Tagged: John Broglia

Joe Corallo: Unmasked Is Back!

Well, I haven’t highlighted a Kickstarter in about a month so I’m going to end that dry spell right now.

Last week Michael Sarrao launched a Kickstarter campaign for his latest graphic novel, Unmasked Volume 2: Promethean. Unsurprisingly, this is the follow up to Unmasked: The New Age Heroes Volume 1 which was Kickstarted back on August 26, 2012. Maybe slightly more surprisingly this is also a follow up to Unmasked: Signal the 32 page one shot which bridges the events of Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 that was also funded on Kickstarter back on April 13, 2014. Both volumes were illustrated by John Broglia and Signal was illustrated by Anthony Gregori.

In total, this will be Michael Sarrao’s fourth comic book Kickstarter. All of his previous campaigns have been successful, and this campaign is only a week in and well on its way to reaching its goal. Michael was kind enough to send me a digital copy of the first chapter of Volume 2 so I can tell you all about it.

Before I get into it I’d like to talk a little bit about Unmasked in general. The story takes place in the fictional city of Seastone where superheroes debuted in 1938 and prominent through the 90s but were absent in the 2000s to be replaced by a more ruthless and violent group of heroes. This captures the interest of a rookie reporter, Paige Cruise, whose father was the world’s foremost superhero expert but has since gone missing. Paige Cruise is out to find out who these new heroes are and is on a mission to unmask them with mixed results.

Now you, loyal reader, may be saying to yourself, “Oh I guess Paige, a reporter, does a lot of research and snooping around to find out who these superheroes really are,” and I have to tell you, “Not exactly, no.” Then you might say, “Well she doesn’t just burst onto the scene and physically grab heroes masks off their faces, right?” To which I have to tell you, “Actually, that’s exactly what she does.” Yes, she physically grabs heroes masks off. I know, it sounds cheesy, but that’s the point. Unmasked is basically a blend of campy Silver Age comics fare played straight with a Watchmen aesthetic. Yes, the threats are all real, but they were in the Silver Age too.

Okay, you’re caught up now? Good. Onto the new stuff!

Unmasked Volume 2: Promethean opens more or less where the series left off. Paige Cruise is still on her quest to unmask heroes though now she herself openly desires to be one, we’re introduced to more chaotic players like Deathdevil, and we learn more about the past of the superheroes in this world.

Where Unmasked: The New Age Heroes Volume 1 feels heavy on the Watchmen tone, Volume 2 blends new elements together and has more of a The Wicked + The Divine tone to it. I love that Image series so I’m not complaining. Michael Sarrao plays a dangerous game here balancing some of the cheesier elements of superhero stories while keeping the tone consistent and getting the reader to take the story seriously and keep the stakes high.

This is the superhero comic you wanted to make and everyone told you no and gave you a long list of why you shouldn’t; mostly because there are just too many places it could all go wrong. Michael has not only successfully handled this material, but he did it his way and has two successful Kickstarters under his belt with this material alone and soon to have a third in the Unmasked-Verse when the Volume 2 campaign wraps up.

I do have to say that none of this would have likely happened for Michael if he didn’t get John Broglia to do the artwork. I may be a little biased because John is one of my favorite people working in comics right now, but he expertly executes a concept that walks a thin line. He gives Unmasked a pop art vibe, with the vital help of colorist Paul Little, elevating the story far more than any words could. Just skimming through these pages you can interpret the tone of this book flawless. It’s a necessary skill in comics, but difficult to master. John Broglia makes it look all too easy.

Having read the first chapter of Unmasked Volume 2: Promethean I can honestly say it has a lot of promise and it’s a stronger start than the first volume. If you’re into indie superhero titles, this is required reading. Check out their Kickstarter campaign and think about donating.

Join me next week when I interview a comic creator on a new project and then the week after when I get back to writing really pretentious stuff!

Joe Corallo: Rebirth of an I-CON

This past weekend I found myself at a convention once again with Molly Jackson, but now joined by ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman. It was an island getaway. Sure, it was Long Island, but it was still technically a getaway so I’m sticking to it.

The convention in question was I-CON, and no, it is not a convention dedicated to the superhero Icon of Milestone Media fame, but he should really be used more over at DC and his original run written by Dwayne McDuffie and penciled by M. D. Bright should be collected in its entirely as it has never been before.

