Tagged: Brian Bolland


DreddDespite Karl Urban uttering, “I am the law” his overall demeanor was just one of the many disappointments in the new film take on the classic 2000 AD hero, Judge Dredd. Dredd is out on home video this week from Lionsgate and it is amazing how bored I was watching it.  The majority of the 96 film takes place in the Peach Trees Block and is effectively Dredd playing John McLane, trying to survive a sealed off building under siege.

It’s hard to watch this without comparing it with the Sylvester Stallone misfire of the 1990s. While the story sucked and the star violated the character by taking his helmet off a lot, it looked like the weekly comic come to life. The high tech, futuristic clutter of Mega City One was expertly captured, reminding us of how much the visual of Blade Runner derived from the British comic which has been around since 1977. Also, the costuming was perfect. Here, everything is scaled down and the Judge’s uniform does not look anywhere near as imposing.

Urban, no stranger to the genre, gets credit for playing the character accurately, keeping the helmet on and the upper lip and jaw prominent. On the other hand, he is not physically imposing as Stallone was or as Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra envisioned him.

We open with a voiceover setting the stage telling rather than showing and this vision is less imposing than the one in the comics. Somehow, the corridor from Boston to Washington has become this singular city with these 200+ story blocks that have become isolated communities. In this one, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a drug-dealer/gang leader has become the distributor for a new drug and a routine case pits Dredd and the rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) against an entire community out for blood.

This is more Anderson’s story than Dredd’s and we learn about her mutant ability is that of the most powerful psychic the Justice Department has ever seen. She is deemed ready for evaluation and goes out with Dredd and becomes embroiled in the case. Thirlby, a rising independent film star, is the best part of the film, but then again, she has the most to work with. Her interactions with the prisoner Kay (Wood Harris) give the film any sense of character.

Everyone else plays a type, from the stoic Dredd to the stereotypical Ma-Ma. Headey, a genre veteran, snarls nicely but has little else to do and seems not to care. Dredd is the most feared Judge of all but here, he lacks that reputation which diminishes the character.

The movie is a hard R with exceptionally graphic violence and gore courtesy of director Peter Travis. He’s done this sort of thing before and he handles it well, but doesn’t seem to know what else to do with the characters so has them run, hide, shoot, bleed, repeat.

The best of the extras is “Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd” (14:27) where creators Ezquerra and John Wagner, accompanied by Brian Bolland, Mark Millar, Jock, Chris Ryall and others, discuss the uniqueness of the character and the opportunity the series has given the writers and artists for topical social and political satire. Everything that is just over the top enough to remain entertaining and amusing in the comics is absent from the film. Screenwriter Alex Garland is exceptionally talented but appears to have read a Wikipedia entry about the series before writing the script. This is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the film, which died at the box office, as much for inept marketing as a poor adaptation of the source material.

The other special features include “Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd 3D” (15:21), although this is wasted on those of us who don’t care about 3-D; “Dredd” (1:53), “Dredd’s Gear” (2:31), “The 3rd Dimension” (2:00), about the film’s stereo, and “Welcome to Peach Trees” (2:33).There’s a little more Ma-Ma character substance in the motion comic prequel (2:57).

The combo set includes the 2-D, 3-Dand ultraviolet digital copy. This is the first combo set I have seen without a standard DVD version offered, a portent of the future.

Also included in this set is a digital copy of the film and an Ultraviolet stream or download.

Michael Davis: Why Do I Read Comics? Part 2


Some weeks ago I wrote part one of this series then I went to France and forgot to file it before I went. Once I arrived in France I was blown away by my comic experience and wrote about intending to file this once I returned.

When I returned a suicidal next door neighbor of mine placed a bag of shit on my doorstep and that pissed me off to such an extent that I completely forgot to file the article and instead dealt with that idiot whom I’m sure will never ever look at my house again after my visit to his home.

Why, you ask, did someone place a bag of shit on my doorstep? Long story short, this asswipe keeps feeding my dogs after being told numerous times not to.

