Thursday, September 25, 2014

National Comic Book Day

Did you know that today is National Comic Book Day? Well, it is, and you can snag a nice variety of free digital comics over at ComiXology today only. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's Wednesday... 9/24/14

September 24, 2014

Lots of temptations this week, so I’m only listing a few...

Roche Limit #1 - Michael Moreci, Vic Malhotra (Image)
Man, all you have to tell me is crime noir, science fiction and Image. I’m in. Lots of folks have been waiting for this one for months, including me. 

Mind MGMT #26 - Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)

If you haven’t read Mind MGMT yet, I’m telling ya, get the first collected edition and dive in. Have I ever steered you wrong? Well??? Trust me. Read Mind MGMT

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever #4 - Harlan Ellison, Scott Tipton, David Tipton (IDW)

The penultimate issue of Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay adaptation arrives today. This project has been a wonderful experience. I’ve been buying all the single issues with the Juan Ortiz covers, which are absolutely stunning. Don’t wait for the trade. 

American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1970s - Jason Sacks, Keith Dallas (TwoMorrows) 

The folks at TwoMorrows have done a bang-up job of collecting an informative and entertaining archive of American comic book history so far, and I’m sure this edition is no exception. This is actually the volume I’ve been looking forward to the most, since I spent a large part of the 70s reading comics. If you’re interested in comics history, these volumes are a must-own.

Fatale Vol. 5: Curse the Demon - Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips (Image)

I’m sad to say that this is the final collection of Fatale, but happy to say that Brubaker and Phillips have delivered a series that’s nothing short of stellar. If you’ve never read their collaborations, Fatale is a great title to start with.  

The Incal - Alexandro Jodorowsky, Moebius (Humanoids - new third printing)

Okay, let’s get this out of the way... If you haven’t read The Incal, you really shouldn’t call yourself a comics fan. The books from Humanoids are expensive, and I’ll confess, this is the only one I own, but it’s worth every cent of the $44.95 list price. Get it now. The Incal has gone out of print before and who knows if it’ll be reissued? Don’t risk it - pick it up.    

Batman: Gordon of Gotham - Chuck Dixon, Dennis O’Neil, Klaus Janson, Jim Aparo, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dick Giordano (DC) 

Aaaaaand... I’m not sure I’m going to get this one. This volume collects Gordon of Gotham #1-4, Batman: GCPD #1-4, and Batman: Gordon’s Law #1-4. Sort of looks like it might be a money-grab on the part of DC to cash in on the new TV series Gotham. If they’d been smart, DC would’ve collected Gotham Central into a nice omnibus edition, which I would gladly purchase. Don’t know why they didn’t... So for me, the jury’s out on Gordon of Gotham. (If you pick it up, or if you’ve read the individual issues, let me know what you think.)

That’s going to do it for me. Be sure to tell me what you plan to pick up today.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Read in September Part I

September is off to a potentially record-breaking start with 15 books read in 20 days. I hope you’ll find something that grabs you. 

(All works with a + are part of the ongoing SXSW 2014 Starter Pack review series.)


Marvel Masterworks: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Volume 1 (1963-64/2006) Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers (Marvel) 

Reviewed here as part of my ongoing exploration of Gene Kannenberg’s 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. 


+ The Chair’s Hiatus (2011) Matthew Bogart (Matthew Bogart)

One of the best graphic novels from the SXSW 2014 Starter Pack from ComiXology earlier this year, The Chairs' Hiatus is nothing fancy or flashy, just a simple story (yet not simplistic) about a band, relationships, trust and forgiveness. Well worth seeking out digitally or in print.


+ Fighting Stranger (2013) Adam J. Monetta, Juan Romera (HicksVillain Productions) 

A stranger with amnesia wanders into a desert city seeking answers. What he finds is a robot who’s not too keen on delivering answers. A bit clunky early on, but things pick up as you go. Worth a look. 


