Tagged: Marguerite Bennett

Joe Corallo: AfterShock Gets It!

In the past I’ve mentioned some of what AfterShock Comics has been up to in my column here, but I haven’t talked about them as much as I should. I really haven’t been talking about the good work they’ve been doing. Having recently read World Reader #1, I decided I need to change that.

AfterShock Comics gets it.

I’ll explain. I was having lunch with Noah Sharma who writes over at Weekly Comic Book Review and AfterShock dominated the conversation. We talked about the different titles we’ve been enjoying like InSEXts, Animosity, Captain Kid, and World Reader. Well, the conversation actually started when I brought up how much I loved World Reader so let me backpedal a bit and talk about World Reader.

World Reader #1 hit the shelves on April 19th. It’s written by Jeff Loveness, drawn by Juan Doe and lettered by Rachel Deering. Jeff Loveness is best known for being a writer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! as well as writing Groot over at Marvel. This is his first creator owned comic. Juan Doe has worked on many comics over the years including American Monster and Animosity also at AfterShock. on Rachel Deering worked on the Womantholoy.

Basically, World Reader is about an astronaut, Sarah, who travels around the universe trying to help figure out what is seemingly killing it. She’s helped in this effort by her ability to commune with the dead, whether she wants to or not. We read on as Sarah is pushed to limits of her own mind in her quest to save us all.

For being the first creator-owned effort by Jeff Loveness, it’s fantastic. We really get sucked into this dangerous world and Jeff is humble enough to not overload the book with dialogue when it’s not necessary. He lets the art tell the story. And damn, it’s a good story.

This is a good story is because of Juan Doe’s artwork and colors. This book pops in a way that most books just don’t. I’d say that Jeff wrote a hell of a page turner, but the book is so gorgeous that turning the page might be the last thing you want to do.

What helps push you to turn the page is Rachel Deering’s excellent lettering. It’s not often that the lettering in a comic pops just like the art does, but Rachel makes it happen.

This team really feels like lightning in a bottle and I truly feel like they are onto something here. I haven’t felt this excited to pick up a second issue in a while. If I’m picking up a second issue of a comic then, yes, I’m at least somewhat excited, or curious, or trying to give it a chance to let the story unfold, but here I’m pretty damn excited.

I admit that I’m a science fiction fan so maybe the kind of story they’re setting up here appeals to me more than it might to someone else, but anyone that likes sci-fi comics needs to pick up World Reader. Don’t think about it, don’t add it to your list, don’t put it in your big stack of comics that’s months old now that you just don’t know when you’ll get to it, read it! If you’re afraid if you get home with it it’ll end up in a pile then read it outside the comic shop when you get a chance, or in your car before you drive away, or put aside the eight minutes when you buy it on ComiXology when you buy it to read it right then and there. If you don’t normally like sci-fi, but you like pretty books with fantastic colors, you should give this a shot too.

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah! Lunch with Noah. So I talk about how I picked up World Reader #1 from Carmine Street Comics in Manhattan and after talking about how much I enjoyed it, we got talking about AfterShock in general. We talked about InSEXts and Marguerite Bennett and how that’s been absolutely fantastic, original, and one of the best books she’s writing. For me, it’s a flagship title for AfterShock, and a book they should be immensely proud of publishing. Animosity I haven’t gotten a chance to read, but it’s on my list. Yes, I’m being that person that I said you shouldn’t be about World Reader. I’m working on it, really!

One of the other books I really enjoyed that AfterShock puts out is Captain Kid. ComicMix’s own Ed Catto wrote about this book the end of last year, and I encourage you all to read it if you haven’t yet. Though it’s concluded as of April, it was a fantastic character driven story by creators Mark Waid and Tom Peyer, who oddly enough were both DC editors some years ago. The team includes artists Wilfredo Torres and Brent Peeples, colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick, with A Larger World lettering. The book is about a character that’s a bit of a reverse Shazam (I wish I could call him Captain Marvel) and uses that as a device to create a very personal feeling character piece about aging and coming to terms with your life. It looks and feels like a comic from a time where the stories were a bit simpler, in a good way. If you love the Silver or Bronze Age of comics, or the kind of person who loves groups like DC In The 80s you should read Captain Kid. If you didn’t get a chance while it was coming out, the collected edition comes out in June.