So, dogs being dogs, they keep sniffing around his yard (we share a short brick wall in our backyards and my dogs can easily jump over it) looking for food. Well one of my dogs must have left a bundle of doo-doo as a “thank you for feeding us” or a “fuck you, where’s the food” on that particular visit.

Either way, this moron picks up the doggie doo and leaves it on my doorstep. I was so livid that I forgot to file this article again. Instead, I stood in front of my neighbor’s house throwing up gang signs while the stereo at my house blasted 50 Cent’s, “my gun go off.” I knocked on his door but he didn’t answer hence my gang and 50-cent serenade. In hindsight, perhaps I should not have been yelling “Open the door, bitch!”

 (And Now… Back To “Why Do I Read Comics?”)

Please refer to part one of this article. Last whenever, I wrote about my love of comics and how I stopped reading them all together by the time I got to college. I was pretty sure that I was done with comics when Frank Miller brought me back.

I was at all places, an Elton John concert, and the guy sitting next to me was reading a Frank Miller Daredevil. I smiled remembering when I was a young impressionable lad who once wasted his time on comics. The guy caught my smile and asked “Have you read this one yet?”

I told him I didn’t read comics anymore. He asked me why and I explained that I grew out of them, yada, yada, yada. He said (and he was right) that it sounded like I stopped reading comics because of peer pressure. He also offered that I didn’t seem like the type of guy who cared what anyone else thought.

That surprised me.

“What makes you say that? You just met me.” I said.

“Take a good look around.” He responded.

I was at Madison Square Garden and I did take a look around. Nothing struck me as anything that would give this guy a clue to what I cared about or not. I was about to ask him what he was smoking when it hit me.

As far as I could tell I was one of maybe four to possibly six black people who were there to see Elton John so, clearly, he was right, I’ve never cared about what anyone thought of me. It dawned on me at that moment that I did stop reading comics because I was concerned about how I would be perceived.

The look of “oh shit” must have taken up residence on my face because my new friend just laughed. He then did something I will always be thankful for, he gave me that copy of Daredevil to read while we waited for the opening act and while reading I’m sure my “oh shit” look never left my face.

I was amazed just how different and damn good Frank Miller’s Daredevil was. The comics I read before I stopped collecting were good but this was another kind of good, this was on a level I had not experienced before in comics.

Forbidden Planet is located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and has a huge comic book community presence. The next day I went there and purchased the entire run of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and returned to my home to eagerly read them.


I had no idea who this Miller guy was but these books were some of the greatest comics I’d ever read. In fact they were some of the greatest stories I’d ever read regardless of the format. After discovering Daredevil I went on a pretty good buying spree of comics and realized quickly that the game had changed in six years so much so that I was blown away almost daily by the work that was being done.

Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans, Walt Simonson’s Thor, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg and Moore and Bolland’s The Killing Joke were among the many new (to me) comics I was overdosing on. In the six years I was away from comics there had been a sea change and I was back, like an addict at a crack house.

For me that sea change still exists in the industry and that my friend is why I still read comics. Forget about the glut of Spider-Man or Batman titles. Forget the yearly cross over or the predictable “death of” storylines. Forget the gimmicks such as variant covers or stories “ripped from today’s headlines” like the gay character or Archie kissing black girl bullshit.

Forget all that crap, some of the work coming from today’s creators is just fantastic. I picked up a trade paperback of The Twelve from Marvel while in France and it was simply incredible and that’s just the tip of the creative iceberg of what is being done today.

Yes, comics for the most part are the same superhero crap that it has been for decades but the best of this industry, the original outstanding work being done in comics translates into the best of any industry.

Film, television or under-fucking-roos, the best material from comics makes any other medium worth watching or, in the case of Underoos, worth wearing.

To put it simply, I still read comics because no matter how old I am (21, Jean) comics are the best entertainment available for my money today and I don’t care who knows I think that way.

Oh, I’m sure some of you are wondering why the black guy from the hood was at an Elton John concert. The short answer is like comics; Elton John’s music is something I enjoy because he’s just that good. For any other explanation, consult someone who gives a fuck what other people think.

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Got Mad?