Hip Hop Family Tree (2013) Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)

This first volume of Hip Hop Family Tree covers an enormous amount of ground in 100 or so pages (years 1970 - 1981), so much so that all the names can get confusing and overwhelming, but Piskor knows how to keep the story moving and interesting. I knew almost nothing about hip hop prior to reading this volume, but one of my co-workers - an expert in all things hip hop - was very impressed with the depth and accuracy of the book. I really enjoyed it and love the nod to the Marvel Treasury Edition format from the 70s. Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2 (just released) covers 1981-1983.  


Aw Yeah Comics! And... Action! (J 2014) Art Baltazar & Franco (Dark Horse)


The Massive, Vol. 3: Longship (2014) Brian Wood, Garry Brown (Dark Horse) 

I was a bit disappointed in Vol. 2 of this series, Subcontinental, but Wood and Brown have really stepped things up with this third volume. The stories are suspenseful and the characterizations top-notch. Highly recommended. 


Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift (2014) Greg Rucka, Michael Lark (Image)

Rucka’s world-building continues to impress as we learn more about Forever and the world she lives in. We also learn more about the “Waste” population and their pilgrimage to Denver, where they hope some of their number will be deemed worthy of being “lifted” to serve the Carlyle family. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Wednesday... 9/17/14

Since I spent a significant amount of $ at SPX this past weekend, I won't be going to the comic shop today.... But if did go, here's what would be on my radar:

Okay, I'm cheating a bit here since I already picked up Michel Fiffe's Copra Round One at the Baltimore Comic Con (where I also met and greatly enjoyed talking with/interviewing Fiffe). This volume collects the first six amazing issues of Copra (Bergen Street Comics), a book you should run out and get right now if you haven't already. Superheroes, action, mayhem, and boundless energy. This is a great book - do not miss it! 

I only read the first book of Michael Moorcock's Elric series many years ago, so I'm hoping to start Elric: The Ruby Throne, the first in the graphic novel series from Titan Comics. I'm somewhat surprised that this one comes in at a slim 64 pages, but hey, I'm onboard.

Who out there is not reading Peter Panzerfaust? C'mon, raise your hands... You in the back, there - you haven't read it, have you? Didn't think so... Your assignment is to read Peter Panzerfaust (Image) starting with Vol. 1: The Great Escape, then catch up to the newest volume, Vol. 4: Hunt

So tell me what's on your radar for today....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SPX Report

If I had to chart my comics reading life, it would look something like this:

As you can see, there was a long period when I had little or nothing to do with comics. That wasn't due to any dissatisfaction with comics, I just had other things going on (mainly music and teaching). But since I've gotten back into comics, there's so much I'm learning that I was never aware of before. For instance, last year I learned about the Small Press day after it had ended. So I was determined to go this year.

Which I did. I took a day off from work and made up my mind I'd go for one day of SPX in Bethesda, Maryland (only about 45 minutes from my house). Although I'd been to the Baltimore Comic Con and a few others, I didn't really know what to expect, other than lots of indie creators and publishers. I'd also told my friend Derek at The Comics Alternative that I'd try to interview as many creators as possible, but also hoped that interviewing them would not take away from my enjoyment of the event. I did interview lots of creators for the podcast (You can hear those interviews here.), but also took frequent breaks just to take it all in and spend a few $.

I can report that SPX is an exceptionally well-run event. Everything is clearly marked for first-timers like me. The registration process is easy and there are plenty of friendly folks to help you if you need help. Signing schedules are posted and important announcements are made when necessary. And did I mention that everyone is friendly? (Comics people generally are.) 

Although I saw just one or two people doing cosplay, there weren't many. SPX isn't that type of con. Neither is there much focus on media; it's all about the comics and there are tons of them. You'll find publishers you're probably familiar with, such as Fantagraphics, First Second, Drawn & Quarterly, Nobrow, Ad House, and SelfMadeHero, but you'll also find smaller publishers and self-publishers. You'll find people with several self-published comics at their tables and some with only one or two. Everyone I talked to was very approachable, very friendly, and very willing to talk. 

Although there were several people I wanted to meet and have their work signed (Lynda Barry chief among them), I decided not to stand in line, although the lines seemed to be moving fairly quickly. I like how the organizers have the signings set up: people line up outside the doorway leading into the convention floor and once you're inside, it's just you and the creator, which makes it more of a personal, one-on-one situation. (I'm sure both fans and creators appreciate that set-up.) 

