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Review: The Wrong Earth #3

AHOY Comics is on a tear. The second issue of their debut series, The Wrong Earth, sold out and went back for a second printing.  Comic shops increased their orders for issue #3. The quantities ordered were more than those for the first issue, which ‘never happens’ with new series in today’s comics market.

After reading The Wrong Earth #3, It’s easy to see why.

The main story picks up the pace in this adventure. This issue brings secondary characters to the forefront and, surprisingly, shuffles other characters offstage.   The premise of this story is both traditional and cutting edge at the same time: the adventures of the gritty Dragonfly and the campy Dragonflyman as they switch places. Each character must navigate the absurdity of their doppelganger’s setting.  Conventions are skewered on both sides of the narrative.

The Wrong Earth is a judgement-free zone. Readers aren’t scolded or lectured.  For every “the old days were better”, bit, there’s a counterpoint example of how today’s fiction makes the vintage stuff look dated.  Instead, readers are invited on an adventurous romp that highlights the absurdity of it all.

The series also embraces a sense of urgency and surprise.  Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, writer Tom Peyer pulls the rug out. Peyer is a master of zigging when you thought the only option was zagging.

Jamal Igle’s artistic talent pushes the story along at a frantic pace.  His solid artwork is almost humble.  There are no showy, “look at me” scenes.  But at the same time, his thoughtful page layout, unexpected camera angles and detailed backgrounds leave the reader wanting more.

As with every AHOY series, there’s more to the comic than just the main story. Paul Constant and Frank Cammuso offer up another fun Stinger “Golden Age adventure”. This time, the young hero investigates mysterious hijinks at the Sidekick Museum.

As with all AHOY Comics, this issue is rounded out with clever short text pieces. The real magic of them, for me, is how they prolong the reader’s time with the comic.  Like the signature articles in a Brubaker/Phillips crime comic, these short stories ensure every fan feels as if they are getting their money’s worth.

It’s all fresh and fun. Longtime comic fans seldom have that “I can’t wait to find out what happens next” feeling, but that’s exactly where The Wrong Earth #3 will leave them.

National Graphic Novel Writing Month Day 7: Sorry, There’s Math

National Graphic Novel Writing Month Day 7: Sorry, There’s Math

National Graphic Novel Writing Month 2018

Writing a comic script is an extremely regimented process. You’re often working within an extremely tight format that leaves little room for error.

John Ostrander explained it for us a while back:

First number: the number of pages. Right now, your monthly comic book is 22 pages long. Let’s say you’ve been asked to do a fill-in story or a complete in one story for a given book. There are certain space limitations you need to take into account.

How many panels are in a page? Well, your first page is usually the splash page which means one big panel. This page also usually has the title of the story and the credits box for the creators. Here’s some rules of thumb for the other pages: when there’s a lot of action, you use fewer panels per page. If it’s a talk scene, you can have more. I generally figure that it will average out to five panels a page. The splash page is one panel so you have 21 pages times five panels. We do the match and the whole thing totals 106 panels in which to tell your story.

That’s not a lot of room to work. And as we said earlier, every panel must convey an action. You have to be able to tell your entire chunk of story under those constraints, which means you’re going to have to make every shot count. Mark Waid explains:

In a 22-page comic, figuring an average of four to five panels a page and a couple of full-page shots, a writer has maybe a hundred panels at most to tell a story, so every panel he wastes conveying (a) something I already know, (b) something that’s a cute gag but does nothing to reveal plot or character, or (c) something I don’t need to know is a demonstration of lousy craft. Comics are expensive. Don’t make me resent the money I spend buying yours. Every single moment in your script must either move the story along or demonstrate something important about the characters—preferably both—and every panel that does neither is a sloppy waste of space.

The good news is that if you’re doing your own graphic novel, you can write to any length you need– but you still can’t waste any panels. So you have to figure out what actions tell your story, and that means that you need to make an outline… and that’s the next part.

