Tagged: Matt Fraction

Joe Corallo: United Against Hysteria

I didn’t think I was going to write about Howard Chaykin, Image Comics, and The Divided States of Hysteria. When the first controversy sparked up the beginning of last month I had already committed to an interview with a team working on a Kickstarter project for my column that followed said controversy. While people still talked about it some after I thought people had basically covered the scope of the issue and I wouldn’t have anything constructive to add.

Then this happened followed by this apology from Image Comics and Howard Chaykin. I tend to discuss these sort of occurrences in the comics community and I really haven’t lately so it’s time for me to get back to that.

Full disclosure: I have met Howard Chaykin before at a few conventions, got a Lois Lane sketch from him some years ago, and attended a panel back at the first Special Edition NYC spotlighting him with fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases in which he recommended we read the Tom De Haven novel It’s Superman which is actually quite good and one of the best things you’ll ever read that stars The Man Of Tomorrow.

I don’t want to rehash all the details you likely already know, and if you are somehow into comics enough to read columns on comic book news sites and are not aware of what’s been going on, it’s covered in the links provided. You can also type in keywords in a Twitter search and find plenty on this. So, rather than restate the information, I’ll tell you how I, someone that discusses diversity in comics and adjacent topics, read this situation.

First, nobody is ever obligated to purchase and enjoy a comic. Period. If people see a cover or an image from a comic that makes them not want to read it, they don’t have to. They’re allowed to voice their displeasure and tell their friends and the Internet they don’t want to read it and you shouldn’t either. People are allowed to look at a comic and decide against it without reading it.

It is not against the concept of free speech to openly discuss why you do not like or support something; it’s nearly the entire point of free speech. Nor is speaking out against this comic censorship. Howard Chaykin and Image Comics have every right to put out this material and you and anyone else have every right to actively not support it if you so desire.

It’s up to the marketing people and the publisher to convince people that their product is worth their time and to spend money on it. Part of the blunder that took place here is that Image had worked out getting The Divided States of Hysteria a Pride variant when the content inside didn’t fit for that audience. More eyes, including a lot more queer eyes, were on this book because of that variant and it being Pride month. Had this book come out without that variant and later on in the year I think it may have glided under the radar a bit and while their likely would have been some backlash, it wouldn’t have hit the same levels.

Another factor is that this is an Image comic. While Image does have some gruesome books like The Walking Dead, most of its line-up is pretty accessible to a wide comics audience. A publisher more well known for its over-the-top stories and graphic imagery like Avatar Press may have been able to take on The Divided States of Hysteria with less backlash.

The political and cultural environment is just not where this book is either. People are upset, depressed, and frightened by what we see coming out of the White House; I know I am. Had the results on November 9th, 2016 been different then maybe people would have been a little more open to the idea of a comic that’s talking about a horrible alternate reality. It hits a little too close to home for many right now.

The timing of this book was way off. Particularly with the portrayal of a trans sex worker being brutalized. What may have seemed edgy or even acceptable decades ago in terms of representing a trans character doesn’t fly anymore. At least fourteen trans women, mostly trans women of color, have been murdered just for being trans this year, and more trans women were killed in 2016 than in 2015. I encourage you to follow the link in the last sentence and to read the names of those we’ve lost. Audiences not only are demanding more from trans representation in all media, but it’s necessary and can save lives.

Finally, I want to talk a bit about Howard Chaykin himself. Some people have criticized him for being “an old white guy.” While there is some truth to that, it’s a bit more complicated. Howard Chaykin was born October 7th, 1950. He had a rough childhood moving many times as a kid across New York City, being raised on welfare, finding out later in life that who he thought was his biological father was in fact not and having a cruel adoptive father.

Despite all that, and despite the fact that many doors shut in front of him as he tried to develop his career early on because he’s Jewish, Howard was able to get his start in comics before branching out into other media. One of his early works, American Flagg!, was also a political satire and starred Reuben Flagg, an overtly Jewish lead at a time where that was far from common in mainstream comics. Hell, it’s uncommon now. That work, in particular, went on to inspire multiple generations of comic creators, including Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction, Frank Miller, and Brian Michael Bendis.

I’m not writing all this to make you change your mind on The Divided States of Hysteria. If you don’t want to read it, don’t. If you don’t like Howard Chaykin’s work, continue to not like it. If you want other people to know you feel that way, let them know.

