Tagged: Matt Wagner

Ed Catto: Inspiring Creativity – 100 years later

This is a little story of a little town that shifted from stoking fear to promoting creativity.

A few days before Christmas 1949, one of the Catholic elementary schools in Auburn, a small town nestled in Central New York state, encouraged children to bring their comic books from home and burn them in a school bonfire. The fear was that reading comics promoting juvenile delinquency. In fact, the school’s principal would even write a positive letter about the burning that was published in the local paper, The Auburn Citizen. This was before those misguided efforts really gained steam, culminating in the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency, focusing on comic books.

But a lot has happened since then. The region gave birth to one of the first-generation comic shops. Several more would follow, and recently the town just enjoyed its first comic convention.

And to celebrate the annual Will Eisner Week, Auburn hosted two events. Will Eisner week is a worldwide annual event that celebrates the birth of Will Eisner, called by many the father of Graphic Novels. And to make it special, 2017 marked the centennial celebration.

“Comic books are truly international. Will Eisner Week is celebrated in Angouleme, France to Sofia, Bulgaria, in Amherst, Massachusetts to Winter Park, Florida, in libraries, museums, bookstores, comic book shops, and online. Will Eisner was born in Brooklyn, New York 100 years ago during the Great Depression of first-generation immigrant parents, but even at an early age, he knew that comic books could be literature and would eventually hang on museum walls,” said Carl and Nancy Gropper of the Will & Ann Family Eisner Foundation. “We therefore celebrate sequential art, graphic novels, free speech, and his enduring legacy.”

On Eisner’s actual birthday, I presented an overview of the Will’s career and showed part of the 2008 movie, The Spirit, at The Seymour Memorial Library. This small town library embraces creativity and has a fantastic graphic novel collection. This library was actually designed by the same team who created the iconic New York Public Library, so there’s an impressive majesty to it all. The Library’s Director, Lisa Carr, is an enthusiastic proponent of graphic novels and has worked with Seymour’s Community Services Coordinator Jaclyn Kolb to create this unique event.

The following night, the Auburn Public Theater screened the documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist, followed by a Q & A session. Angela Daddabbo, one of Auburn’s most passionate and creative voices, works hard to ensure that this venue provides a variety of enriching events to the local population.

Geek Culture at large got behind these events too. Paul Levitz donated an autographed copy of his recent book: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. Dynamite Entertainment donated comics of Will Eisner’s The Spirit (by Matt Wagner, Dan Schkade and Brennan Wagner) and Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpsemakers #1 (by Francesco Francavilla) as well a hardcover of the recent Will Eisner’s The Spirit collection. Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con awarded three pairs of tickets to lucky attendees for their upcoming June comic convention.

“We’re thrilled by all the events for Will Eisner Week, especially in this Centennial year., in which we have over 100 events worldwide! I’m especially encouraged when new cities, like Auburn, New York, join the celebration,” said author/editor Danny Fingeroth, Chair of Will Eisner Week.

It was an invigorating experience for all involved. And Auburn’s pretty much stopped burning comics.

 

Marc Alan Fishman is Catching Up With Gotham

Paul Reubens Robin Lord Taylor

With the current crop of network TV shows all ending for the season, I thought I might double back on a show I’ve checked in on a few times in this column. Gotham has been a guilty pleasure since the start. As much as my betters at the AV Club like to poke fun at the show’s inconsistent tone, it never struck the nerve as hard for me as them (and, I’ll feign a guess, hopefully others). With The Flash and a few other appointment-worthy shows off my DVR, I binged through the back half of Gotham one episode a night for a little over a week. And here with the final installment digested, I’m ready to deliver my verdict.

paul reubensFirst, I liked it. Then, I really liked it. And then, I liked it a whole lot less.

