll never have to love your work – you’ll just need to be able to live with it.”

And next week…

… I’ll pull the curtain back even further in a chapter I like to call “Your Mother’s A Tracer!”

 

Death With Archie? Archie Andrews Dies In July

Archie Comics announced the unthinkable today: Legendary comic book character Archie Andrews will die to conclude the hit LIFE WITH ARCHIE comic series.

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The iconic comic book character, beloved by millions around the globe for over 70 years, will sacrifice himself heroically while saving the life of a friend in the pages of July’s LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, the final issue in the flash-forward series, which spotlights Archie’s adventures after high school and college.

“We’ve been building up to this moment since we launched LIFE WITH ARCHIE five years ago, and knew that any book that was telling the story of Archie’s life as an adult had to also show his final moment,” said Archie Comics Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “Archie has and always will represent the best in all of us—he’s a hero, good-hearted, humble and inherently honorable. This story is going to inspire a wide range of reactions because we all feel so close to Archie. Fans will laugh, cry, jump off the edge of their seats and hopefully understand why this comic will go down as one of the most important moments in Archie’s entire history. It’s the biggest story we’ve ever done, and we’re supremely proud of it.”

The story will be available in multiple formats, including an extra-large magazine-size LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, two comic-sized issues—LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 and #37—and a trade paperback collecting the entire story, written by regular LIFE WITH ARCHIE writer Paul Kupperberg, with art by Pat & Tim Kennedy and Fernando Ruiz.

While LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 shows readers Archie’s final moments, #37 leaps a year into the future, showcasing how the remaining members of the Riverdale gang—including Jughead, Betty & Veronica and Reggie—have honored the legacy of their dear friend. Both stories will be collected in the double-sized LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 magazine and upcoming trade paperback.

In addition to the acclaimed regular LIFE WITH ARCHIE creative team, the two comic book issues—sold exclusively at comic shops in July—will feature a pantheon of artistic luminaries contributing covers to the historic issue, including Francesco Francavilla, Fiona Staples, Ramon Perez, Walt Simonson, Jill Thompson, Mike Allred, Cliff Chiang, Adam Hughes, Tommy Lee Edwards and Alex Ross.

No word yet as to whether Archie will be coming back in six months as a cyborg, an alien, a black man in a suit of armor, or a teenag– never mind.