REVIEW: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

REVIEW: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

I will admit that I skipped Teen Titans Go! since I was far beyond their target audience, I was happy to see a scaled down, entry-level animated series succeed so well on cable. It honored its Marv Wolfman/George Pérez roots and had a nice run. What I never expected was to see it make the leap to the big screen and succeed as well as it did.

Back in the spring, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was among the least anticipated summer films by theater owners at Movie Con but then arrived to superlative reviews (91% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and stronger than anticipated box office with $51.8 million earned worldwide against a $10 million budget.

On the five season series, the young heroes were seen having ordinary every day adventures, focusing more on pizza than the Fearsome Five. One recurring theme seems to be that the adult heroes looked down on them as being far from ready. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, out on disc now from Warner Home Entertainment, goes meta as the kids worry about their shot at a feature film. They’re told they’re just too goofy to be taken seriously enough for a film so Robin (Scott Menville) leads the team  — Cyborg (Khary Payton), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), Raven (Tara Strong), and Starfire (Hynden Walch) — to Hollywood to prove them all wrong. Hilarity ensures for the next 84 minutes.

Taking a cue more from 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool than any heroic film Warner has released, the movie is a rapid-fire collection of wit, comical asides, and recurring gags including, yes, mistaking Deathstroke (called Slade here given the target audience) as Deadpool. Writers Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath clearly had a lot of fun with this and were well-served by director Aaron Horvath. For knowing adults in the room, you can appreciate that Superman is voiced by Nicholas Cage (fulfilling his dream). There is additional fine voice work from Will Arnett and the ubiquitous Kristen Bell. Nothing is sacred, notably the flawed DCEU films.

The transfer to Blu-ray is just fine, with strong visuals and audio. The simple style is deceptive and the colors pop here. Being a kids film, the special features appear more geared to them than the parents buying the disc. There’s a Lil Yachty Music Video (2:09) and three Sing-A-Long songs — Rap (1:56), Inspirational Song (2:41), My Super Hero Movie (2:23) — featuring Starfire’s pet Silkie, who was left out of the film proper. WB Lot Shenanigans (3:56) features costumed adults as the Titans making noise around the film studio. Red Carpet Mayhem (2:10) has some of the cast have fun at the premiere. We also have a DC Super Hero Girls Short: The Late Batsby (4:14). Interestingly, Teen Titans GO!: Translated (2:18) shows scenes translated for international audiences.  We have two Storyboard Animatics: Time Cycles (1:07) and The Final Battle (1:34). Finally, there’s a one-minute deleted scene.

Review: The “March” Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

I recently finished reading Book Three of March, the graphic novel autobiography of Atlanta Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. I had never heard of Lewis prior to encountering March, but having now read it, I’ve gained a better picture of not only his life, but of the internal and external obstacles that the Civil Rights movement navigated in the 50s and 60s. Living today at a time when white supremacists have actually managed to gain an inexplicable foothold back into the mainstream—something I never thought I’d ever experience in my lifetime—reading March, isn’t just a gratifying reading experience. It’s a reminder of where our country has been, and the direction from which that pendulum has swung. As we reel from the horrors of Charlottesville, religious travel bans, mass child abuse inflicted upon brown children, and the continued practices of voter suppression, March serves as a warning of what it may look like if it swings back too far.

Lewis played many key roles in the civil rights movement, and the end of legalized racial segregation in the United States. As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, and one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He was the fourth person to speak at the March (Dr. King was tenth). Only 23 at the time of his speech, he was the youngest of the speakers, and is the only one still living.

Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin, Rep. John Lewis
The author’s photo of the creative team, from left to right: Nate Powell, Andrew Aydin, and Congressman John Lewis.

I first became acquainted with March in 2013, when Book One was published by Top Shelf Comics, and I covered the signing held at Midtown Comics in Manhattan as a photographer for Wikipedia. Congressman Lewis was in attendance, along with his Digital Director and Policy Advisor Andrew Aydin, who conceived the idea for the book and co-wrote it with him, and artist Nate Powell, who illustrated and lettered the book. Book Two followed in 2015, and Book Three in 2016.