What I am saying is that he is a person, he’s fought his own battles for decades to get where he is, he may have been through more than you know, he and Image Comics are in no way advocating bigotry, there is absolutely no need to make personal attacks towards Howard, and his entire body of work should not be summed up in one poorly timed and arguably poorly executed comic book.

Martha Thomases: Gifting Comics

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Hanukkah is halfway over and Christmas is next week. Traditionally, columnists with no ideas use this as an opportunity to recommend gift ideas that, ideally, benefits themselves, their families or their friends.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know your gift-giving needs. I don’t know your friends. I don’t know your tastes, and your budget is none of my business. These are books that, if I didn’t already own them and love them, I would want to get. If they are new to you, I envy the good times you have ahead.

I want to start off with Mimi Pond because, well, I know her a little bit and this will make me seem important. She and I both freelanced for the fashion section of The Village Voice back in the late seventies and early eighties. Fashion was like the ugly stepchild at the paper, not worthy of the seriousness of purpose to which the alternative press was dedicated.

Anyway, over the years, Mimi has created a bunch of really, really funny books. Secrets of the Powder Room is laugh-out-loud uproarious. Shoes Never Lie made the jokes that were still being stolen on Sex and the City thirty years later.

This year, however, Pond went in a different direction (to me, anyway) and produced a beautiful graphic novel, Over Easy. It’s about her experiences waiting tables, and while that might seem really trite and banal (haven’t we read a million books about the shitty jobs artists take to support their art?), it’s really atmospheric and lovely. The characters are instantly distinct, the world in which they live is both exotic and recognizable. I loved just about everybody in it, and I was sorry to see the story end. We want more, Mimi!

I don’t know Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’d like to, but so far, the most I can say is that we were in the same room at New York Comic-Con and I thought about going up to introduce myself, but then she was mobbed and I didn’t want to be in that mob. She has a new book out, Bitch Planet  and while it’s only one issue, it’s already hilarious.

Bitch Planet takes the “women in prison” scenario (or, as Michael O’Donoghue used to call it, “Kittens in a Can”) and takes it for a militant feminist whirl. It subverts a lot of my assumptions (you mean the skinny white woman isn’t the main character?) and the ads on the back cover are really, really funny.

There has been a minor kerfuffle on the Interwebs because a local comic book store wrote up a solicitation for the book and referred to Ms. DeConnick as “Mrs. Matt Fraction.” They also listed Mr. Fraction as “Mr. Kelly Sue DeConnick.” The joke misfired, there was outrage all the way around, and the store apologized (and, I hope, figured out why that was offensive).

None of this is a slam on Matt Fraction. I’m sure no one thinks he’s riding on his wife’s coattails. Along with artist Chip Zdarsky, he’s created Sex Criminals, one of the funniest comics ever. You can read the first issues in a trade paperback collection and you should. I haven’t been made to feel so sexually inadequate by a comic book since American Flagg.

The story and the characters are wonderful but my favorite part of the series is the letter column, which usually goes on for five or six pages. Readers send in not only commentary on the stories, but also shameful confessions, awkward questions, and unsolicited advice. Matt and Chip answer in the same tone. Here’s a brief sample of what they sound like.

I was really disappointed that the collection didn’t include the letter columns, although it does have some brand-new text pages that are also reasonably hilarious. Fortunately, Image collected a bunch of the letter column stuff, and new stuff with more artwork, and dubbed it Just the Tip <  >, a cute little hard cover book that’s the perfect stocking stuffer for those of you who stuff stockings.

If you’ve read my column during the year, you know that I also recommend The Fifth Beatle and March and Sage and Snowpiercer. I don’t know if I wrote about them, but I liked them, and you should know.

Happy holidays, one and all.

 

Review: Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis – Ultimate FF #2

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov. Art by Tom Grummett, Mario Guevara, Juan Vlaskco, Scott Hanna, Mark Pennington, Jay Leisten and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Ultimate FFOnce I adopted Eric Larsen’s creed of “all issues are jumping-on issues” I’d like to say I’ve become a better comic reader because of it. Using that motto has removed the excuse “… maybe it’s better if I’d read the backstory” from my fallback position when an issue is subpar. In its place comes the knowledge that a comic can be judged devoid of context. The dialogue can be snappy without previous knowledge of what came before the page you’ve read. More to the point: jump into Silence of the Lambs 45 minutes in and it’s still a great movie. I say all of this because I need you all to understand: Ultimate FF #2 is an absolute top-to-bottom atrocity. No context needed.