Marc Alan Fishman: BaltiMORE!

Yeah, I know. The illustrious Mike Gold has already written at length as to why the Baltimore Comic-Con is an amazing experience. But Mike’s career in comics is older than I am. I had thought, for only a second, that maybe I should just move on and try another column to piss people off. But here I sit, and man, I still can’t stop smiling. So, screw it, you’re gonna hear (again) about the Baltimore Comic-Con. Maybe you’ll get a different perspective. This was my first trip to the Charm City, and I think Mike may have underplayed just how awesome this shindig is. Oh Baltimore Comic-Con, how do I love thee… Let me count the ways.

As many here have read my recent tirades about the Wizard Conventions may know… I have been seriously duped. I was raised on a convention where I honestly believed that in order to make it successful, one needed the publishers (especially the big ones) to anchor the show. How wrong I truly was! BCC was a show where the publishers were truly secondary to the main draw – the creators. In one of several walks I took away from our own table, I realized I was feet away from a litany of personal heroes. Brian Bolland, Cliff Chiang, J.G. Jones, and Gene Ha only to name a few. And while there were publishers there, they were in non-monstrosities that made them feel a “part” of the show, not the driving force behind it. The driving force truly was the community of creators. And given that I was amongst them? It was one of the few times in my five years as one I felt comfortable owning the term.

Far cooler though was the chance to truly “meet” Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, and ComicMix’s Emily S. Whitten. Over an amazing dinner (joined by my amazing friends/Samurnauts Erik and Cherise Anderson, Unshaven Sales Machine Kyle, and the always tall Glenn Hauman) we swapped stories, histories, personal politics, jokes, and more. And sure the crab cake was some kind of life altering experience… but just the chance to be at that dinner table in the suburbs of Maryland was some kind of amazing that I’ll be chasing for years to come. I know this is not an experience one gets simply by being at this con… but this was one perk of writing for this site that certainly is continuing to pay off in spades – even if it’s in food and stories alone.

As Mike already mentioned, the show was the perfect length. No “preview night” to force an extra day’s parking money out of the creators… just a packed weekend of festivities. It was almost as if the show runners knew that the creators who got into town early might find one another prior, and take the responsibility themselves to find a good time in the city. Preposterous!

What Mike didn’t mention (mainly because he wasn’t there to sell…) was the positively unending crowd. For two days the traffic at the show was never sparse. Our booth was literally in the last aisle of the convention center, and there was rarely a time where there wasn’t a nice gaggle of comic fans walking past our table. Unshaven Comics walked into the con with a “it’d sure be nice” goal of 150 books over two days. On Saturday alone, we netted a personal record: 137 books sold. And Sunday helped us tip the total to over 200. That makes me beyond proud to announce with three more conventions still left on our schedule, we met our years’ goal of 1000 books sold. For three guys making books in their basement, selling only on the convention floor? I’d say Baltimore put the icing on a cake made of success.

And how about those Harvey Awards? Well, all points from earlier in the week stand true: We were in awe in attendance of living legends. Phil LaMarr was an amazingly hilarious host who proved that beneath all the funny was a legit fan. Ross Ritchie proved that beyond the Gutters’ continual assault on his character, he’s a humble and very passionate man. His call to action only cemented further Unshaven Comics’ love of the medium. And hey, the 30-pound gift bag they let us leave with was nothing short of super. It’s more than possible that it will take an entire career for me to get one, but mark my words: Unshaven Comics will take home a Harvey before we retire our pencils and Wacoms.

Suffice to say, the Baltimore Comic-Con showed me exactly what Wizard is missing in it’s conventions: comic book creators. We’re not a sideshow or a footnote to be hidden on the con floor. We’re the reason this industry exists – from the billion dollar movies we create to the never-ending stream of ideas. The BCC knows how to elevate and celebrate this fact.