Sorry. I keep getting off track. Lunch… that’s right. So Noah and I ended up talking about these different titles and we come to the conclusion that AfterShock really gets it. Though they’re working with quite a few established writers, they are trying to take some chances. They throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Sure, not every title is going to be the next The Walking Dead, and some titles are going to be duds; it happens, but it’s the drive and creativity they have that gives AfterShock Comics the feel that they could be revival Image Comics one day.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if you haven’t checked out AfterShock yet, there’s no time like the present.

Joe Corallo: Rebirth Revisited

 

dc-comics-rebirth

DC’s Rebirth is now in full swing. Last week I wrote a response to one aspect of DC Rebirth #1. Later that week, I picked up Batman, Superman, and Green Arrow Rebirth (sorry Green Lanterns Rebirth). I read them. They ranged from awkward to interesting with Green Arrow, to me, being the most solid of those three. There was something not sitting right with me as I read these issues though, and it wasn’t in regards to the story or the art in the comics but in the credits and advertising.

DC Superhero GirlsEvery one of those comics, including Green Lanterns Rebirth which I haven’t picked up yet, features exclusively male creators. Every. Single. One. In the middle of the books themselves they all advertise four more upcoming comics for Rebirth: Action Comics, New Super-Man, Superwoman, and Supergirl. All of which are exclusively male creator teams. Finally, in the back of each issue they advertise for more Rebirth comics including Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Titans. All of which, again, are exclusively male creator teams. That is a total of twelve ongoings as well as the DC Rebirth one-shot with not one female creator. Not one.

That’s not to say that they won’t be having women on any of their titles (though I wish they’d advertise that). Amanda Connor will continue to co-write Harley Quinn, Hope Larson will be on Batgirl, and the entire creative team on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey are women. Emanuela Lupacchino and Nicola Scott appear to be bouncing around some titles as well as they have been during The New 52. That leaves one title with an all women creative team compared to the 24 titles that have all male creative teams, and that number could easily go up as some creative teams have not been fully announced. That’s a large disparity that’s hard to ignore, but an even larger problem needs to be addressed as well.

The titles that do have women on their creative teams whether it’s initially or later in the runs are Harley Quinn, Superwoman, Batgirl, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and Wonder Women with Superwoman and Wonder Woman being male only until later in their runs. You seeing a pattern here? The women freelancers on creative teams have all been allocated to books that are either solo women superhero titles or to the only all women superhero team being published there. That’s it. No exceptions, as of yet.

Whether it’s intentional or not, women freelancers have been segregated to the books about women. Meanwhile, men are tackling comics with men, women, or teams that have a mix of both. Assuming none of this is intentional means having to acknowledge that a deeper systemic problem exists.

Part of this problem is that going from individual comic to individual comic, it isn’t inherently a problem. For example, I’m looking forward to Steve Orlando on Supergirl.

There is no inherent problem with men writing or drawing women. None whatsoever. The problem comes when men are so much more likely to be hired in the first place, to be writing and drawing both men and women, and for women to only be given the opportunity to tackle female protagonists and not even given a chance to write or illustrate a team with both men and women. The only team they get is the all-women’s team.

To be fair, DC Comics does seem to have an idea that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. In their pilot program for the DC Writer Development Workshop, six of the eleven participants were women. That’s a good sign. They also have their line that’s directed specifically to young girls, DC Superhero Girls, which again is very encouraging. And lastly, they do have women involved in other areas of the company. Editors, Colorists, and more. Still, the male to female ratio is not ideal, but at least some books have women giving input to all male creative teams at DC.

What’s discouraging is how, before The New 52, women made up roughly 12% of DC freelancers, but once it was launched made up 1%. As they got those numbers up over the course of The New 52 with talent like Nicola Scott, Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Bennett, Ann Nocenti, Amy Chu, Babs Tarr, Meredith Finch, and more, the recent relaunch has dropped the number of female freelancers back down to roughly 4%. It’s 2016, it shouldn’t be like this. We shouldn’t be starting relaunches of books to reach new audiences by having a straighter whiter more male cast of characters than we did a few months or so prior with creative teams that more reflect that dynamic. It’s not going to bring in new readers. Perhaps it won’t alienate large swaths the old readers, but the fact that this is a reboot in a fashion will.

With the impending DC Talent Workshop participants being announced this summer, DC’s recent tendency to diversify as they get farther from their reboots, and rumors of shake ups occurring in the not too distant future, DC Comics may give us some hope soon.

For now though, it’s business as usual.