Let’s start with the script / plot / words on the page. Joshua Hale Fialkov generally grasps the beats and characterizations of his Future Foundation. Beyond that grasp though, is a mishmash of simplistic and idiotic dialogue awash in a plot dug out of a half-read Dungeons and Dragons campaign, topped liberally with incoherent action sequences to pad things out. The plot as it were: Sue Storm’s FF field team investigates the disappearance of some 130 wealthy Atlanteans. They arrive, things get weird, and then there’s fighting. Tah Dah!

I understand that it’s hard to effectively move a complex plot in only 20 pages or so, but then I think of all the other amazing comic books I’ve read – one shots, parts of a whole, or otherwise – and I come to the bitter conclusion that the modern trope to write for the trade is merely an excuse. I like to equate a single issue of a comic to a single episode of a cartoon. If Ultimate FF #2 were on TV, it’d be akin to one of those 12-minute shorts they traipse out during Adult Swim. It’s short, it’s shallow, and its attempts to ride on more style than substance falls on deaf ears.

All this, and the big ending is a tongue-in-cheek nod to issue three’s impending catfight. Yawn.

While I admit that I’ve not dabbled in the Ultimate universe for years, the tenants and tent-poles that make up the characters must hold true. And Fialkov seems to want only to revel in them without any further exploration. Akin perhaps to the remake of Ocean’s Eleven remake, sans the Julia Roberts subplot. FF here is just Stalwart Sue, Angry Douche Doom, Generic Black Guy Falcon, and Rich Douche Iron Man on a tepid adventure to fight the multiverse, or the garbage therein. That caveat I can buy – it gives us a good excuse as any for this rag tag team of type A’s (minus Falcon, of course) to get into nasty spills. But unlike Matt Fraction’s whimsical Defenders or terse and tepid Others (where that tepidness was a perfect foil), this team is a collection of islands that only know the melody amongst one another. And when the first big reveal gives us Namor, we simply add another tool to the chest. Emphasis on tool.

Artistically, I’m nearly at a loss for words. If you count my accurate list above, you will see that it took seven people to put together twenty pages of loose, scrappy, crappy art. At first, I was almost won over: the delicate inking and detailed underwater environmental renderings were certainly an antithesis to today’s modern photoshoppery. But the devil is in the details, and here Tom Grummett and Mario Guevara fail to deliver on their initial pages’ promise. Figures are jerked and crammed into panels without care or cause. And the litany of inkers scrawl excessive lines throughout, causing tons of unnecessary visual confusion. From Namor’s oddly shaped five-finger forehead and Doom’s spastic cape, to Falcon’s always-hash-shaded-muscles, there’s nary a page that doesn’t contain an obvious rush or flub. And given that over half a dozen people touched this issue? I’m aghast with curiosity as to how this passed mustard with anyone calling themselves an editor. All this, and I haven’t even talked about the colorist!

Long considered the unsung hero of the medium, here Rachelle Rosenberg barely decided to show up. The book itself is a constant juxtaposition of old-school simplistic flat art, layered over generic paper texture, all adding to the facade of an older book. But these tricks belie the truth that this is an ugly ass book and the color choices do nothing to elevate that fact.

While there’s a masochistic part of me that enjoys that no added glows, knockouts, or filtering try to hide the scrawl and plunder, even the most basic color choices here – on model or not – are unflattering and unsettling. And to the person that picked a lime green logo over a purple, blue, and sky blue palate for the team? I implore you to go back to Parsons, and retake fashion design, and color theory.

Perhaps I’ve been too mean, too hard and harsh to poor Joshua Hale Fialkov and company. Or perhaps, I’m apt now to cast a pall on those waste opportunity with the biggest and arguably best comic book publisher in print today. These are revisions of classic characters, in an all but open world, ready for modern spins and serious explorations. In the wake of that opportunity sits this muddled mess of in-fighting, back-biting, and herky-jerky art. Ultimate FF #2 spends too much time trying to be witty and gritty, instead of layering nuance, complexity, and exploration that should be the foundation of the book.

Erik Larsen is right: every comic is a jumping on point… and as such, I suggest those interested in this new iteration of the Future Foundation jump elsewhere.

 

Mike Gold: Top Comics Pulls of 2013

Gold Art 131225You can tell when the year is coming to an end when media outlets start offering their various and sundry “best of” lists. We here at ComicMix are no exception, so for the third consecutive year, here’s mine.