While March obviously isn’t the first work dealing with the history of the civil rights movement, and is not the first autobiography Lewis has written (his prose memoir, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, was published in 1998), March is unique in that it is a graphic novel, a medium chosen for its ties to the history of the movement, and to Lewis’ role in it. Lewis first heard of Rosa Parks, Dr. King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott through his mentor, James Lawson, who worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (F.O.R.), an interfaith organization dedicated to promoting peace and justice. Lawson gave Lewis a copy of Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a 10-cent comic book published by F.O.R. that demonstrated in clear fashion the power of nonviolence. The Montgomery Story served as one of the guides used at student meetings that Lewis began attending, and influenced other civil rights activists, including the Greensboro Four. Aydin repeatedly suggested to Lewis that he write a comic book of his own, bringing him back full circle to the medium that got him involved in the movement.

And what a story it is.

The story opens in media res on March 7, 1965, as the young Lewis stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama with fellow civil rights activists during the Selma to Montgomery marches, which serves as a framing sequence that bookends the trilogy. The activists are confronted by Alabama state troopers, who order the protestors to turn around. When the protestors kneel to pray, the troopers attack them, before the narrative cuts away to Lewis’ beginnings.

Lewis grew up on his sharecropper father’s farm in rural Alabama, tending to the family’s chickens while entertaining dreams of becoming a preacher. Eventually, his eyes were opened to the state of race relations in the United States by his school studies, and by his maternal uncle Otis, who took Lewis on his first trip up North in June 1951. Lewis describes the careful planning that had to be made for such trips in order to avoid places where black people were not wanted, and the caution Otis observed as they drove through Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Their relief comes only when they make it to Ohio, which is accompanied by the image of their car driving across another bridge, a fitting recurring motif.

Although his parents had raised him to stay out of trouble, the experience of seeing whites and blacks living side and by side in the unsegregated North changed Lewis so much that home never felt the same to him. When he started school again, the segregated bus he rode to school was a daily reminder of what he had learned about the two worlds that existed in the United States. When Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka outlawed public school segregation, Lewis thought it would improve his schooling, but his parents continued to warn him, “Don’t get in trouble. Don’t you get in the way.” Lewis also noticed that the injustices against blacks were not mentioned by local church ministers, and that his minister drove a very nice automobile. Profoundly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s social gospel and the Civil Rights movement that he heard in a Sunday sermon by King on the radio, Lewis preached his first public sermon just before his sixteenth birthday, garnering his first publicity. While attending American Baptist Theological Seminary Lewis sought to transfer student to Troy University, and when he was rejected because he was black, it led to his first meetings with civil rights leaders Ralph Abernathy and Fred Gray, and then Dr. King. Lewis was told they would have to sue the state of Alabama to change this, but since Lewis was still a minor, he would have to get his parents permission for this. Lewis was heartbroken when his parents refused, but he would continue his work in Nashville, where his moral philosophy on racism, poverty and war was shaped by other activists there like Diane Nash and Jim Lawson, and those far away like Mohandas Gandhi. From here, Book One of the trilogy depicts Lewis and the Nashville Student Movement’s lunch counter sit-ins, and the tactics they learned to employ in response to racists who inflicted abuse and beatings upon them, and how they dealt with arrests.

Book Two depicts the expansion of the Nashville student movement’s respectful protests, Lewis’ involvement with the SNCC, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Freedom Riders; their confrontations with opponents like Bull Conner and George Wallace; and the resulting beatings, shootings, firebombed buses and imprisonment. Their activities caught the attention of the initially equivocal Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and that of others who decided to become Freedom Riders themselves—swelling the movement’s numbers so that even imprisonment wouldn’t be a feasible way for the white establishment to stop them. As Lewis put it, “The fare was paid in blood, but the Freedom Rides stirred the national consciousness and awoke the hearts and minds of a generation.” The SNCC also faced a schism between those who favor their effective direct action campaigns and those who favored Dr. King and Robert Kennedy’s urging to focus on registering blacks to vote. When Jim Bevel and the South Christian Leadership Conference organized Birmingham’s black children to protest, a thousand children were arrested, and the televised images of fire hoses and German shepherds being used against kids horrified the nation. As Lewis is elected chairman of the SNCC, he is moved by the surreal nature of being invited for a meeting with President John Kennedy and other black leaders at the White House, where the March on Washington is first announced.