Saddled with the moniker Wrath of the Villains for this portion of the season, Gotham as a show shifted its focus to the once very-out-of-focus “Indian Hill” facility below Arkham Asylum. B.D. Wong’s Professor Hugo Strange stepped into the big bad role that Theo Galavan had chewed on in the front half of the season. Bruce Wayne, now aided by Lucius Fox, Alfred, and Thomas Wayne’s old super computer, sets to the task of solving his parents mystery.

And Jim Gordon? Well, he was as grimacey as ever, having once again crossed the line between law abiding Commissioner-In-Waiting and monster. Oh, and Edward Nygma was now off the leash of quasi-villainy. And the Penguin was locked away as a plaything for Hugo Strange. Whew! And with all those moving parts, I truly liked the show.

The Gotham incarnation of Hugo Strange – not unlike the Matt Wagner penned Batman and the Monster Men series – sees the philosophical Hugo playing mad scientist with the various living and less living goons, crooks, cranks, and in-patients that Arkham belches forth. It’s clear to anyone who has read a comic book that this device would lead eventually to a litany of otherwise impossible freaks from the Bat-cannon. The storyline eventually gives us Mr. Freeze, Azrael, and Firefly – in addition to a plethora of as-yet-unnamed ne’er-do-wells to act as the future villains of the week.

As with plenty in the series, Gotham finds a way to add a bit of hipster verve to these well-worn characters. Firefly, for example, is reborn with new origins that trump any comic counterpart I’ve ever read for the character. As a closeted pyromaniac slumdog living and working with a crew of crooked brothers, the Hispanic Michelle Veintimilla brings a creepy hidden villainess beneath layers of downtrodden physical and emotional abuse. It’s a depth not really afforded to the character in any incarnation I’d seen, and the show is brightened by the addition almost. We’ll put a pin in that.

Some of the storylines really came into their own. Both Penguin and Nygma continue to steal every scene they’re in. With a jaunty cameo by Paul Reubens as the long lost father of our little Oswald, we got to see a retread of Cobblepot’s journey from picked-on put-upon straight through to raging psychotic. While the family who secretly conspire to murder the unsuspecting rich ninny was perhaps a little to worse for wear as predictable dreck… it served its purpose to allow Penguin to reclaim his former self. This is of course after the psychotropic experiments of Hugo Strange. An arc without a purpose, save only for wasting time. At least it was entertaining.

Elsewhere Nygma gave birth to his first riddle-based crime. But unlike the often-predictable cash grab or mental chess game… Gotham’s Riddler had the endgame all along; to frame Jim Gordon for murder to remove him from discovered Nygma’s rage-induced murdering of his would-be-beau not so long ago. Again, the story itself wasn’t ever going to win an award for originality, but the performance of our quizzical crook kept it very watchable indeed.

As we rounded second base in the back half of the season, Strange’s master plan was revealed. Spoiler Alert For Those Who Care: Seems Indian Hill, and all the work by the good doctor was in effort to reanimate the dead. And while my geeky heart rooted for an eventual Solomon Grundy, instead we crossed the line from good to goofy right at the event horizon. Theo Galavan’s floating corpse is brought back to the land of the living in part because of Mr. Freeze’s cryogenic research, coupled with the longstanding work of Strange. But the Galavan the show once depicted as a cold and calculated Bruce Wayne on his worst day, here we’re treated to a scenery eviscerating lunatic spoon-fed the Order of St. Dumas in order to claim his new identity as Azrael. Oh, and he’s also mildly invulnerable to pain, super strong, and crazily agile. Because… why not.

It’s here, with this final master stroke Gotham began to unravel at rapid speed. I’ll spare you the full recounting of it all. Because what matters comes in the end game that’s offered to us in the parting shots. Fish Mooney (yes, you read that right) is back where she started – now with super mind-control powers (because… science). Penguin may very well return to his butler boy status under her Press-On nails. Bruce is still forever brooding. Selina is forever vexxing. And Bullock is acting captain of the GCPD.