I’ve changed from “Top 9” to my top comics pulls. This is because we no longer live in a world where any one character occupies only one title – yeah, I’m talking to you, Wolverine – and sometimes I want to note a series of character-related titles. Of the five I’m listing for 2013, three cover multiple titles. This doesn’t mean I won’t change back next year. Consistency is the hobgoblin on a small cerebral cortex.

I operate under the following self-imposed rules: I’m only listing series that either were ongoing or ran six or more issues. I’m not listing graphic novels or reprints as both compete under different criteria. I should do this as a separate piece, but I seem to have forgotten where I’ve put my memory pills. And, as always, I’m not covering Internet-only projects as I’d be yanking the rug out from under my pal Glenn Hauman, as you’ll see once again this March.

So, without further ado, my top comics pulls of the year.

Sex: Writer – Joe Casey, Artist – Piotr Kowalski, Publisher – Image Comics. I like Sex. I know lots of people who like Sex. Sex is good. Sex is great. O.K., I’m done now. This is a somewhat futuristic story about a rich semi-has-been living in Saturn City, and it’s another architecturally-driven series (hello, Mister X!). The protagonist is driven by his past who’s trying to get his act together and deal with a society that is quite unlike anything we’ve seen on this Earth. His antagonist is an ancient mobster with an unending sex life, one that gets our hero in trouble. Sitting squarely in the middle is the madam of a sex club that would have put the real Hellfire Club to shame. It’s a great journey, with the creators letting out the plot on a need-to-know basis. Ambitious stuff that actually pays off.

Hawkeye: Writer – Matt Fraction, Artists – David Aja and Annie Wu, Publisher – Marvel Comics. Our returning champion, this is about as far from a Marvel superhero title as one gets. It’s all about Clint Barton when he’s not working as an Avenger. It turns out his life is as screwed up as anybody’s in the Marvel Universe, but he’s not quite mature or grounded enough to pull his ashes out of the fire. He’s also got something of an estranged relationship with the female Hawkeye, a former Young Avenger. There’s plenty of action here, but this series is all about the characters and the issue of what, when he’s not on duty, is “normal” for a superhero.

Archie: Various writers and artists, Publisher – Archie Comics. While Marvel and DC are boring us to tears with endless reboots and mindless universe-changing highly contrived “events,” Archie Comics has been quietly taking their well-known characters on an evolutionary trip that, I think, would frighten the company’s founders. Archie Andrews is less interested in Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge and has been spending a lot of time with Valerie Smith of Josie and the Pussycats. That’s a very big deal; for the better part of 75 years the Archie-Betty-Veronica triangle has been as sacrosanct as the Clark Kent-Lois Lane-Superman triangle. Jughead left home for about a year’s worth of issues. The cast continues to expand… and they continue to launch new titles, including Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s Afterlife With Archie, which may very well be the only storyline involving zombies that I enjoy any more.

Sex Criminals: Writer – Matt Fraction, Artist – Chip Zdarsky, Publisher – Image Comics. Well, lookie here. Another Image Comic with the word SEX in the title. And, damn, another good one too. This one is actually sexier than Sex, probably a bit funnier, and exceptionally compelling. Great character work, science fictiony in the classic sense, and pretty much capeless. Plus, it’s got the best recap page ever.

The Shadow: Various writers and artists, Publisher – Dynamite Comics. When I learned how much this license was going for, I figured whomever got it would have to publish multiple titles each month in order to pay the freight. I was right, but I didn’t predict most of them would be really damn good. My favorite of the bunch is Shadow Year One, by Matt Wagner and Wilfredo Torres. There is also Chris Roberson and Andrea Mutti’s The Shadow, offering traditional 1930s-era stories, and The Shadow Now by David Liss and Colton Worley and set in contemporary times.  These books do not contradict each other. There’s also a mini-series or two that usually involves other pulp heroes, legendary and original, which dominate Dynamite’s expanding line.

Batman Li’l Gotham: Story and art – Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs, Publisher – DC Comics. I’ve waxed on and on about how much I like DC’s original online comics, and most of them are quickly reprinted in traditional comic book format. Batman Li’l Gotham is my favorite of the bunch. Unlike what one might expect from the name of the book and from the artist approach, my friends at Aw Yeah! Comics have no fear of competition here. The characters are… little… and the approach is kid-friendly, but the stories are clever, entertaining and involving, and the stories aren’t padded out like most superhero books these days. The whole BatCast is featured, as are plenty of other DC Universe characters. All are unburdened by whichever version of the Official Continuity that DC may or may not be following these days.

