Thursday, July 31, 2008

Haiku Review: The Machine Girl



Revenge is dealt by
Carnage creating gadgets
Making laughs for all

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wu-Tang Comics news and reviews



I recently had a chance to check out the Method Man graphic novel, courtesy of the nice people at Grand Central Publishing. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's a lot of fun, a COMIC BOOK, in all caps.

Method Man stars as Peerless Poe, a "murder priest", excommunicated from his order of demon hunters. When the order faces a threat it can't handle alone, they call Poe in on it. That's when the fun begins.

Method Man incorporates enough Wu-Tang references to keep the fans that came for Wu-Tang happy. In addition, it has a nice back story, based on Biblical mythology. The artwork and story allude to further Wu-Tang comics.

As far as I know, the next Wu-Tang graphic novel will be GZA's Advance Knight. However, it was indicated to me that Advance Knight's publication has been postponed. Grand Central tells me that it is due to a rearrangement of the publishing schedule. I'll have more on that, as it develops.

Look out for my interview with Method Man co-writer David Atchison, coming soon.

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Crowdsourcing Creation: Comics by Committee

The Triggerstreet announcement has me thinking about this crowdsourcing thing. Wikipedia defines Crowdsourcing thusly:

Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call. For example, the public may be invited to develop a new technology, carry out a design task, refine an algorithm or help capture, systematize or analyze large amounts of data (see also citizen science).


As I understand it, members of Triggerstreet will serve the function of reviewing comics, providing criticism and feedback. There are a few clear benefits to this type of set-up. The most obvious is that it provides the creator a chance to gauge perception before s/he has made a final commitment to pursue a particular creative route. If something doesn't play well, the artist can change it. Additionally, it gives the creator some publicity. At it's heart, this is a promotional tool. If nothing else, it puts the creators name out there for future collaborations.

From a business sense, this kind of site makes a lot of sense for creators. It's very possible, that a commercial success will result from a Triggerstreet winner. From an artistic point of view, though, this kind of thing makes me sick. A true creative endeavor cannot be focus grouped. it has to come from the heart. Names might be made on projects like this, but I think the real innovators will come up through more traditional channels, or create channels of their own. When it comes down to it, the comic industry loves innovators over innovation.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kevin Spacey Launches Triggerstreet Comics

via Wired article. Kevin Spacey, in partnership with Devil's Due Publishing, is expanding his Triggerstreet talent search site to include Comic Book submissions. I am not quite sure if this is for artists only, or if writers can submit scripts, as well. I plan on creating an account later, to check it out.

I don't know. I am wary of this type of thing. The idea of being "discovered" through something like this rings a little hollow to me. To me, it is like American Idol. Winning American Idol is proof that you can sell yourself and navigate the system, but I don't think that it is proof of talent. I'm not sure, if like American Idol, the work of winners will belong in some way to Triggerstreet, either.

I will suspend judgment until I know more. Ultimately, I am in favor of any medium that brings talent to light and allows artists to interact with one another. However, I would caution applicants to the site to read the fine print. Fame always comes at a price.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Batman: Gotham Knight review



I got a chance to watch the animated companion piece to Dark Knight, Batman: Gotham Knight, last night. (Lots of nights in that sentence, ha). It's an anthology and, as such, it's pretty hit or miss. For an obvious cash in, though, it's pretty good. With executive production by Bruce Timm, Gotham Knight casts Batman in many different lights. Or shadows, as it were, giving Batman different costumes, character designs, and animation styles in each piece. In terms of story, Gotham Knight portrays the little seen aspects of the Batman mythos. These shorts find Batman training in India, testing new equipment, and tripping balls, respectively. Also, a fair bit of focus is given to Batman as he is seen by bystanders, cops, and other villains. Only the last sketch, Deadshot, really gives the viewer an A to B to C story, and I think that it was the weakest of all of them. The animation quality leaves a little to be desired. There are some instances of that classic anime trick of placing a soundtrack against still cels. I would say that this merits a rental, unless you're a die-hard Bat-Fan.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gary Panter on VBS.TV

VBS.TV has a nice little four part interview with underground comics legend Gary Panter. He discusses his Jimbo work, making the LA Punk scene, and his work on Pee-Wee's Playhouse. He seems like a really nice, cool guy. There is something about seeing an artist in his or her workspace that really makes for a compelling interview.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Enjoy.

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Comic-Con 2008

Wired's coverage of Comic-con is as good as any. At this point, the biggest Comic-Cons are Comic Con's in name only. They are essentially trade shows where the next hot movie franchise is announced and the summer blockbusters are pimped. Foremost, they are commercial, with community taking a distant second.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

On my often obscure taste

I'm often the subject of ridicule by my friends for going out of my way to read/listen/watch things that are off the beaten path. I champion these things with the knowledge that none of my friends will see what I see in the objects of my fetishism.