None of it is cannon, or even close to it. Jim Gordon is off to find Lee Thompkins for a “don’t get your hopes up” rekindling of romance. And a bus full of CGI and prosthetic makeup toting villains now litter the unkempt corners of Gotham for the season to come in the fall. Because the show spent so long making the attempt to broaden the horizon of an already packed show, to see the ending of this season simply reset the status quo is dirty ball that doesn’t make me excited to return.

But that’s how it goes. Because… It’s Gotham.

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

 

PREVIEW: THE SHADOW YEAR ONE BY MATT WAGNER AND WILFREDO TORRES

In stores this February from Dynamite Entertainment.

About The Shadow: Year One–
THE SHADOW is a character that has lasted through decades on the pages of pulp magazines, over the radio airwaves, through the silver screen, and in the panels of comic books. Shrouded in mystery, his origins have been explored and hinted at over the years…but never fully revealed. Much is known of Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston’s years spent in the Orient and Central America—wherein he gains his powers and purpose…but not how he first developed his persona as the Master of Darkness.

Eisner Award-winning author, Matt Wagner is joined by artist Wilfredo Torres in an exhilarating 8-issue limited series that will explore the dynamic events that first drew Cranston back to the States, how he first met his companion and lover, Margo Lane, how he began to assemble his vast network of agents, and how he first adopted the famous black hat and cloak as his alter-ego’s disguise- all secrets that, up until now… only The Shadow knew!

Official Press Release:

Legendary comic book creator Matt (Mage, Grendel) Wagner takes on The Shadow in 2013 with The Shadow: Year One. Much as he did with Dynamite’s Green Hornet: Year One, Matt plans to tell the definitive origin story of The Shadow, showing fans why the character has endured in popularity for so many years! Look for Matt Wagner’s The Shadow: Year One in 2013!

“THE SHADOW has long been one of my absolute favorite established characters and I’m thrilled to finally get the chance to contribute to his continuing adventures,” says Matt Wagner. “I’m getting to help define The Shadow’s mysterious origins in a Year One story arc! For all his published history in both the pulps and comics, as well as his radio adventures, there’s surprisingly no depiction of his very first adventures as the dark-clad Master of Men. This series will explore the events that first drew Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston back to the States, how he began to assemble his vast network of agents and how he first adopted the famous black hat and cloak as his alter-ego’s disguise-secrets that, up until now…only The Shadow knew!”

“Matt’s a legend and it’s always great to work with him,” stated Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt. “Everything about his work is infused with realism and authenticity, and his Shadow: Year One will raise the bar for pulps and their heroes.”

“I’ve known Matt for 30 years now, since he lived in Philadelphia and was working on Mage for Comico Comics. I’ve mentioned this for years, that I repeatedly asked him if he would work on a comic with me as even at a young age, his scripts, art and ability to tell stories was some of the best I had seen. I never would have thought that 25 years later we would start a relationship with Matt working together. This is the third project with Matt, and it keeps getting better each time. I’m proud to be working with Matt, and can’t wait for this new adventure to begin!” – States Dynamite President and Publisher Nick Barrucci.

“Like” Dynamite on Facebook. Join the conversation on Dynamite Entertainment’s twitter For art and more information, please visit: www.dynamite.net.

Click on images for larger view.

Issue #2 coming soon.

MATT WAGNER TO WRITE THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE!

Dynamite Entertainment has announced a new series starring one of pulp’s greatest heroes, The Shadow. Veteran comic book creator Matt Wagner has been tapped to tell The Shadow’s early adventures in The Shadow: Year One.

PRESS RELEASE:

THE LEGENDARY COMIC BOOK CREATOR TELLS THE SHADOW’S ORIGIN STORY IN 2013!

October 12th, 2012, Mt. Laurel, NJ – Legendary comic book creator Matt (Mage, Grendel) Wagner takes on The Shadow in 2013 with The Shadow: Year One. Much as he did with Dynamite’s Green Hornet: Year One, Matt plans to tell the definitive origin story of The Shadow, showing fans why the character has endured in popularity for so many years! Look for Matt Wagner’s The Shadow: Year One in 2013!