There are plenty of other titles I would recommend, but these are the ones I pick as the ones you should check out tomorrow. Of course, your mileage may vary but, damn, finding good new stuff is why we’re comics fans in the first place.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweeks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Mike Gold: Sex – Our Moral Dilemma

Gold Art 131127Regular readers of this space may have discerned I have an absolutist attitude towards the First Amendment: freedom of expression must not be abridged in any way or form. That doesn’t mean people or corporations shouldn’t be held responsible for what they say, just that they can say it.

As A. J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” That’s obviously true, although the Internet has expanded our deployment of these freedoms exponentially. But the same attitude probably should be expected of retailers: is your local mom’n’pop candy store (yeah, yeah; nostalgia) obligated to carry the latest issue of Steamy Dwarf Sex? Probably not.

But let’s take this one step further. Do corporations that are publicly traded – public corporations – have the right to decline to offer whatever publications they dislike? If Apple’s bookstore and magazine stand doesn’t like, say, Boy’s Life, do they have a right to prevent their customers from getting it through their facilities?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Setting aside the completely ridiculous fact that in the United States of America corporations are defined as human beings, where does one “person” get off deciding what you get to read on your tablet… or hear on your Internet radio station… or see online? The Internet’s success was spurred by the availability of free pornography. The entire home video business was founded on the availability of porn in the solitude of your own home. So have various On Demand services. And where would HBO be today if not for the availability of free tits for the past 41 years?

(Yes, Virginia, there was a time when nary a nipple was permitted on the boob tube.)

Today, there’s much controversy about Apple’s bookstore and magazine stand service setting arbitrary “standards” that, by their very definition, cannot be evenly enforced. This policy has kept Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky excellent (in my opinion; this is not a review, although the book does offer the best recap page I’ve ever read) series Sex Criminals from being listed in their service. This story rightfully has garnered a lot of publicity, so I’ll use that as my example while promoting a worthy book that may be hard to find in some venues.

Sex Criminals is not a salacious book – but that is not the issue. A book’s “redeemable qualities” are completely irrelevant: that’s a standard that obviates freedom of expression. And Apple – as well as sundry other “public” corporations – has declined to distribute the title.

Outside of expanding opportunities for letting corporations determine what we can and cannot read through their efforts, the problem here is that Apple has established a standard that they do not enforce evenly. Their music service distributes all kinds of “explicit” stuff. So does their movie and teevee service. Same thing with iBooks. Their newsstand service distributes material that is truly salacious. So why dump on Fraction and Zdarsky?

Let me pose this question a different way: If Image Comics’ Sex Criminals was written by, say, Stephen King, would Apple refuse to offer it?

What’s Valley-Speak for “no fucking way?”

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY EVENING: The Tweaks!

 

Marc Alan Fishman: R.I.P. Collect-ability

Marc Alan Fishman: R.I.P. Collect-ability

Fishman ArtA fine friend of mine – a comic shop retailer, convention promoter, and all around great geek – tasked me with a topic for the week: the death of collect-ability. As a collector himself, my friend postulated that “[It seems like] Marvel Comics no longer has any ongoing series, and everything they create now is a limited series.” Interesting thought, no?

For those paying close attention to the racks these days (which I admit I’ve not… but more on that later), they’d note that within the big two, no issue is numbered over the forties. Between Marvel NOW and the New 52, the industry has taken a shine to newness as the gimmick du jour. Gone are the long-running series that toppled in the hundreds before they were relaunched into new volumes. Serious collectors would amass each issue into their glorious bags and boards, stacks, and boxes.

Devotees of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Action Comics, or Detective Comics would “ride the run” as it were. Through the high times and low, the collector made a simple statement: I want all of this. When the volume ended, a new line in the Overstreet is made and thus, said geek has the ability to opt out and move on. It might also be appropriate to hypothesize that when a volume ended, it did so not at the height of its quality or popularity. As my buddy Triple H might say? It’s always about what’s best for business.