Book Three opens with the September 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The SNCC continues its work amid the assassination of JFK; and continued violent resistance to the Civil Rights movement, which includes the murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. President Lyndon Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but it does not ban “literacy tests” and other voting restrictions. What remains to be achieved is a voting rights bill, but Johnson’s need to court Southern voters in the upcoming election spurs him and his supporters to put pressure on civil rights activists to stop the protests. This gives cause for conflict between Roy Wilkins, who favors ceasing the protests, King, who suggests a moratorium on them, and those like Lewis and James Farmer, who are adamant that protests must continue. The murder of activists like James Reeb and 26-year-old Army veteran Jimmie Lee Jackson seem to threaten to shatter Lewis, but also seem to steel his resolve for the Selma to Montgomery marches, which brings him to the Edmund Pettus bridge, and back to the scene that opened the trilogy. Chaos breaks out as state troopers brutally beat and tear gas activists, which becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis’s skull is fractured, but amazingly, he escapes across the bridge to safety, and appears on television to call for Johnson to intervene before he even goes to the hospital, bearing scars from that beating to this day. The photo of the unconscious Amelia Boynton Robinson, pummeled nearly to death, so shocks the world that it raises the public’s consciousness on the need for lawmakers to act. It’s probably not for nothing that the crowd crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge is the cover image of the slipcased three-book set, beautifully silhouetted against the Sun.

What I appreciate about this story is the genuineness of the conflict among not just racists and civil rights activists but among the various individuals and groups of the movement. While multiple layers of conflict is part of writing fiction, this is often not possible when telling a non-fictional story authentically, and can result in writers either fabricating events and conflicts that never happened, or telling a story in a way that seems flat and boring. Neither occurs in March. Preparations for the March on Washington, for example, which one may think, with the auspiciousness granted to that event by the hindsight of history, was brought about by winds of inevitability, was anything but. Behind the scenes, arrangements are marked by tension over passages in Lewis’s speech that are seen as anti-Catholic, and possibly pro-Communist. This is a clash that I never knew took place prior to the reading this book, and its inclusion makes the read both entertaining and educational.

I also appreciate that Lewis does not make the movement about him, and gives space to discussing figures I had previously heard little or nothing of, like Bob Moses, Stokely Carmichael, A. Philip Randolph, and Bayard Rustin. While evaluating a work of non-fiction is more difficult than a work of fiction, in part because one can’t be certain how much is accurate, the fact that Lewis explains who everyone else is goes a long way to conveying a feeling of authenticity, and the sense that I’m learning much I never learned in high school, or even during the boilerplate television programming we get every February. Lewis doesn’t skimp on the emotional moments either, and there are plenty in this book. Particularly powerful is a moment when Robert Kennedy cements Lewis’s respect for him when he pulls the young activist aside and says to him, “You, the young people of SNCC, have educated me. You have changed me. Now I understand.”

Nate Powell’s art is perfectly suited to this type of book. Using a combination of ink and ink wash, with an adeptly varied line weight, the greyscale art does a good job of evoking a sense of time and place. Powell knows when to apply his technique judiciously, making competent use of shadows, silhouettes and high-contrast black and white compositions during dramatic moments, and even rendering some panels in a light, all-pencil technique.

The power of Powell’s depiction of historical figures lies not in fealty to standards of photorealism, but from his ability to elicit feelings with his visuals: Characters set against completely black background, their figures rendered in the sparse areas illuminated by a lone light source, convey a feeling of their isolation, while a farmhouse drawn in one or two light tones of grey against an all white background transport the reader to the sun-drenched fields of the rural South. While I like color, even prefer it, one never feels cheated when looking at the art in this book.