I-CON is a long running non-profit science fiction, fact, and fantasy convention. This show was billed as I-CON 32, but the convention was on hiatus after I-CON 31 in 2012. This new iteration debuted at a new location, Suffolk Community College.

Having grown up on Long Island, I had attended a number of I-CON conventions over the years. In fact, I volunteered at I-CON 31; I worked the indie film track. It was tough and took a lot of time and effort and even more meetings, so I understand how hard it is to put a show like this together. Five years is a long hiatus, and while many of the original volunteers were back, they no longer had Stony Brook University as a potential venue and really had to start fresh in a lot of ways.

Anyway, let me get back on track. The con was this past Friday through Sunday. ComicMix had a table that Glenn arrived early to set up, and we’d alternate watching over while taking time to walk the floor and speak on panels. I even got to moderate one.

I’m getting ahead of myself here so let me back up a bit. This past Friday Molly and I arrived in the evening to be on a panel about socio-political commentary in comics. Also on the panel were Adam McGovern, Beth Rimmels, Alitha E. Martinez and Christopher Helton with I-CON’s Patrick Kennedy moderating. It was a nice discussion about politics and the industry. One of the questions was about the comics we think had some of the best socio-political commentary. My answer was The Question written by ComicMix’s Denny O’Neil, drawn by Denys Cowan, and edited by ComicMix’s fearless leader Mike Gold, and Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson which was inked by Rodney Ramos who was also a guest at I-CON.

Saturday we were there pretty early and stayed for most of the show and really starting feeling the con experience. We were tabling next to David Gerrold, the well-renowned science fiction writer who created the Tribbles over at Star Trek, and it was a great experience. There was a whole table of Tribbles for sale that shake and coo when you touch them. While they’re fun, a whole table of shaking cooing Tribbles can get a bit intimidating.

Molly and I were on a panel about if indie comics can save the comics industry. The short answer is the industry might not need saving right now, but… probably… yes? Unless by indie they meant Indian Jones comics, in which the answer is a very firm yes. We were then joined by Glenn to talk about comics journalism later in the day. I’d tell you about it, but you’re already reading some arguable comics journalism.

Sunday I got to moderate the panel on Gender and Sexuality in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Comics with David Gerrold, Molly Jackson, Alitha E. Martinez, and Beth Rimmels. I spent a long time pondering on what to ask the panel despite the fact that it’s the topic I write about here roughly every other week. David Gerrold told me he liked the questions so that’s good enough for me.We touched on women written as men, trans representation, toxic masculinity… lots of tough stuff that could cause all sorts of Twitter drama.

Other highlights included talking a while with Pat Shand about comics, getting another sketch cover from John Broglia, and meeting and talking movies with Christopher Golden.

While I-CON 32 seemed less attended than the previous ones I’ve been to and I do miss it being at Stony Brook, this was a valiant effort to give a convention a rebirth after five years and was definitely the con at which I’ve been best fed. They have a few kinks to work out, but it was good to be back at I-CON and I’m excited for what the future will bring to this Long Island tradition.

Joe Corallo: Darwyn Cooke – A Personal Remembrance

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As many of you know Darwyn Cooke, beloved comic book industry icon, passed away Saturday May 14th after a battle with lung cancer. He was 53 years old. I could go into all of the facts, his accomplishments and merits in animation, illustration, and writing, but many of you already know them all or could easily gain access to them on the plethora of websites covering this tragedy. So in lieu of listing off his accomplishments, I’m going to talk about what Darwyn Cooke means to me.

Darwyn Cooke 1My earliest memories of Darwyn Cooke’s work was from Marvel’s X-Statix. Peter Milligan, Mike and Laura Allred crafted an incredible pop art critique of the direction we were going in our fame obsessed culture using mutants as the metaphor of choice. One of the artists that also worked on this was Darwyn Cooke. My younger brother James was not quite a teenager as this was coming out, but he knew right away that it was something special. It took me a little longer than James to really appreciate just how incredible artists like Darwyn, the Alfred’s and Paul Pope are, but not that much longer.

From there I would see Darwyn Cooke’s work pop up time to time. I was always attracted to it, but never really know where to jump in. For a few years I found myself travelling the country working on different political or advocacy campaigns and my comic reading was sporadic at best. One of the artists I fell in love with at that time was a collaborator of Cooke’s, Tim Sale.