Let us dive into that then, shall we? As a retailer, a #1 is a boon for business. It’s the universal jumping on point for a reader. Sales charts proclaimed that the New 52 was an initial success. As were several gimmicks revolving around funny numbers. Marvel NOW got into the same tactics, albeit under slower pretenses. At the end of the day though, all the ongoing series now sit in their infancy, and it is perhaps leading to an antsy fan base changing titles the way they surf the Internet. Keep producing #1s and you spark the base for a quick jolt of sales each time. The same way TV launches their seasons of new shows. The same way movie studio reboot and relaunch franchises when they want guaranteed money.

I personally am not getting any book with Wolverine in it. I freely admit though that when I see a new Wolverine #1 with a new team I stop and think “maybe I should get in on that kooky Logan business…” Hell, whilst driving home from the New York Comic Con, my Unshaven cohort declared that Matt Fraction was going to write a new Silver Surfer series. Given that I loved the new Defenders mini he did (which I bought, oddly enough, because it was a #1 and I was low on books to buy that week it debuted…), there I sat, hands on the wheel thinking that it’d be worth a try. By the way, I hate the Silver Surfer. He defeated Kyle Rayner in Marvel Vs. DC in the 90’s and I’ve never forgiven him. Yet, the allure of a #1 and a creative team I like is enough to sway my snarky heart. Scary, no?

My unnamed pal noted his sadness that his newer customers would “never get to experience of watching a series / character / creative team grow”, and those words ring true. Ron Marz’s run on Green Lantern anchored my teen years. By watching Rayner grow from a newbie ring-slinger to the true torchbearer of the corps, I built a life-long love of the character. Do I feel the same way about any character I’ve read in the last several years? Hardly.

I love the Superior Spider-Man right now, but I know that love is entirely fleeting. Much as I’d hoped Dick Grayson would hold the cape and cowl of his mentor for more than a hot minute, I knew that the industry I wallow in is one of transitory entertainment. Nothing lasts longer than the sales figures allow them to. When Walt Disney’s petulant corpse and the unseen Brothers Warner loom in the darkness with gluttonous desire, the idea that a paltry four dollar rag be given years to find a voice and mature is as impossible as a mouse actually piloting a steamboat. It’s a small world after all, and it doesn’t run on dreams and candy. It runs on movie and merchandise revenue. Comics these days serve their purpose more for maintaining rights, and collecting otaku for monetary tribute. The business model for doing that simply doesn’t take into account anything more than a bottom line in the black.

One thing I’d be remiss to mention here is how my very own studio has thought of production. Our Samurnauts concept was built to be presented as a maxi-series of mini-series… if that makes any sense. Knowing our audience as we did when we started, it was hard to not want to make everything last only long enough to make it into a trade. Then slap a new #1 on the next mini, and make everyone start back at the beginning. Simply put? When I walk past an indie table, and see a series past even four issues? I’m already walking past for fear of the costly barrier to entry. While the series itself may be absolutely amazing, as a fan, I freely admit that I’m always less likely to buy-in when I know there’s a backload of material to catch up on. Comics aren’t seasons of shows on Hulu or Netflix; they’re commitments of dollars, and as such I’ve ended up becoming a slave to newness.

I open the argument to you, the people of the court. Are Marvel and DC doing you wrong by continued experimentation, relaunching, and ADHD production? Or do you like the idea that you’re never too far away from a jumping on point? Do you find the pulp of today to be too transitive, or do you like to consume your sequential fiction one micro-series at a time?

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

 

Harvey Awards 2013 Final Ballot Announced, “Hawkeye” Gets 7 Noms

HARVEY-LOGO-2010-brown-300x2852The final ballot for the 2013 Harvey Awards is now available. Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry’s most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art. The 26th Annual Harvey Awards will be presented Saturday, September 7th, 2013 as part of the Baltimore Comic-Con.

If you are a comics professional, you can vote online at harveyawards.org/2013-final-ballot/.  This will enable easier and faster methods for the professional community to submit their nominees. Ballots are due by Monday, August 19, 2013.

And the nominees are… (more…)

Marc Alan Fishman: A Chink In The Armor

2011-04-29_133203_Iron_Man_demon-statueThis past weekend I immersed myself in all things Iron Man. I caught the new flick. I watched the first two on cable. I read the new issue of his book. I watched a few passing episodes of his 90s cartoon show as well as some The Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes. Throughout all the media Tony Stark has reigned over, it would seem his biggest defect shines though to his core: the man’s worst villain has always been himself. Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, but it certainly creates a struggle to find new ways to make Iron Man interesting.