“THE SHADOW has long been one of my absolute favorite established characters and I’m thrilled to finally get the chance to contribute to his continuing adventures,” says Matt Wagner. “I’m getting to help define The Shadow’s mysterious origins in a Year One story arc! For all his published history in both the pulps and comics, as well as his radio adventures, there’s surprisingly no depiction of his very first adventures as the dark-clad Master of Men. This series will explore the events that first drew Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston back to the States, how he began to assemble his vast network of agents and how he first adopted the famous black hat and cloak as his alter-ego’s disguise-secrets that, up until now…only The Shadow knew!”

“Matt’s a legend and it’s always great to work with him,” stated Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt. “Everything about his work is infused with realism and authenticity, and his Shadow: Year One will raise the bar for pulps and their heroes.”

“I’ve known Matt for 30 years now, since he lived in Philadelphia and was working on Mage for Comico Comics. I’ve mentioned this for years, that I repeatedly asked him if he would work on a comic with me as even at a young age, his scripts, art and ability to tell stories was some of the best I had seen. I never would have thought that 25 years later we would start a relationship with Matt working together. This is the third project with Matt, and it keeps getting better each time. I’m proud to be working with Matt, and can’t wait for this new adventure to begin!” – States Dynamite President and Publisher Nick Barrucci

For art and more information, please visit: www.dynamite.net.

MARK WAID TACKLES THE GREEN HORNET AND KATO IN 2013

Award-winning writer, Mark Waid will pen new adventures of the Green Hornet and Kato for Dynamite Entertainment to follow Matt Wagner’s fan-favorite Green Hornet Year One series.

PRESS RELEASE:

Dynamite is proud to announce multiple Eisner and Harvey Award winning writer Mark Waid, will be relaunching the Green Hornet in 2013. Mark Waid is one of the premier writers in the comics industry, known for his critically acclaimed as well as commercial successful books including Kingdom Come, The Flash, Captain America, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four as well as the upcoming The Indestructible Hulk. Green Hornet will also feature covers by Mark Waid’s Eisner and Harvey Award winning Daredevil artist, Paolo Rivera! Look for Green Hornet and Kato in 2013, from Dynamite Entertainment!

“It should come as little surprise that I have an affinity for all costumed crimefighters no matter if their adventures are ‘period pieces’ or not–heroism is heroism regardless of whatever year’s on the calendar,” says writer Mark Waid. “With this Green Hornet project, which I’ve been percolating on for more than ten years, I’m able to meld my love of the Hornet’s legacy with a little bit of Citizen Kane and a lot of Lawrence of Arabia to tell a story never before told–the dark years of the Hornet’s later career and the one mistake he makes that nearly costs him everything.”

“I wasn’t very familiar with The Green Hornet growing up, but I always thought he looked sleek and stylish – I guess I had a soft spot for old-school heroes,” says cover artist Paolo Rivera. “I later discovered that he was designed by H. J. Ward, my favorite painter of all time. The more I learned about Ward, the more I learned about Britt Reid and Kato, including Reid’s familial ties to The Lone Ranger. I can’t wait to render my interpretation of the green team. That, and I miss Mark Waid.”

“Sometimes in life, things happen for a reason. We’ve wanted to work with Mark nearly since Dynamite’s inception. We first approached him about writing a Red Sonja mini-series, but Mark wasn’t familiar with the character and passed. Over the years we’ve approached Mark about various projects, but his schedule did not allow. We’ve always wanted a strong writer to write the original Green Hornet, as Matt Wagner has done a fantastic job on Green Hornet: Year One. And since Green Hornet: Year One, we hadn’t found the right writer for a new series. When Mark’s schedule allowed for us to finally work together, I asked which character(s) he would like to write. Right off the bat, he said the Green Hornet. I said “Yes!”. It was perfect for everyone. It took awhile, and I’m proud to say we’re working with Mark Waid on a Green Hornet series, and it is worth the wait. Sometimes in life, things happen for a reason.” – Nick Barrucci, Dynamite Entertainment President

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For art and more information, please visit: www.dynamite.net

Mike Gold: Icons

Not counting reprints of the newspaper strips, Tarzan of the Apes has been in the hands of no less than seven U.S. comic book publishers. That’s roughly one outfit per decade. Most enjoyed long and healthy runs by the standards of the time, legal quibbles notwithstanding.