Praise also needs to given to Powell’s excellent depiction of each character’s features. In an industry where artists often have one or two stock “faces” that they use on every character, to illustrate 445 pages of a story featuring dozens of real-life people, many of which have to be distinguishable to the reader page by page, is a considerable undertaking. Powell wisely chose not to go the photorealistic route by constantly referring to photos, which for some artists, can result in stiff, lifeless characters. Instead, he developed a visual shorthand “master drawing” for each character, one that emphasized their skull structure, to serve as a reference for their features. One need only look as far as any number of licensed comics, like some of the Star Trek books, which look like they’re drawn by artists who simply copy publicity photos, to see how well Powell avoided this problem. His characters are historically accurate yet vibrant and fluid.

The only criticisms I have is that in some instances, Powell’s designs deviate a bit too far from the person’s actual likeness, as with the portraits of FDR, JFK and Truman hanging above the stage at the 1964 Democratic convention, which look nothing like those men, and would not have been recognized out of context, or without the labels that Powell placed above each portrait (which were not at the actual convention). Kennedy seems to be a particular problem for Powell in other places in the trilogy. This required me to go back and re-read dialogue to verify who he was, and when that happens in a comic featuring one of the most beloved figures of the 20th century, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Powell also seems to have the same problem that some other artists have when rendering the human face at an angle, apparently not having mastered how the eye and eye socket looks in three-quarter view, or in perspective. There’s also that bizarre line Powell uses on Page 126 of Book Three to connect the ground seen in Panel 2 with the top of Lewis’ head in Panel 3. Nonetheless, these issues are few and far between, and overall, the book is a triumph for Powell.

Since comics are a visual medium, I should also talk about how the visuals are nicely balanced with the text. This book is an autobiography dealing with the various political and cultural conflicts of the civil rights movement, and by necessity, entails much discussion among characters.  This can be tricky for comics, and for that matter, any visual medium, including film, television, etc.. Do it right, and you have masterpieces like Sidney Lumet’s enthralling 1957 feature film adaptation of Twelve Angry Men, easily my favorite black and white film, which set almost entirely in a small jury room and driven entirely by dialogue. Do it poorly, and you get the last couple of historical dramas by Steven Spielberg, which I found flat and sleep-inducing. March, however, gets it right. Rather than publish a smaller book by omitting important details that explain what the challenges that Lewis and his colleagues faced, the book’s size allows space to be given to the important discussions and arguments that occurred among different groups in the movement, and does so in a way that does not come across as overly heavy with word balloons. Lewis, Aydin and Powell manage to do this in a way that the story and dialogue is seamlessly incorporated with the art, so that the amount of space given to each scene feels appropriate.  Six pages are devoted, for example, to Lewis’ speech at the March on Washington, and as a result, it both reads well and looks good.

The fact that Powell lettered the book too may also help explain its narrative success, and one gets a sense of how closely the three creators worked together to effect what seems like a genuine shared vision rather than an assembly line product. While lettering isn’t something I often notice, it’s an unsung hero of comics, and Powell’s unique approach to it, incorporating it into the book’s landscape stands out. A Bible verse being read by the prepubescent John sitting in silhouette on his porch is written out in the black area of his back, conveying out the words penetrated his very soul. An important announcement heard on a radio aren’t depicted so much as the typical floating clouds rendered above the device as it is jagged billows of electricity spit out by the radio, as if it is as much a character as those listening to it.

I can’t stress enough what an important work this is. If you love to read, buy it. If you want to expand your comics reading list with more non-superhero works, buy it. And if the re-emergence of David Duke and the murder of Heather Heyer horrify you, then buy several copies and give some to your friends.

And above all, VOTE.

Better than men than you and I have had their skulls cracked open for that right.

Book-A-Day 2018 #309: The Adventures of Venus by Gilbert Hernandez

Gilbert Hernandez is a cartoonist of extremes. Just looking at his work related to the Palomar/Luba set of stories, he ranges all the way from the joyous porn of Birdland to the (equally joyous, in very different ways) kid-friendly stories from the turn of the century about Venus.