Before we go further, let’s just assume you’ve seen the new movie. If you haven’t? Go do it. It’s absolutely amazing. Not better than IM1 per se, but leaps and bounds above IM2.

Since we’re on the subject, lets chat about the newest Iron Man flick. Here, Shane Black and his team concocted a very dark, very epic yarn in which they asked the big question at the center of Tony Stark. “Does the suit make the man, or does the man make the suit.” Black obviously chooses to answer just “yes” to that by the time the credits roll up. It’s a sufficient answer. But what it cements is that after three movies, Iron Man’s rogues gallery is woefully terrible.

In Iron Man 1, Obadiah Stane was snarling psuedo-father figure who tragically becomes a CG-piloted mess by Act Three. Because he’d rather start (and bankroll) World War III  than realize that Tony Stark came back from the desert with tech that would make them billionaires twice over. And to think that somehow he could plow his surrogate son onto the LA freeway, murder him, and somehow cover up the murder? A bitter pill to swallow.

In Iron Man 2, we start with a lunatic. This is an improvement over the megalomaniac Stane in that we don’t ever have to feel remorse for a heel turn. But where Stane could be menacing in a suit or super suit, Ivan Vanko, a.k.a. Whiplash (for the marketing tie-ins only), isn’t a threat at any point in the movie. He’s paired with a Sam Rockwell desperately trying to nibble on the scenery before being swept off the stage by the CG nightmare of Act 3. Once again, we’re faced with a fight in darkness between men in powerful suits. The day is won once again with firepower, and a little luck.

Iron Man 3 fires out of the gate with what might be his only namable villain – The Mandarin – only to wink and nod to us that such a racist concept need not be real. While I know this is a polarizing choice, I applauded it. Matt Fraction found a great way to handle the rogue in the confines of the page, but the Marvel Movieverse need not get bogged down in Fing Fang Foom-dom just yet. The bait and switch with Aldrich Killian here was a welcome choice. And for a good long while, I was on board. But again we end up at act three: A fight in the dark where luck, and firepower saves the day.

While it was sure neat to watch molten men fight an army of unmanned Iron Men (I’m not lying, I literally cheered in the theater when the drill Iron Man and black and gold suit showed up), it was all style over substance. Of course it’s the lesson that Tony takes with him as things end up. At the end of the day… all those who have opposed Tony, really only saw him as getting in the way. No man (on film at least) has found a way to be a bigger villain to Tony than Tony himself.

In the comics, it stays just as true. Matt Fraction’s brilliant run on Invincible Iron Man took cues from “Demon in a Bottle” in so much that the best way to create havoc in Tony’s life, is through himself. By using his past, and carefully crafted threats, Tony Stark of the 616 (prior to the Marvel Now initiative) was a man haunted by all the seeds of destruction he planted over the course of countless forgotten years.

By milking this, and enrobing it in new fancy techno-villains? We got a Tony like we’d never seen. And frankly, if you read almost any of my reviews of the book during that five-year run, you’d understand why I loved it so. But even amidst all the shiny bells and whistles of upgraded morts-in-suits, and a much more vicious Mandarin… the book still brought it back to the singular villain of the series: Tony Stark. And just as the movies have smartly ended on him reaching that catharsis… so too have the comics run into that very issue.

And because of it, Iron Man in the comics is suffering. With no Earthly villain left to wage war on, Tony has taken to the stars. And with almost a years’ worth of adventures under his space-belt I have been growing exponentially more bored. Why? Because much like his cinematic adventures… so too do we end up at act threes where firepower and luck prevail. No lessons to learn. Tony is a complete man. And thus far… it’s the chink in Iron Man’s otherwise impervious armor. I hope for all our sakes, someone finds a way to explore that further.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Eisner Awards 2013 Nominations Announced; “Hawkeye”, “Fatale”, “Building Stories” Lead

Comic-Con International is proud to announce the nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards of 2013. The nominees, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, reflect the wide range of material being published in comics and graphic novel form today, from crime noir to autobiographical works to cartoon adventures. Three titles lead the 2013 list with 5 nominations each.
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Marc Alan Fishman: Tough Act To Follow

The other week on my podcastFishman Art 130216 (to which you’re all listening, right? Right?) I lamented on a bold move I’d have to make after reading the incredibly terrible “Rise of the Third Army” event in the Green Lantern comics. I decided after following the book for nearly 15 years I would drop it. And I placed the blame squarely on Geoff Johns’ mighty shoulders. As if the lords of comic bookery heard my cry of exhaustion… Johns announced his stepping down from his emerald perch. And I looked up into the sky, and swear I saw a hawk wink at me.