As a creator and as a fan, I was (and am) awestruck at what I was witness to this past weekend. And sure it took a twelve-hour car trip to get there, but it was truly a small price to pay for a head full of memories I’ll be hard-pressed to replace…

Until next year.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

Mike Gold: The Baltimore Fun

I like comic book conventions, although I’ve been pretty hard on them lately. These days most conventions have little to do with comic books. They have a lot to do with pop culture and celebrities and movies and autographs and promotion, but over the past decade or two comic books have become the ugly stepchildren within their own temples.

Except for a handful. Mid-Ohio Con has been consumed by the dreaded Wizard ogre; that one used to be a favorite. HeroesCon in North Carolina is high on my list of the exceptional; I wish I could get there each year. There are plenty of great small shows, usually held in hotels and attracting people from about a 200 mile radius, if the weather is agreeable. And, as I’ve incessantly proselytized to the annoyance of thousands, my absolute favorite: the Baltimore Comic-Con.

First and foremost, the Baltimore Comic-Con is about comic books. The panels are about comic books. The exhibitors are about comic books. The awards ceremony is about comic books. In short, it is a comic book convention.

Second, it’s only two days: Saturday and Sunday. The burnout rate is low and people tend not to leave as early on Sundays. You can get as much done in those two days as you can elsewhere in three… or four. Third, the staff is well-trained, efficient, and so damn polite if you’re from New York your skin just might peel off in strips.

I’m happy to say I’ve got a hell of a lot of friends who go there. It’s one of the few shows Timothy Truman attends. Mark and Carol Wheatley both put me up and put up with me year after year; my daughter and ComicMix comrade Adriane Nash gets to stay in Mark’s breathtaking library and studio. Marc Hempel joins us at the Insight Studios booth. Great folks like Gene Ha, Brian Bolland, Amy Chu, Andrew Pepoy, Denis Kitchen, Jack C. Harris, Walter and Louise Simonson, Joe Rubenstein, Larry Hama, Matt Wagner, John K. Snyder III … we don’t have the bandwidth to name a tenth of the people I hang out with at the show. Even the (fairly) recently liberated Paul Levitz showed up as a freelancer.

Better still, the ambiance of the Baltimore Comic-Con allows me to make new friends, something that’s almost impossible to do at the largest shows like San Diego, New York, and Chicago. This year I was exceptionally lucky, spending memorable time with Phil LaMarr and Ross Richie.

ComicMix was there in full-force: Vinnie Bartilucci, Glenn Hauman, the aforementioned Adriane Nash, Emily S. Whitten, and the non-alphabetical Marc Alan Fishman – who was there with the rest of the Unshaven Comics crew, Matt Wright, and Kyle Gnepper, where they managed to sell out of their excellent indy comic, Samurnauts.

Probably the highlight of the Baltimore show each year is the Harvey Awards dinner, and this year was no exception. Phil LaMarr served as master of ceremonies, keeping the three and one-half hour show moving while keeping the audience in stiches, Ross Richie delivered an inspiring keynote address, and as usual Paul McSpadden did his usual amazing job coordinating the whole event.

The Hero Initiative honored Joe Kubert with its Humanitarian of the Year award – a decision made before Joe’s passing last month – and Dr. Kevin Brogan delivered a moving tribute to the late cartoonist and educator. As it turns out, Joe left us one more graphic novel. Their annual Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Romita Jr., in a presentation made by the team of Stan Lee and John Romita Sr.

I particularly enjoyed seeing Marc, Kyle and Matt there for the first time – being sequestered in that room with most of the above-mentioned folks as well as with Stan Lee, John Romita Sr. and Jr., Mark Waid and so many others seemed like a heady experience for our pals, who, I think it’s safe to say, were in fanboy heaven. Pretty damn cool. I’m proud to say our own Glenn Hauman helped in the IT end of things, and ComicMix joined Insight Studios, DC Entertainment, Boom!, Comixology, Richmond Comix and Games, ComicWow!, Painted Visions, Bloop, Captain Blue Hen, Cards Comics and Collectibles, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum as sponsors.

And I managed to sign up a new columnist for this site. I mentioned the name above somewhere (good hunting), and this person will start out as soon as we iron out scheduling issues and the usual start-up stuff. I’m very excited about this, and you will be too when you read this person’s stuff.