Once I really settled back in New York in 2010, I delved into working on comics myself. By NYCC 2011, I had enough comic work done where I decided to get a table with my then collaborator Bob Wulff. This would end up being more of a learning experience than anything else, but we did end up having a table diagonally across from Tim Sale. More than a few times when he had a lull I’d walk over, chat with him, and get a couple of books signed, including Absolute Batman Long Halloween, the only Absolute edition I owned at the time. When I asked Tim what other Absolute editions he would recommend, he said without missing a beat, The New Frontier.

Not long after I picked it up and was blown away by how gorgeous the art was and how he lovingly and seamlessly crafted such a complicated and continuity heavy story in just the right way to make it all feel so straightforward and simple.

I would soon be given a copy of the first of the Richard Stark’s Parker graphic novel adaptation from IDW, The Hunter, by my friend Mike Bradley. He owned and operated Collectors Kingdom for over two decades before his sudden passing on April 6th, 2015. He was 48 years old. For a while I would stop in at least once a week to pick up comics, chat with Mike and the regulars there, and exchange recommendations. I thought of his love of Darwyn Cooke and how he gave me that book when I heard of his passing, and now Darwyn Cooke’s passing has brought this all full circle for me.

For NYCC 2012 it was announced that Darwyn Cooke would be one of the guests. I was excited at the prospect of meeting someone whose art I had grown to adore. Shortly before the convention, however, he had to cancel. This left me disappointed, but I figured it wouldn’t be too long until I’d get a chance to see him. After all, it’s not like he was going anywhere.

One year later at NYCC 2013 he was again announced as a guest and unlike the previous year, he remained as a guest. This time I would get to meet him. Darwyn Cooke didn’t have a table in artist alley, which made things more difficult. I saw that he had a panel on his life and career moderated by Paul Levitz on the last day of the con in the last time slot, and 4pm. Paul also wrote a heartfelt post on Darwyn Cooke’s passing you can read here. I planned my day around making sure I could attend.

Before I headed over to the panel, I dropped by artist alley to pick up a Superman sketch from my friend John Broglia. We chatted about the show, and it eventually came up that I was going to the Darwyn Cooke panel. John’s eyes lit up and he turned to his bag to dig out a copy of one of Darwyn’s Parker adaptations. John told me that every con he attends that Darwyn Cooke is at he tries to get a comic signed by him, and asked if I could get that signed for him. Having no idea if I’d even be able to get a signature from Darwyn Cooke at this panel, I said yes.

The panel was everything I hoped it would be. Paul Levitz facilitated a wonderful, engaging conversation about how Darwyn got his start in comics. Afterwards, the modest sized panel audience mostly dissipated as a handful of people stuck around, including myself. When it was my turn to talk to Darwyn Cooke, I didn’t do or say anything special. It was mostly niceties and a declaration of how much his work means to me.

I had three books for him to sign: the Parker book Mike Bradley gave to me, the one that I was getting signed for John Broglia, and copy of Absolute DC: The New Frontier. He signed the Parker books first. When it came to the Absolute, I told him that Tim Sale had told me about it a couple of cons back. After hearing that, he looked up at me and with a big smile on his face asked me my name. He proceeded to sign the book to me and did a quick head sketch. We shook hands, still with that big smile on his face, and I rushed back to artist alley to get John his book back as I ignored the loud calls from volunteers that the show was over.

There were at least a couple of other chances I had to see Darwyn Cooke again, but I didn’t. Some conflict or another would arise, and I’d think to myself how it’s more important that someone else who hasn’t met him yet got the opportunity to anyway. After all, it’s not like he was going anywhere.

Darwyn Cooke and his work in comics mean a great deal to me and countless other people. The brightness, optimism, and heart in his storytelling often seemed like the last stand of a losing war in mainstream comics against darkness, cynicism, and hate. Though others still work on combating this bleakness, to me he has been their greatest champion. Because of the work he has done, he’s left countless other people in his place to champion these ideals in his stead. Some of them you’ve heard of, some of them you’ll hear of soon, and I’ll bet some of them won’t even come into being until all of us here now are gone.

My condolences to his family, his friends, and to all the lives he’s touched. The world of comics is a darker place for now, but it won’t be for long.

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