As near as I can tell, the reason I prefer many of these things to what they like is that the obscure offers a greater potential to personalize the art. The best explanation I can give is this:

Say that any time a book, album, or movie comes out, it has a numerical value. Let's say 100. Anytime someone actively likes something, they get a piece of that number. If twenty people like something, each person likes it by a degree of five. If 2000 people like it, each person likes it by a degree of .05.

The degree constitutes ownership, knowledge, a connection with the art's creator. By my reasoning, a higher number is better. A higher number constitutes a greater stake in the secret club of the Knowing.

I have fun knowing that I went out of my way to find something knew. I have fun staking a claim in unknown territory. I have fun defending and proselytizing.

There are a few downsides to this kind of obscurity-worship. Being the only one around to like something can be very lonely. It can be very frustrating to explain why I think something is great and worth someone's time, especially if others are in no mood for something new. Finally, when I am part of a small fan base, I tend to get lumped in with the snobs and the people who think that their ownership degree gives them license to be cruel and insulting to those that arrive late to the party. "You just don't get it," they say. "You are completely missing the point." Then the fanboy discussions of author interviews and canon ensue.

I am not like that. While I reject the things I don't like, actively and bitterly, I would never deny a person a stake in something I enjoy. As I see it, more interpretations add richness to any art. If the artist did not want his/her art to be consumed and discussed, s/he would not have released it into the wild. Keeping people out, trying to prevent their enjoyment of any kind of artistic endeavor, is the worst thing I could do.

This has been a rambling post, but I feel closer to a coherent viewpoint, having written it.

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American Flagg gets the Uber-Ultra-Mega-Deluxe Treatment



This week, Image Comics and Dynamic Forces team up to release the first volume of Howard Chaykin's classic, American Flagg!. I wish I could say more about this book, but I haven't read it. I am still very confident recommending it. In the last few years I've become a great fan of Chaykin, through his work on DC's iteration of The Shadow, Black Kiss, and Power and Glory. His work exudes the cynicism and vitriol of the best muckrakers, in any medium. I had planned on catching up on American Flagg! through back issues, but decided to wait for this edition, when I heard about it. I'm very excited. Comic Book Resources has a nice interview/article on the book here. Buy it from Amazon, or better yet, walk down the street and buy it from your local comic book store.

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Haiku Review: The Dark Knight



Heroes must maintain
balance of mayhem and calm
in fighting crazies

image by Bill Sienkiewicz, www.billsienkiewiczart.com

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Monday, July 21, 2008

haiku review: an explanation of the premise

I promise not to get (too) high minded in this post. I just wanted to attempt an explanation at what I am trying to do with these haiku reviews that I've been posting, in review of the block busters of this summer.

Upon organizing my comics in these last few weeks, it's occurred to me that I have a lot of stuff. Not just comics, but stuff in general. If I hear about a book, or an album, or anything I think I'd like, I often head over to Amazon or eBay and buy it, without a second thought. These items arrive and I read them, or listen to them, or watch them; whatever the case maybe. After that though, unless these items touch me deeply, I let them fall by the wayside, accumulating dust, forgotten.

When I really thought about this, I felt a little bit of guilt. For one, if I am going to buy something, I should appreciate to its fullest, as I am lucky to have been born in a prosperous country where speech is free, mostly. Further, I am lucky that I can afford such frivolities when there are those who can't. Finally, each item that I buy, consume, and (sometimes) forget is the culmination of someone's effort.

I came to think that it may not be worth writing an entire treatise on the worth of any given piece of art or writing, but it may be of some value to distill the basic impressions made upon me by it.

Haiku, in my limited understanding of it, seems to be an effective vehicle to serve this purpose. So, I will make an attempt to 'tag' the comics I read (because this is a blog about comics) with a haiku, conveying the impressions that the comic leaves upon me.

Granted, not everything I read will touch me deeply. I think that by doing this, though, I will get more out of the comics I read, like a deeper understanding of underlying themes and a greater appreciation for the effort it takes to make them.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sick Pic watch: Israel Cruz


I'm loving this cutesy (kinda Super Deformed, but not) rendition of Batman fighting Punisher from artist Israel Cruz. Check out Israel's other "Deviations" here.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sad-urday Night "Fun"

If, like me, you're a pathetic nerd, then you spend some Saturday nights avoiding social interaction, talking to your cat, and waiting for your roommate to get home from work. Also, you look for clips of cancelled Saturday morning cartoon clips on YouTube.