Venus also appeared in stories that aren’t kid-friendly, which could make sharing a book like Luba and Her Family  (which has the bulk of those Venus stories) with an eight-year-old somewhat problematic. But, luckily, there is a just-the-kid-stuff Venus collection: The Adventures of Venus.

As far as I can tell, this small book — it has half-size comics pages, and less than a hundred of them — entirely consists of stories also in Luba and Her Family, so most people will not want to buy both of them. (Some people, naming no names, might have bought both of them thinking they were different things.)

The long, weird story about the “blooter baby” was original to this book, which otherwise collected all-ages material by Hernandez from the late-90s comic Measles. (It was a multi-author anthology, so he had just one Venus story each issue.)

Venus is fun and spunky, but these are mostly the lesser stories about her — concerned with normal kid-activities like soccer and with her social interactions. The other Venus stories, the ones not specifically aimed at kids, give her more depth and make her more interesting, though they probably are unsuitable for this age range — she’s exposed to knowledge of a whole lot of the illicit sexual pairings going on in Hernandez’s work in that era. (Including her own mother.)

So this is a perfectly nice book for a young audience. The only place it leads, though, is somewhere its target audience can’t follow, which could be a problem for a household that combines inquisitive young readers and copies of those other Hernandez books. And anyone older than that should just get Luba and Her Family, which has all of these stories and a lot more.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: Batman: The Complete Animated Series

The second wave of Batmania was ignited in 1989 when Tim Burton finally got a big screen adaptation of the comic book hero into theaters. It was such a wild success in terms of merchandising that Warner Bros wanted more and quickly. Since features take two to three years, they needed something sooner and the success of their Tiny Tunes and Animaniacs encouraged them to bring the Dark Knight back to television.

Thankfully, the project was placed in the hands of Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, and Paul Dini who were not only fans of the character but the earliest cartoon fare. Taking a visual cue from Burton and a stylistic one from the Fleischer Brothers Studio, they produced a Batman cartoon unlike anything from the 1960s or 1970s. Batman the Animated Series was sampled on prime time in September 1992 before launching on Fox Kids and for three seasons, there was nothing quite like it.

The episodes have been collected before; including a beautiful DVD box set in 2008, but now, Warner Home Entertainment has remastered the files for high definition and gifted us with Batman: The Complete Animated Series. This lush 12-disc collection has not only every episode of the series but the two feature films – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero — it spawned as well.

Not only did the series look grim and gritty, it was blessed with a Danny Elfman theme, further connecting it with the features. The stories were far from kiddie fare as the writing staff took the gruesome, tragic, and mentally deranged rogues and reinvented them for the small screen. This is where Mr. Freeze got an origin that made you feel for the scientist, and benefitted from the Mike Mignola redesign.

One of the series’ greatest strengths was in its voice casting, led by Kevin Conroy (Batman), Clive Revill and Efrem Zimbalist Jr (as Alfred), Melissa Gilbert (Batgirl), Brock Peters (Lucius Fox). The villains were led by Mark Hamill’s Joker, Richard Moll (Two-Face), Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn), Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman), Paul Williams (The Penguin), Ron Perlman (Clayface), Ed Asner (Roland Daggett), and Roddy McDowall (The Mad Hatter). The show also paid tribute to the first era of Batmania with Adam West portraying The Gray Ghost.

Dini and Timm struck a nerve when they created Harley Quinn, designed as a one-off character but everyone fell in love with her, from the design to Sorkin’s voice. She has become DC’s answer to Deadpool in terms of ubiquity and is getting her own series on the DC Entertainment streaming service (although Sorkin is being replaced with Kaley Cuoco).

There was something for children, teens, and adults in every episode with visuals taken from the comics, stories adapted from the comics by scribes including Len Wein and Martin Pasko. It was such a well-crafted show that it earned multiple Emmy Awards and critical acclaim while the features, in lesser hands, crashed and burned.