The only criticism I have is with the exhibitor badges. Nowhere on the exhibitor badge is there a place for the creator's name. (Some, however, went ahead and wrote their names on them anyway.) At some publisher's tables, it would be helpful to know if you're talking to one of the creators or someone else. But it's not a deal-breaker. You can always ask if so-and-so is there... 

(My loot from this year's SPX)

Some other observations and suggestions:

The price of attending the event is VERY reasonable. I would've paid twice what they charged. (Any SPX organizers reading this, please disregard the last sentence.)

Parking is free across the street at the Metro station. FREE!

If you see a book that you think you might want to buy, don't hesitate. Get it. It might not be there by the time you make up your mind. 

Don't be afraid to meet/talk to the creators. They will not bite you. (Well, maybe a couple of them might, but think of the story you'll have to tell your friends...) 

When you arrive, walk the entire convention floor once to get a feel for where things are and how the event is organized. 

Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks. 

Move out of your comfort zone. Take risks. If you see a book that looks interesting, buy it. Support the creator(s). 

Vote for the Ingatz Awards. You can do it right there and it's easy. 

Bring a large bag or purchase one there. Canvas bags are best. 

Even if you don't buy anything at their table, at least visit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. They do a lot of great stuff and have lots of great (free) information and handouts. 

Mark your calendar for SPX 2015. (I'm guessing Sept. 12 & 13, 2015.) Go to SPX. Tell your friends. Repeat. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Read in August Part II

Although I posted the first part of my August reads before the month was out, I am way behind in posting the rest of them... but here they are. I hope you’ll find something that grabs you. 

(All works with a + are part of the ongoing SXSW 2014 Starter Pack review series.)

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War (J/Y 2014) Matt Faulkner (Disney-Hyperion) 

First, Faulkner's story (based on true events) has its heart in the right place. This story of a Japanese American boy in an interment camp is beautifully illustrated, but it takes a long time to get past what amounts to a fairly typical story of prejudice, a story adult readers have seen many times before. The storyline eventually gains some depth and layering, but it takes longer than I felt it should. I was also hoping for more clarification in some of the character development and relationships. 

Second, the library I borrowed this book from places this graphic novel in the children's area, which is probably a good call, especially for more mature 10-12-year-olds. I think it belongs in the children's area rather than the YA section. See what you think. 


Trillium (2014) Jeff Lemire (Vertigo)

I admire Lemire for taking some creative chances with Trillium, and not just with respect to the format. We can certainly quibble over reading the title in single issues vs. a collected edition, but regardless, Lemire has given us another excellent story. Yes, Lemire takes some risks here, most of which work; a few, maybe not so much, but I admire how he’s expanding and pushing himself creatively. Is the total story too romantic? Too sentimental? I don't think so, but pick it up and judge for yourself.


Daredevil, Vol. 7 (2014) Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel) 

While better than the previous Volume 6, this series is perhaps in need of a change, which Waid is giving us by moving Daredevil to San Francisco for awhile. (Read this volume and you'll understand why.) The series is still fun and well worth reading, as is all of Waid's work. And how can you not have a good time with Chris Samnee's art?


Comics Squad: Recess! (J 2014) Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (Random House Children’s Books)


Pistolwhip (2001) Jason Hall, Matt Kindt (Top Shelf)

Kindt’s first full-length graphic novel presents many of the themes and elements he develops in his other works: noir, detectives, secrecy, espionage... all good stuff. I wonder how many people paid attention when Time listed Pistolwhip as one of the 10 best graphic novels in 2001? Well, if you missed it then, you can get the complete Pistolwhip in hardcover in just a few months. And you should. 


Revolver (2010) Matt Kindt (Vertigo) 

Sam, a thirty-something in Seattle, wakes up to a world of destruction and devastation. He’s even more confused when he awakens again to discover that everything’s just fine. Navigating between these two worlds while looking for answers, Sam (and Kindt) gives you plenty to think about. 


+ Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman: The Spirit of Boo (2012) Terry LaBan (Createspace)

Siberian noir with a shaman and a talking weasel? Yeah! Muktuk Wolfsbreath seeks to save a young boy’s soul from the powers of darkness, but he first has to confront evil women, demons, animals spirits and stuff I can’t even begin to describe. The Spirit of Boo is a crazy adventure with just the right amount of humor. I’m not exactly sure why it works, but it does most of the time. I didn’t think I’d like this title, but I was pleasantly surprised. (Maybe you will be, too.)


Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity (Y 2011) Dave Roman (First Second)

Astronaut Academy is a fun, zany book about kids who go to school in outer space, training to be astronauts. The artwork makes you think this would be a kids' book, but most libraries place it in their teen section. The book is witty and fun, but jam-packed with tons of characters and situations, which for kids who love it, will be a dream-come-true. For those who don't, well, maybe this isn't for them. But I enjoyed it.


Zaya (2014) JD Morvan, Huang-Jia Wei (Magnetic Press)

What a frustrating reading experience... JD Morvan has the elements of a good story here, but a huge chunk of the tale bogs down in action scenes that often make little visual sense, which is a real shame, since much of Huang-Jia Wei's art is absolutely gorgeous. Maybe a part of the problem with the text is in the translation from the French, but much of the dialogue is redundant and unnecessary. There's a good story here, and good art, but unfortunately they don't meet up very often. For an excellent review of Zaya, check out Shea Hennum’s review


Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000) Chris Ware (Pantheon)

Ware does some absolutely amazing things with art design with this book - a real tour de force of illustration and format. Really more of a character study (or rather, studies) than a story, Jimmy Corrigan is largely a sad, depressing experience, but an incredible one you’ll never forget.


Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 2 (1971/2007) Jack Kirby, Mike Royer, Vince Colletta (DC) 

Yeah, Kirby's Fourth World is all over the place, uneven, and sometimes downright insane, but I love it! Kirby's unbridled energy and imagination are on full display in this volume, which is stronger and more coherent than the first. A generous sampling of several of Kirby's pencilled pages makes this volume indispensable.


Talent, Deluxe Edition (2014) Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, Paul Azaceta (Boom! Studios) 

Reviewed at The Comics Alternative 


+ Dust: Withered Earth (2012) James Ninness, John Narcomey (Keyleaf Comics) 

Interesting dystopian Western tale with plenty of action and violence. John Narcomey's rugged art style works well with the James Ninness quest/redemption story of Jim, a strange drifter who agrees to accompany a woman named Deborah through the desert. You've got a man with no lips as a villain, which sounds pretty cool until you get frustrated trying to figure out exactly what he's trying to say. Worth a look for Western and dystopian fans.


I’d love to hear about what you enjoyed last month... 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Wednesday... 9/10/14

With the Small Press Expo coming up this weekend, I’m going to force myself to stay out of the comics shop today... But if I were to somehow, I don’t know, accidentally find myself in the vicinity of Third Eye Comics today.... (Hey, I just remembered I do have a meeting in Annapolis this afternoon....)

Anyway, I hope to pick up these comics at some point:


Copperhead #1 by Jay Faerber, Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley (Image), which sounds like a Western on a distant planet - my kind of thing. Check out the Third Eye Comics variant as well. 

And speaking of Copperhead, creators Faerber and Godlewski will be at Third Eye on Saturday, September 20. More info here.

Then there’s Annihilator #1 (of 6) from Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving (Legendary Comics), about a nearly-washed up screenwriter joining up with one of his created characters to save the universe. It’s Morrison; you buy it. 

I’m so glad to see the return of Stumptown, now starting its third volume. Greg Rucka is always worth your time and if you haven’t read the first two volumes of Stumptown, do yourself a favor. Art by Justin Greenwood from Oni Press. 

It’s a tough call... Pick up Velvet #7 or buy the trade when it comes out? I’ll probably do both. This espionage tale from Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Image) is right on target. (No pun intended, but probably accurate.) Brubaker's work is always great and Epting's art is just killer. 

I don’t know if I’ll pick it up, but I’m mildly interested in Teen Dog #1 by Jake Lawrence (Boom! Studios). Previews calls it “John Hughes meets 90s Nickelodeon cartoons,” so it might be worth a look. 