And while I could spend the entirety of this column discussing why Geoff Johns’ name no longer comes with the reverence and respect it once did from me, I choose to digress to a more optimistic topic. With Johns and his entire GL crew stepping away, it will soon be time for new creative teams to grab the reigns of DC’s biggest B-lister and his C and D-list cohorts. And with that comes major cosmic boots to fill. Consider this my open letter to those new teams: reportedly, Peter Tomasi on the lead Green Lantern title, Joshua Hale Fialkov on Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, possibly Robert Venditti or Justin Jordan on New Guardians, and Keith Giffen on Threshold. Please note: I write on Tuesdays for my column on Saturday, but all of this unsolicited advice still applies to those who actually land the jobs.

Before you new people even open up a blank word document to scribble down thoughts and ideas, go pick up Mark Waid’s Daredevil run over at Marvel. Now read it. Now read it again. Waid, in his own right, may be one of the most prolific and amazing writers in contemporary comicsdom. I asked that you pick up his DD run not only because it’s amazing but because it followed Brian Michael Bendis’ run, which lasted about a decade if I’m not mistaken. Waid proved that even with that much narrative weight attached to a character, he could find a fresh perspective and new legs. And he did it in spades.

Now that you’ve seen that it can be done, it’s time for you to do it yourself. Realize above all else that the issues and events before your run must inspire you, not weigh you down. Bendis drug Matt Murdoch to hell several times over. Waid took that and found a way to flip it. So too, will you have to do the same with the entirety of DC’s cosmic comics. But to be fair? If nothing else, Geoff Johns built you an entire universe to play in.

Over nine years Johns took a single Green Lantern – Kyle Rayner – forgot him, and in his place built an entire emotional spectrum of warring aliens. He reignited the Green Lantern Corps. He created depth with villains (who have since had a slight change of heart) like Sinestro and Atrocitus. He created mystery with Larfleeze, and the Indigo Tribe. He created the Blue Lanterns, who up ‘til this point were essentially hero support from D&D. He granted Krona his own epic end. He retconned in an entirely new origin for the Guardians. He even made another new Earth Lantern (who I’ll mention is totally not a terrorist). It’s easy to see how anyone walking into all of this might be overwrought by this newfound continuity. Where does one even begin?

If it’s not already clear to you: consider working a year (or more, Rao willing) without an event. Is it even possible? I beg of you to look to the past. Comics, albeit serialized soaps for teens and wish-they-were-still-teens, were born in an era where complete thoughts could be told in a single floppy issue. And while I’ve explored both the good and the bad of today’s modern “write for the trade” era writing styles, suffice to say after nine years of nothing but event-driven drama for my favorite sect of mainstream comic books? My white flag has been flying since the new 52 graced my longboxes.

At the core of every great run on comic books these days, comes a commonality of concept. I cite Grant Morrison or Scott Snyder’s runs on Batman, Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and FF, Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man, or Matt Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man or his current run on Hawkeye. With each of these books (and a few other fine examples I’m missing), the creators all present a singular vision of the hero and their world. They start from a seed, and grow their own microverses within their respective issues. And in each of these cases, they take into account the continuity that occurred before them, but choose to move past it. Our past informs who we are, but it doesn’t need to be what keeps up from moving forward. So too, are our heroes of pulp and paper.

A lesser set of writers would take the last scenes of however Johns and company ends their books and emulate where they thought they were going. But you, new creative teams… will do better. You will find the essence of your respective lanterns, and will build your own bold direction. You will celebrate nine years of new ideas with years of your own. You will refrain from creating more secrets hidden in lost continuity. You will refrain from crossing over the books because one of you had a great idea that needs everyone else in the pool. You will find ways to use heroes and villains that already exist, or create new ones that help elevate your stories. You will not feel the need to end every major arc with Hal (or John, or Guy, or Kyle, or Not Terrorist) reciting the oath and blasting something to oblivion. You will not give Kyle Rayner another new costume. You will not make John Stewart blow up another planet. You will not play emotional footsie between Hal and Carol.

You will go boldly where no one has gone before. And if you’re worth your salt, you’ll earn my subscription back.

Sunday: John Ostrander

Monday: Mindy Newell