The Blu-ray scans of the film negatives means we’re presented with the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio but the look is cleaner and clearer than ever before. This series was among the last to be predominantly hand animated and you can enjoy every frame. The video accompanying this review demonstrates the differences. The audio is offered as a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless audio track and sounds tremendous.

The 12-discs are lovingly packaged with fine graphics and offer viewers the 109 episodes in production order, including the ones entitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin and The New Batman Adventures.  Most of the Special Features from previous editions are replicated here so you get commentary from Timm, Dini; writer Michael Reaves; directors Glen Murakami, James Ticker, and Dan Riba; and producers Eric Radomski, Boyd Kirkland, and Kevin Altieri. (Missing are the Timm intros from the 2008 box set but it’s a minor quibble.)

Shades of the Bat: Batman’s Animated Evolution is absent with the 22-minute featurette replaced with the three-part Heart of Batman, hosted by Dini. Reunited for the discussion are Dini, Timm, Radomski, Burnett, Fox’s Jean MacCurdy, now-retired voice director Andrea Romano and her finds, Conroy and Strong. Hamill’s is included via welcome archival footage.

The feature film discs are replicas of previous editions so some animated episodes are repeated as bonus features.

The Limited Edition box set also includes seven lenticular animation artwork cards, and a set of three Funko Pocket POPS figures: Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn. There is also a Digital Copy code and initially, there was a problem with SD not High Def versions available and Warner has been working on the issue, promising an upgrade in the future.

Book-A-Day 2018 #308: The Complete Geisha by Andi Watson

Andi Watson, I think, started off expecting to tell stories of action and adventure in comics, with a fantastic flair, but kept finding those stories turning more personal and character-focused as he told them. (I could say “more mundane,” but that sounds like an insult. It isn’t: life itself is mundane. But it sounds that way.)

That happened on a large scale with his first major series, Skeleton Key , which I re-read earlier this year. And it happened on a smaller canvas with Geisha, the four-issue series that he created in between the main run of Skeleton Key and the four-part “Roots” coda in 1999.

The Complete Geisha  is the 2003 book that collects all of the Geisha work up to that point — I think there might be some later short stories, but this could be it. It collects the main four-part story from the fall of 1998, a one-shot follow-up from 2000, and a few short related stories.

There’s no geisha in the book — at least, not any obvious one. Jomi Sohodo is an android raised in a human family — this seems to be rare, if not unique — who wants to be an artist, even though it’s heavily hinted that her line was designed as sexbots. She doesn’t want to work in the family bodyguard business, as her three human brothers do, but it’s paying work, and she has a hard time selling her paintings, so she ends up, over the course of the original story, in the family business. And that leads to drama and complications, as the body she guards is a top model with an angry ex-manager/boyfriend and her new art patron is a nasty gangster.

I don’t know if Watson expected to tell a story of androids in human society, or if the sexbot thing was ever supposed to pay off. But Jomi is the only android we see, in a society that I think is supposed to be full of them, and he seems less interested in the running around and bodyguarding than he is with Jomi’s struggles to get into the art world and the compromises she has to do along the way.

The one-shot, two years later, is in Watson’s softer mature style — and I could mean both the art and the story. There’s more shading in the art, rounder edges , and very little “action” in the usual comics sense. And it’s about Jomi as a person, particularly her relationship with one brother starting a new band, rather than anything plottier.

So this is transitional Watson, starting from the story he thought he wanted to tell (or that he thought the market wanted, or someone told him to make for that market) towards more individual stories like Love Fights  or Little Star . Transitions are quirky, individual things, and Geisha shows some of that in its shape, but it’s still a good Watson comic about art and family and finding your place in the world.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

National Graphic Novel Writing Month 2018

National Graphic Novel Writing Month Day 4: Don’t be a Player

National Graphic Novel Writing Month 2018

Day 4 of #NaGraNoWriMo! Last time, I told you that a full script for comics can look very deceptively like somethings it should never be… and those are plays: both traditional stage plays and screenplays.

Why? Because they simply don’t describe the same things.

The single most important difference between a play script and a comic book script is that a comic story is made up of single frozen moments that express something, most often either an action or an emotion.