Currently The Lone Ranger is in the hands of Dynamite Publishing. In those same 70 years, John, Tonto, Silver and Scout enjoyed lengthy runs at Western Publishing (Dell and Gold Key, which were two separate companies) and a shorter term at Topps.

The 1970s property Planet of the Apes has been kept alive by comics publishers, initially Marvel and now Boom! Studios.

The Shadow? Five comics publishers, extending the life of the original pulp and radio hero by more than a half-century… and counting.

The original Twilight Zone television show was cancelled in 1964; the Western Publishing comic book series ran until 1982.

The list goes on and on. What is it about the comic book medium that keeps iconic characters and concepts alive when their originating media cannot?

Math.

Television audiences are measured in units of one million, and very generally speaking you need at least ten of them to survive. Movie audiences are measured in units of ten million dollars and you need lots of those to survive. Mass-market paperbacks, radio drama, pulp magazines and newspaper continuity strips are virtually dead. In most cases, more than just “virtually.”

Comic book audiences are measured in units of one thousand, and these days you can achieve regular publishing with only five or ten such units, depending upon costs and foreign revenues. It’s a lot easier to grab five thousand readers than it is ten million viewers or one hundred million dollars at the box office. All you have to do is appeal to each property’s hardcore audience.

And this is why comics thrive. Appealing to the hardcore, to the most faithful, requires reaching and maintaining a higher standard of entertainment. Us fanboys and fangirls are damn picky. Unlike the movies we do not necessarily demand “name” talent, but we do demand that the writers and artists remain faithful to the source material while telling their stories in a contemporary manner – while being awe-inspiring at all times.

In comics, we’ve got a special effects budget that has no limit and our turn-around time is usually shorter than that of other media, e-books notwithstanding. We can stay on the cutting edge. We are limited only by our skill and our imagination.

Most important, we have fewer cigar-chomping asshole businesspeople mindlessly calling the shots. Well, certainly at those publishers that aren’t owned by major Hollywood studios.

I’d be impressed – very impressed – if I were to see a Zorro television series or a movie that is half as good as the storyline just completed by Matt Wagner and John K. Snyder III in Zorro Rides Again. But, trust me, I won’t be holding my breath.

When it comes to the icons of heroic fantasy, we do it better.

We do it best.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

 

The Tower Chronicles Marks the Arrival of Legendary Comics

Legendary Comics launches their first series today with The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk – Volume 1, from Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley. The 48-page prestige format release begins a new universe that represents the kinds of comics Legendary intends to explore. The Tower Chronicles is the tale of John Tower, a supernatural bounty hunter. His missions lead him into mankind’s most dangerous places to banish poltergeists, demons, and other supernatural evils that plague his “sometimes respectable” patrons.

The first issue sports two different covers, one from Bisley, perhaps best remembered for his work on Lobo in the 1990s, and Jim Lee, DC Entertainment’s co-publisher, inked by his usual partner Scott Williams. The series is being inked by Rodney Ramos, the journeyman inker best known for his work on Transmetropolitan.

The Tower Chronicles: Geisthawk – Volume 1 was written by Wagner (Grendel and Mage) in consultation with Thomas Tull, founder of Legendary Pictures. It’s interesting to note that the copyright is shared by Wagner and Legendary. The story is set in contemporary times but clearly has supernatural elements starting with Tower himself and the monsters he is charged with apprehending. As usual, Wagner’s writing is clear and never less than interesting to read. Bisley’s claustrophobic, dark artwork is great for the monsters, less so for the people inhabiting the pages.