Stumbled on this: Frank Miller and Geof Darrow's Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. I'm not sure if this is the whole run, but there seems to be quite a few episodes uploaded. While the cartoon doesn't have the beautifully destroyed cityscapes (sorry, I couldn't find an example online) that Geof Darrow did so well in the comic, it is still pretty entertaining.

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Unknown Soldier preview via Newsarama

Newsarama has a preview of the new Unknown Soldier series from Vertigo, written by Joshua Dysart, with art by Alberto Ponticelli. Read the press release article here. Billed as an "all new interpretation," I assume this iteration of Unknown Soldier will be closer to the Unknown Soldier of the 80's (revisited a few years back by Garth Ennis) than the Unknown Soldier that was originally conceived by Joe Kubert for Star Spangled War Stories. See wikipedia article.

I am quite looking forward to this book, as I thoroughly enjoyed the cynicism and vitriol of Ennis' version of the character. The story, centering on the political strife in Uganda circa 2002, looks like it has a lot of potential.

Here is the 5 page preview.

This preview sets the stage for what could be a very ambitious, engaging story, capable of bringing a number of very important issues to light in an entertaining way. However, I do take some issue with the script. Take a look at page two, panel two, where the translator says "The child, he say he walk to look for jack fruit in the bush. He say he find rebels, but he got away." I can tell the writer was going for a modest, but dignified, type of dialogue, but the incorrect subject verb agreement gives a connotation of ignorance that doesn't do much to authenticate the setting for me. Also, shouldn't the "Doctors!" (in panel one of the same page) be to indicate that another language is being spoken? An oversight like that creates the illusion of an even wider social divide between the Doctor and the people she is helping.

Script issues, or no, I'll be taking a closer look at this series.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bill Muthafuckin' Murray!

As long as I'm posting videos, I thought I'd put this one up. I found it on the Dial B For Blog YouTube Channel. Dial B celebrates the comic book culture of yesteryear.

Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I am a total geek for Bill Murray. The guy just drips cool. I found this video of a Marvel radio show that dramatizes Fantastic Four #4, featuring none other than Bill Murray as the Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Enjoy!




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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Superhero

Rummaging through the YouTubes today I came across an excellent, albeit exhaustive, documentary on the comic book hero. TONS of industry visionaries sound off on what makes a good hero. It examined DC and Marvel and their differing approaches to superheroes, paying particular attention to the sixties, when a lot of dimension was added to superhero stories.

Interviewed: Quesada, Kaluta, Adams, Evanier, Infantino, Simon, Sienkiewicz, Dini, Buscema, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Kubert, and more.

Highlights:

  • Neal Adams explaining comics as "an exercise of fantasy".
  • A very intelligent extrapolation of the very obvious notion that superheroes simply don't work as well when taken out of the urban environment ("the prison-like grid"). I had never given this much thought, but when I consider it, it adds a lot of dimension to modern comics
  • Stan Lee to Marvel artists in the 60's: "Stay modern and draw what the kids are wearing."
You can see it here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

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Monday, July 14, 2008

D.J. Coffman Will Draw Anything For $2



A few years back, I challenged some of the artists on a Sci-Fi forum that I frequent to draw my two favorite authors in furious combat. They correctly dismissed my idea as silly and I eventually forgot about it.

About a week ago, though, I was browsing the Digital Webbing forums, when I came across a poster advertising a unique service. Apparently, D.J. Coffman, winner of the 2006 Platinum Studios' Comic Book Challenge, is willing to draw anything for $2. Before I thought of what a neat promotional tool this was, I thought of what I would want drawn for two American dollars. The price was low enough that I decided to submit a commission immediately and low enough that I didn't expect much out of it, beside a cool story about how this dude will draw anything for two sawbucks.

After about a week, I received a reply to my request. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of it. Given the relative obscurity of my two subjects, I didn't expect much research beyond a quick Googling on Mr. Coffman's part (the website stipulates that no more than a few minutes will be spent researching the subject). I think that is essentially what I got, but he captured the spirit of my request very well.

While this is no different than what other artists do at comicons everywhere, the low price that Mr. Coffman is charging makes it an enticing proposition. His artwork can be licensed, should the commissioner want to use it in a professional capacity. But, does offering his services at such low prices undermine his credibility as an artist? I don't think so, but I do think that this service is undervaluing what he brings to the table. While it does get his name out there and put money in his pocket, it also shows his willingness to acquiesce to the requests to appeal to the lowest common denominator (me, for example), as the gallery will attest. The inclusion of the concept request on the drawing gives it a quality reminiscent of a "They'll Do It Every Time" strip and, in my opinion, sends it into hacky territory (but just barely!). I am almost certainly reading too much into this.

At the end of the day, I think this is a neat marketing gimick, albeit one that I hope Mr. Coffman won't have to do for long. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you: William Burroughs fighting William Gibson!


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