We also went apeshit covering the cosplay scene. Adriane posted about 100,000 pictures on our ComicMix Facebook page, all to the obvious enjoyment of the masses. We’ll be expanding our cosplay coverage considerably, while at the same time polishing our alliteration.

On behalf of the whole ComicMix crew, I want to deeply thank Marc Nathan and Brad Tree for once again putting on the best show in comics, and to thank my dearest of friends Mark and Carol Wheatley for being our personal sponsors. We-all had a great time!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


MIKE GOLD: Important Advice For Comics Artists

Hardly a day goes by without my asking myself “How did all this crappy art get published?”

Now, before all you upstarts get bent out of shape, please appreciate the fact that I’ve been asking this question since about the time Freedom 7 was launched. (Note to self: After gawking at Brian Bolland’s Blog, please don’t look at anybody’s comics art for at least three hours. You’re not giving them a chance.) The difference is, there are a hell of a lot more comic books being published these days. Whereas I think the comics medium beats out Sturgeon’s Law, there’s a hell of a lot of crappy art out there, and much of it is below what I consider to be professional standards.

Over my career I’ve spent a great deal of time evaluating newbie portfolios, and while I feel doing this at the larger, crowded conventions generally gives the young wannabe short shrift, like most geriatric editors I’ve developed a mental go-to list of comments that, if followed, will likely give direction to the newcomer. Since I’ve grown anti-social of late, I’ll share some of these points with you.

Stare at something other than the comics you grew up with. And don’t spend all that much time staring at comic books published before your birth – yeah, study the classics like Toth, Kubert, Kirby, Kane, Maneely, Wood, Adams, Barks and Toth, but learn from the great newspaper strip creators like Milton Caniff, Frank Robbins, Floyd Gottfriedson, Alex Raymond, and Frank Godwin. Spend some time gawking at the great illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle, and NC Wyeth. Go to a few art museums. There is no more enjoyable way to pay your dues.

Get a large jar and label it “Photoshop Copy Machine.” Every time you use Photoshop or any other graphics program to copy your art so that you can use it later in lieu of drawing something new, put $20.00 in the jar. When you fill it up, donate the money to The Hero Alliance or CBLDF. The eye tires of the same old stuff, particularly when you repeat the same image within a few pages. Sometimes there is a solid storytelling reason to rerun your work within the same story, but like all dramatic effects these are few and far between and should only be used sparingly.

Get a smaller jar and label it “Son Of Photoshop Copy Machine.” Every time you use Photoshop or any other graphics program to copy somebody else’s art, put $10,000 in the jar. Then find some other fulfilling way to make a living. I suggest procuring a domino mask, a striped shirt, and a gun.

There’s an old adage that proclaims “color will save it.” More often than not, this statement is attributed to the late DC Comics production whiz Sol Harrison, who got his start as an engraver on Superman #1 and in his spare time did watercolors. Unfortunately, Sol was wrong. Color will not save bad art. Not even the most heavy-handed computer color. Bad art is bad art. Or, to be less subtle, shit stinks.

Go buy a copy of [[[Gray’s Anatomy]]]. Not the teevee show, silly, the book written and drawn by Henry Gray first published 154 years ago. Whereas the book has been updated frequently, the human body has not. I am not concerned with your religious predilection, but no matter which hoary thunderer or cosmic muffin you might worship, if you intend to draw the human figure for a living this is your new bible. I cannot stress this more highly.

Study storytelling. As the artist, you carry the burden of telling the story. You are not an illustrator illuminating somebody else’s story: you’re the person putting it across the plate. Your friend over there should be able to get a good sense of the story by looking at your unlettered original art. Go get Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Take these three books, add the aforementioned Gray’s Anatomy, and don’t pick up the pencil or the Wacom tablet until you have studied and thought about each and every word in these four books.

Do not stop drawing. Question your alleged need to watch television, play video games, associate with people, eat, and bathe. Each of these activities takes valuable time away from your perfecting your craft. Trust me; once you get an assignment with a deadline, you won’t have time to watch television, play video games, associate with people, eat, or bathe.