The first serial is part of a trilogy, Wagner has told the media he has already written a total of eight volumes so the adventures are only just beginning.

The comic imprint is a subsidiary of Legendary Pictures which has co-produced countless films including many in the genre such as 300 and The Dark Knight trilogy. Editing the line is Bob Schreck, formerly of Dark Horse and DC Comics. Last year, the company debuted with Frank Miller’s former Batman project, Holy Terror.

Wagner and Schreck are taking reader questions over at the title’s Facebook page. There, additional background on the world and characters are presented, along with previews of subsequent stories

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: The Great Comic Book Retro-Expansion

Last week I bitched and moaned about how we’ve turned our backs on comics that can be appreciated by readers of all ages in order to follow the money that kids ain’t got and some adults might have. I also tied this into continuity impenetrable to newcomers that is spread over about a hundred dollars’ worth of monthly product. I can be snotty that way.

In just the past couple of years, we have seen something of a return to comics that can be enjoyed by readers young and old. Publishers can’t help the self-consciousness suffered by Baby Boomers and some Gen-Xers, but today’s new middle-agers were raised without much of the stigma us old folks suffered during the Wertham rage. So, I am now taking it upon myself to point out a few titles that work for a general audience that is fearless enough to read comic books on the bus, be it to work or to school.

I’ve been quite impressed with Dynamite’s Zorro Rides Again, written by Matt Wagner and drawn (now) by John K. Snyder III. That’s quite a pedigree, and their work lives up to it. You do not have to be steeped in a century of Zorrodom to understand what’s going on: it’s all about a revolutionary with a sword on a horse who fights Spanish oppression in the name of the people of California. Solid action, great storytelling, and an even greater story. You can’t go wrong here; it’s a damn fine book.

Image Comics has been running a little superhero series called Savage Dragon for almost 20 years now – the main series is up to issue 180, for crying out loud – and there’s a reason why writer/artist/creator Erik Larson’s work has endured: it deserves to. Yeah, it’s all about a big hyper-muscled green-scaled head-finned superhero; what’s it to you? It’s chock full of solid characterization and mayhem alike. I think it appeals to the same sort of 11 year old that found Marvel Comics so accessible and so exciting a couple generations ago as well as to older readers get a solid comic book experience that isn’t fraught with sturm und drang. The real old farts will be reminded why we liked comics in the first place without having to hit up 50ccs of nostalgia.

The real surprise here comes from DC Comics. While all the focus and attention has been on the New 52, a line too interconnected and too continuity convoluted to access the broader spectrum of readers, over on the West Coast their editorial operation has been publishing a nice little self-contained universe of superheroes in a continuity that had its roots in a teevee series cancelled long ago. The book is called Batman Beyond Unlimited and for those who are unfamiliar with the proto-show it’s The Old DC Universe – The Next Generation… except some members of the original generation (Bruce Wayne, Kal-El) are still around.

There’s three different series going on in this giant-sizedish monthly: Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond, and Justice League Beyond. The latter group has Superman (the original, a man out of his time), Batman (Terry McGinnis, although Bruce Wayne is still around and more cranky than ever), Warhawk – the son of Hawkgirl and John Stewart, as well as contemporary versions of Green Lantern, The Atom and others. They back-fill the origins while remaining constant with previously established continuity, but – and this is why it works – you don’t need to be Mark Waid to understand who’s who, what’s what, and how everybody got that way. Available as weekly downloads in individual series titles or in the Batman Beyond Unlimited monthly, by avoiding the grim and gritty wallowing in apocalyptic hopelessness, this is a title that can be enjoyed by all but the most anal-retentive cynic.

And when was the last time I wasn’t the most anal-retentive cynic?

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil and the Trilogy Trend

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Mike Baron’s Bat Fan?