Plays don’t do that. Plays describe ongoing action and motion, and comics are not built to do that, as they’re made out of single images. You’re not writing in documentary, you’re writing in newspaper photographs.

Take one of the most famous photographs of all time:

You can’t tell if someone just put on his hat. You can’t even tell if someone is blinking. What you can tell is that each person is doing a specific action, some of which are in reaction to other actions.

That’s the best you can hope for– that each person in the shot gets an action, and that the image expresses something.

David Mack, author of the WWII dark fantasy thriller The Midnight Front, wrote about this for us previously:

When describing a scene in a film/TV script, one can describe continuous actions with great economy. For instance, a line of action in a screenplay might read, “Porter gets up from the table, picks up the phone, and uses it to smash in Resnick’s skull.” The reason this direction works in a screenplay is that it’s a blueprint for a motion picture—emphasis on motion. That one sentence might end up being depicted with a half-dozen different shots edited together in a film, but in the script, one needs to describe only the continuous series of actions.

Comic-book scripts are not blueprints of moving action but instructions from which an artist will render sequences of static images that imply movement by breaking down an action into decisive images across any number of panels.

What that means for the story you’re telling is the one thing you may have hoped you’d never have to deal with as a writer… math.


The Incredibles 2 Releases Bonus Features

In case you missed it this summer, Disney Home Entertainment is releasing The Incredibles 2 on disc this Tuesday, giving you something to do after you vote. In anticipation of this release, the studio has begun sending out some of the bonus material to be found on the Blu-ray.

For starters there’s the Fashion of Edna Mode.  Edna “E” Mode (voice of Brad Bird) possesses impeccable design sense, a keen understanding of cutting-edge technology and an unmatched skillset. A creative visionary, she longs for the return of Supers so she can once again create functional yet cutting-edge supersuits.

Concept Art – Edna Mode Fashion Models – Concept art features design work by Deanna Marsigliese and Tony Fucile, highlighting Edna Mode’s fashion show and her rival supersuit designer, Galbaki, who craves fame and attention yet ultimately did not make the final cut of the film.

There’s also a deleted scene called Fashion Show that apparently never made it out of the animatic stage.

And we also have Designing Fabulous


National Graphic Novel Writing Month 2018

National Graphic Novel Writing Month Day 3: Plot First vs. Full Script

National Graphic Novel Writing Month 2018

Day 3 of #NaGraNoWriMo. Now that you’ve decided the format your graphic novel is going to take, you have to decide how you’re going to write it. For that, we have to discuss the two major schools of comics writing: Plot First vs. Full Script.

Plot First is occasionally known as “Marvel method” because Stan Lee used it a lot when he was creating the Marvel Universe and writing eight books a month in the 60s— he would pitch a plot to artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, etc., discuss it with them and maybe type up a quick page or two for notes. Then the artist would pencil the story, after which Stan would script the captions and dialogue to fit the art. The advantage for the writer is knowing what the art looks like, and how much room there is for text, when scripting. The disadvantage(?) is that the writer loses control over pacing and composition of the art, and may get surprised when the art comes back and there’s this silvery surfer in the middle of the story, or some other addition or omission. We don’t recommend this method at all unless you have an existing relationship with the artist and editor and trust them.

It can also lead to a sort of laziness on behalf of the writer: Frank Miller’s recent one line in a plot that John Romita Jr. turned into TEN PAGES of artwork.

Full Script: writing a complete script with panel descriptions, based on which the artist then draws the story. Advantages: the writer has more control over layout and pacing, although an artist will still find ways to misinterpret your script. Disadvantages: it takes longer to write (and may not save the artist any time), and you may need to tweak your dialogue and captions to fit the art anyway.

Because we don’t want to slough too much of the writing onto the artist for our purposes, we’re going to discuss Full Script. There’s one other method, but we’re going to save that for a bit later in our discussion, because we’re going to use elements of it in writing our script.

So what does a full script for comics look like? Well, it can look very deceptively like something it should never be… which we’ll discuss tomorrow.