Joe Corallo: Knowing Your Place

Hellcat Patsy WalkerThe other day at a comic shop I saw a flier for the upcoming Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1. It was advertised having writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney Williams attached. I think it’s great that the two of them are on this book, as I enjoy the work they’ve put out over at BOOM! Studios. However, it did start getting me thinking about the direction the comic industry is going. A direction that it may not want to go in.

We’ve seen the big two added more books with a woman lead. This has been great. A lot of them have at least one woman creator attached as well. We should absolutely be thrilled by that and support those efforts.

Just off the top of my head I can think of Amy Reeder on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Kelly Sue Deconnick’s recent Captain Marvel run, G. Willow Wilson and and Sana Amanat’s work on the new Ms. Marvel, Marguerite Bennett on the all woman’s Avengers team titled A-Force, and of course Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! just at Marvel.

Over at DC we have Amanda Conner on Harley Quinn, Amy Chu on Poison Ivy, Ann Nocenti followed up by Genevieve Valentine on Catwoman, Gail Simone followed up by Babs Tarr on Batgirl, Meredith Finch on Wonder Woman, Annie Wu on Black Canary, Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage on DC Bombshells and Emanuela Lupacchino on Starfire.

That’s a pretty hefty list for right off the top of my head, and I could have even missed one or two. We should be proud of the comic industry for having more women being involved in the creative process. However, you’ll also see the problem I was getting at before. All of the women creators are working on comics starring women… and not much else.

Just to be clear, I am not at all speaking on behalf of any of the creators listed, or making any judgments on the work they choose to do. I think they’ve been doing incredible work, and I’ve picked up most of the mentioned titles that are currently available. My concern lies with the pattern of the big two pairing up women on women lead books while not doing that with books that have a man in the lead.

It’s very possible that some of these instances they asked creators the characters they wanted to work with and these are the results we have. I highly doubt that was every single instance. We have had a long history of men, particularly straight cis white men, writing women in comics. Many of which have been great. I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Soule on She-Hulk and Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman. However, I’m starting to get concerned that we’re moving more towards compartmentalizing creative teams, and that’s not a good thing.

How many women can you name who’ve worked on Batman? Sure, you might have thought Devin Grayson right off the bat. You’ll probably be racking your brain for a while after that though. Becky Cloonan did a fill in issue on Scott Snyder’s run a few years ago. And yes, Genevieve Valentine is currently one of the eight writers on Batman and Robin Eternal, the other seven being men. We haven’t had a woman creator have a lengthy run on either Batman or Detective Comics. Mostly fill-ins.

Okay, how about Superman? Louise Simonson had a huge impact on the character. She was integral to the Death of Superman storyline, and she created Steel. You’re gonna need to think real long and hard to come up with too many more names than that. Sure, Ramona Fradon did many of the Super Friends comics, but that’s most of it. Justice League comics are even more male dominated. As are The Flash, Green Lantern, and so forth. Ramona did work plenty on Aquaman and Plastic Man, but we did already mention her.

How about over at Marvel? Let’s start with Spider-Man. Sara Pichelli did co-create Miles Morales with Bendis, but beyond that there isn’t much else. Louise Simonson did some work on Spider-man as well, but I did already mention her with Superman. And those examples aren’t exactly examples of long runs on Amazing Spider-Man or even Spectacular Spider-man.

And the X-Men? Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti did a lot of work in the X-Universe, but again, both of them have already been mentioned for other contributions. I can also add Majorie Liu for her work on Astonishing X-Men, but you get the idea.

Again, to clarify, I am not knocking or belittling any of the contributions these creators have made. I admire the work they have all done and continue to do. I’m highlighting all of this to make the point that this is still a very male dominated industry, that women have not had all the same opportunities over the years as men whether it was deliberate or not, and that this should change. I also understand that the comic book industry is small. Smaller than I think we realize sometimes. Even still, this situation could be better.

I’m not asking for Superman to spin the earth backwards in time and fire the DC editorial teams of yesterday and replace them all with women. I’m not asking for Kitty Pryde to project herself back in time to do the same thing at Marvel. The past is the past. It was a different time, and there is very little we can do just dwelling on that. What we do have to do is acknowledge the past and understand it as we move forward.

I think Scott Snyder is doing great things with Batman, but maybe when he’s done with the title Genevieve Valentine or Amy Chu might have some great ideas of where to take him next. After seeing the kind of work that Amy Reeder has done on her title Rocket Girl with Image, maybe she’s got a great run for someone like Iron Man that she could be working on. Maybe the next big Superman creator will be a woman none of us have heard of yet.