Don’t give up. A newbie comic book artist who had just blown a couple deadlines once told me “If I can’t do this, I might as well flip burgers.” Well, today this guy is not flipping burgers. He became a comic book writer.

Drawing comics is no different than any other vocation: you’ve got to learn your stuff. Don’t look at the worst people being published and say “I can do better than that.” We’ve got enough crap. Aim high and don’t jump into the water until you know you can swim to the other side.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Lego Version of “Batman: The Killing Joke”

Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Lego Version of “Batman: The Killing Joke”

Batman: The Killing Joke

Well, this is different– and yet, very familiar. Batman: The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, has been partially adapted into a Lego version. Voice actor Patrick Girts does an amazing job channeling Mark Hamill’s version of the Joker, and it was animated with Legos by filmmaker Forrest Whaley.

Take a look…


Review: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Deluxe Edition

Review: ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Deluxe Edition

As I picked up a copy of the new Batman: The Killing Joke 20th anniversary hardcover, I flicked open the first page and sliced my finger on its edge. The paper cut seemed fitting, a physical manifestation of the violence contained within the book.

What I always forget about this story in the few-year intervals between readings is just how short it is, at 46 pages. And so each time I’m amazed all over again at how Alan Moore and Brian Bolland teamed to pack such intensity, ferocity and (surprise, surprise) humanity into those pages.

The Killing Joke is without question one of the greatest encounters between Batman and his nemesis, and the real reason is that the story serves both as a zenith for the Joker’s depravity and for his pathos. Even if this origin story isn’t true (as Bolland writes in his afterword), Moore shows a trace of a person behind the maniacal grin. It makes a Joker that’s more real, and more terrifying.

This new edition ($17.99) is of note for the top-notch packaging as well as Bolland’s re-coloring (see the differences between new and old right here). I’m sure there are those who hate the changes simply because it’s different, but the new colors really do improve the book, giving it a subtlety and grimness not present in the original.

The only additional features are a few of Bolland’s sketches and a new short story from him about wanting to murder Batman. It’s not bad, per se, but doesn’t add to the main story and comes across like padding. I suppose it’s a necessary inclusion, though. I mean, 46 pages!

Happy Birthday: José Luis Garcia-Lopez, Brian Bolland, and Mark Verheiden

Happy Birthday: José Luis Garcia-Lopez, Brian Bolland, and Mark Verheiden

Today is a popular birthday for comic book creators! Three very different comic book luminaries all share March 26.

José Luis Garcia-Lopez was born in Spain in 1948 but moved to Argentina in 1952. Growing up he worked on several Argentinian comic strips, and in the late 1960s he began doing romance titles for Charlton Comics. Garcia-Lopez moved to New York in 1974 to work for DC. He’s best known for his art on Superman.

Brian Bolland was born in 1951 in Lincolnshire, England, and began drawing at age 10. He went to art school and published work in various underground magazines, then met Dave Gibbons at a comic convention in 1972. Gibbons recommended him to Bardon Press Features and Bolland began drawing comics professionally. In 1977, he found work on the new British comic 2000 AD, and soon became a regular artist on Judge Dredd. In 1979 Bolland began working for DC Comics, doing both covers and shorts. Perhaps his most famous image is the cover to Batman: The Killing Joke.

Mark Verheiden was born in 1956. He started writing comics in 1987, creating The American for Dark Horse. The following year he wrote his first Aliens comic. Verheiden then wrote several Superman stories and a Phantom maxi-series for DC Comics. He also works in television and film, and has contributed scripts to Smallville and other series. He currently serves as co-executive producer of the popular Battlestar Galactica television series.

From England, With Postage

From England, With Postage


Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of spy-turned-writer Ian Fleming, this Tuesday the British post office will be issuing a half-dozen "extra-long" stamps featuring reproductions of various James Bond books.

Royal Mail will be issuing other stamps honoring popular culture throughout the year, including a set commemorating the Hammer horror movies this summer.

Can Judge Dredd be far behind? More important, can Royal Mail cough up Brian Bolland’s cover rate?