First Second has really been knocking it out of the park lately and it looks like Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics - edited by Chris Duffy - is no exception. The two guys with PhDs recently spoke with Duffy about the book, so check that out

Be sure to tell me what's on your radar today.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Baltimore Comic Con and More

I had a great time at the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend, interviewing several creators for The Comics Alternative podcast. You can check out those interviews here

Although I didn't attend the ceremony, the Harvey Awards were presented at Baltimore this past weekend. You can find a list of winners here

This coming weekend you can find me at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, where I hope to interview even more creators. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's Wednesday... 9/3/14

With the Baltimore Comic Con coming up this weekend, I probably won't stop by Third Eye Comics, but will instead see them at the con. (You should see them, too - They'll be at Booth 307 with lots of great stuff.) If I don't pick it up this week, I'll eventually pick up The Mercenary Sea, Vol. 1, one of my favorite Image titles of 2014 so far. Kel Symons writes a great story and makes good use of both the South Seas setting and the time period (late 1930s). The Mathew Reynolds art reminds me of the original Jonny Quest TV show and my memories of The Phantom comics, but this is more than just a nostalgic journey: this is a really fun series. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

500 Essential Graphic Novels: Sgt. Fury

500 Essential Graphic Novels: Marvel Masterworks: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Volume 1 (1963-64/2006) Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers


I certainly won’t get to all of them, but I’m attempting to read through several of the graphic novels listed in Gene Kannenberg’s 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. I started with The Yellow “M” and this is the second stop in my ongoing journey through Kannenberg’s book. 

The beginnings of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos may be apocryphal, but it makes for a good story. Apparently, Stan Lee bet his publisher at the time (1963), Martin Goodman, that the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby formula could sell anything, even a war comic with a wordy, awful title. Lee came up with a fictional Army special forces unit of sorts, the First Attack Squad, also known as the Howling Commandos, which fought primarily in European missions during WWII. The group is led by cigar-chomping Nick Fury (Yes, the same Nick Fury in the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics and Marvel movies... more on that in a minute.) 

Calling Fury a “take no prisoners” type of guy is an understatement of monumental proportions. He spits out orders, leads missions and takes action like a guy who’s got a permanent caffeine iv in his arm. (Make that both arms.) The rest of the commandos are largely stereotypes with recurring jokes played by and against them, such as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a mountain of a guy with flaming red hair underneath a bowler hat who would rather fight the Nazis than face his wife and mother-in-law back home; “Izzy” Cohen, a Jewish American from Brooklyn who’s also a master mechanic; Dino Manelli, an Italian American who gave up an acting career to serve his country; “Rebel” Ralston, a slow-talking but fast-moving Southerner; Gabe Jones, an African American bugler; and Percival “Percy” Pinkerton, a Brit who’s as dangerous with his umbrella as the other Howlers are with their rifles. 

Most of the stories in this collection (reprinting Sgt. Fury #1-13) are sort of “Mission of the Month” stories with the Howling Commandos foiling Nazi plans or rescuing captured Allies. Say what you will about Stan Lee, but he knows how to tell a story and several of these tales hold up quite well, for the most part, although you can probably predict much of what will happen in each one. 

Jack Kirby’s art is always worth your time, but Dick Ayers took over (with a few exceptions) from issue #9 for much of the title’s 167-issue run, giving it his own expert touch. The tone of the stories balances the ugliness of war with frequent humor, usually at the expense of the stereotyped Howling Commandos. But this is far from a Hogan’s Heroes type of book. There’s a lot of fighting, battles, and even killing (although most of this happens off-panel). 

If you enjoy this title, you’re sure to like the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, featuring the same Nick Fury, only this time in the world of super-espionage. There’s also the Nick Fury of the Marvel movies, but now we’re getting into some slightly confusing territory that I’m going to (conveniently) leave alone for now... 

I enjoyed Sgt. Fury more than I thought I would and certainly plan to read more. I’m eager to see where Lee and Ayers take things from the end of this volume, which features a pretty nifty Captain America and Bucky story. I’ll also be interested to see if I enjoy DC’s Sgt. Rock (which debuted in 1959) as much, which I plan to read soon.