I believe the best stories are yet to come. Many of the popular comic characters are decades old and have mostly been handled by male creators. One way to revitalize these decades old characters would be to get creators with different perspectives.

As a queer man have enjoyed a great deal of comics that involve exclusively straight characters. People from all backgrounds enjoy all sorts of stories. Someone with a different background could help flesh out other characters in these stories as well. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and many others have both men and women in their stories, and people from all walks of life.

It’s not only important to have representation in the main character or characters, but characters off to the sides and in the backgrounds as well. More women tackling comics like those I mentioned could be a way to help revitalize these titles, and hope it’s something that’s being considered.

 

 

Joe Corallo: Fyodor Pavlov, Artist Extraordinary

Fyodor Pavlov

Last Thursday, Fyodor Pavlov, a person I’m honored to call a friend, had the opening reception for his exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.Titled Carpe Noctem: Eros to Thanatos, the exhibition celebrates the interlocking themes of queer desire, sex, myth and death. The opening reception featured not only wine and cheese, but music and burlesque performances. It was an evening of celebrating queer art in many forms, and something that the comic book industry should be aware of.

Fyodor is a queer artist, a Russian immigrant, and a New Yorker. His art has been commissioned both privately and commercially. Additionally, he works on comics including Baritarian Boy co-created with his partner Lawrence Gullo and Bash Back, his current web comic co-created both his partner and with writer Kelsey Hercs.

Bash Back is a queer mafia story. Here’s the quick pitch as taken from their page, “Thousands of of years of bloodshed, torment and ridicule. Now it is time to take what is ours. Retribution.” Sounds pretty tense, doesn’t it? Bash Back is a uniquely queer creation delving into a queer power fantasy; a subgenre that is scarcely seen or heard of in just about every entertainment medium, particularly as well thought out and diverse as this story. Their work on Bash Back speaks much better than I ever could on it, so please check it out here.

Lawrence and Fyodor, in addition to both being accomplished artists, produce and direct Dr. Sketchy’s for New York, the flagship of the Dr. Sketchy’s empire.

I could continue going about Fyodor’s many impressive artistic accomplishments, but it might be easier if you just check out his website here. The point is, the LGBTQ community has incredibly talented people in it like Fyodor Pavlov, and the comic industry should be aware of him and others like him, because they need him.

Mainstream comics have become more or less stale. The same stories happening to the same characters in an endless loop that recycles itself faster and faster. I own or have read more #1 issues of comics from the big two currently than I ever thought I would have when I was in grade school. Part of solving this problem is diversity. Just having people with different life experiences and points of views to tap into alone can help make fresh and new stories for a general audience.

Even beyond the mainstream, many of the smaller publishers get stuck telling similar stories as well. Over at Image, the incredible success of Saga has opened the floodgates for science fiction driven stories – over there. Some of the other smaller publishers putting out more autobiographical books still put out a great deal of graphic memoirs from predominantly straight white men coming of age. Not that they aren’t great reads, like Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy, but we are still lacking in terms of LGBTQ stories.

Yes, we do get some. The big two have a couple of books with LGBTQ leads, smaller publishers seem to have more representation, but not a great deal more. Certainly not when it comes to characters leading books and pushing plots forward, and certainly not to the extent of that Fyodor, Lawrence, and Kelsey have gone in Bash Back. Comic companies need to be keeping an eye out for people like them for their very livelihoods. To stay relevant in a rapidly changing age.

One company that might be trying this is Aftershock Comics. A new publisher that already has some grade A talent attached, they released a comic last week by Marguerite Bennett titled Insexts. It’s a Victorian era lesbian body horror tale. I can’t imagine a major publisher taking a risk on this, or thinking that there is even much of an audience for this. However, from seeing the kind of stories that people like Fyodor put out and make available online, and the positive reactions they receive, I can say that it is very likely that this is exactly the kind of story that can sell right now. Fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson feels this could be the book that blows up for Aftershock and helps to make them a major player in the field.

The comic industry is changing. The audiences are changing. The demands are changing. If the industry is as smart as I hope it is, they’ll see incredibly talented artists like Fyodor and try to snatch them up and help them navigate this brave new world. Not because these artists need the comic industry, but because the industry has never needed them to tell their stories more.