The Comic Queen

Zip ribbons and word balloons, Wednesday bliss and Previews dreams. If these phrases mean anything to you, then you're in the right place. But if they don't -- hey stick around anyway. You might just like what you see.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

November Previews Highlights: Erin's Picks

This isn’t the most stellar of months, but there are certainly some books worth reading.

Pick of the Month:
Four Letter Worlds
Image – page 139, $12.95; 144 pgs.
The list of contributors caught my eye first in this solicit. Check out the lineup: Amber Benson, John Bernales, Joe Casey, Chynna Clubston-Major, Kieron Dwyer, Jay Faerber, Matt Fraction, Steven Griffen, Mike Hawthorne, Phil Hester, Mike Huddleston, Anthony Johnston, Robert Kirkman, Steve Lieber, Jim Mahfood, Jamie McKelvie, B. Clay More, Scott Morse, Mike Norton, Jeff Parker, Jamie S. Rich, Mark Ricketts, Matt Roberts, Steve Rolston, Eric Stephenson, J. Torres, and Andi Watson. The anthology is framed around the concept of four four-letter words and how they shape our lives: Love, hate, fear, fate. But with so many talented people working on the book, it doesn’t even really matter what it’s about.

Featured Comics:
Superman: Strength #1
(of 3)
DC – page 65; $5.95; 48 pgs.
Scott McCloud, Aluir Amancio and Terry Austin with cover by Alex Ross
This three-issue prestige format series will explore the true source of Superman’s powers. The collaborators on this issue made me want to put this on my buy list even though I’m not a huge Superman follower. However, after reading the preview pages, I wasn’t terribly impressed and will have to rethink buying this one. I do think it still has a lot of promise, though.

The Chaos Effect
DC/Humanoids – page 97; $19.95; 168 pgs.
Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal
This Humanoids collection publishes in full color “The Black Order Brigade” and “The Hunting Party” together in one book. The first story is a political thriller about a group of aged Cold War radicals who band together one last time to spoil a terrorist conspiracy. The second story is also about post-Cold War cronies, this time coming together for a hunting trip that leads to political turmoil.

Classic 40 Ounce: Tales from the Brown Bag TP
Image – page 135; $12.95; 144 pgs.
Jim Mahfood
Mahfood is one of the funniest indie comics creators out there. So, I’m happy to see this offering from Image that collects Girl Scouts #1 and #2, Cosmic Toast #1, a new short story, and a sketch book from the mid-90s when most of the material was originally created.

AiT/Planet Lar Offerings
Both on pg. 215
There are two offerings of interest from AiT/Planet Lar this month. The first is a new chapter in the Couriers series. The Couriers Volume 3: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker is by Brian Wood and Rob G.; the price is $12.95 for 88 pages of action.

The second listing is for the DEMO Scriptbook. This trade is $12.95 (144 pgs.) and contains the 12 original scripts for DEMO by Brian Wood along with early notes, and 12 new illustrations by Becky Cloonan.

Creep #1
Conspiracy Productions – page 250; $2.99; 28 pgs.
Ethan Nicolle and Brinton Williams
The cover drew me to this solicit, which reads: “Creep is the story of a city that can’t understand its saviors aren’t always beautiful. Adam, a freakish-looking bookworm, lets his rage take control, beating a date-rapist in a park on his way home. He was painted as a monster by the press for his horrendous appearance. Working as a team, Freddy (his only friend) becomes Adam’s face to the public, never allowing people to see the freak that was saving them. With a pair of dysfunctional detectives, an over-eager television reporter, a failed cop and every lowlife in the city after them, Adam and Freddy lead a fanatical life pursuing the only sense of justice they know.” I’ll be picking this book up, and not just because I have also been described as “a freakish-looking bookworm.” Really, I swear.

Berlin #11 and third printing of Berlin Book 1 TP
Drawn & Quarterly – page 268; $3.95 and 32 pgs. for #11; $19.95 and 212 pgs. for the trade
Jason Lutes
Berlin is a gritty, intrigue-laden historical fiction series set in Berlin beginning in 1928 after World War I. The trade collects the first eight issues of the series.

Stalagmite #2
Headless Shakespeare Press – page 292; $7.00; 72 pgs.
Various contributors
This anthology revolves around depictions of masculinities, containing stories about, for example, “America’s love of baseball, coming to terms with a mixed heritage, young military love gone awry, a desire to fly” along with interviews with Seth and Mark Newport.

Quick Picks:
Other books worth mentioning are Jane’s World #17 (pg. 290), with more of Jane’s social adventures; Furious Fists of the Drunken Monkey #2 (pg. 303), where Chip the alcoholic ape fights a new menace – The Exhibitionist; and Don’t Eat the Electric Sheep #2 (pg. 305), a series that features Myles, a mental patient at an asylum who is in reality a highly advanced robot.

Trade Treatment:
Some comics getting the trade treatment are Ex Machina from Wildstorm (pg. 105), District X from Marvel (pg. 74 in the Marvel supplement), and Daisy Kutter from Viper Comics (pg. 341). If you haven’t read Ex Machina or District X yet, these trades are definitely worth purchasing. I haven’t partaken in “Daisy Kutter” yet, but I’ve heard many good things about the series, which follows Daisy, described as a notorious bandit of the New West, as she takes a last train heist before leading a normal life. Each time I see samples of the book, the art grabs me. So, this title joins my trades of note section as well. As a sidebar, I’m a little disappointed that Wildstorm won’t be publishing a new issue of Ex Machina in January. I hope this doesn’t mean anything more than just a hiccup in production.

Comics in the News 10/24/04

Bill Liebowitz, Founder of LA Comic Book Store, Dead at 63
October 29, 2004
Los Angeles, California
Bill Liebowitz has died at age 63. Liebowitz founded the comics store Golden Apple Comics that became a Los Angeles institution.
Read the full story from the Monterey Herald.

Tough Times for Comic Book Plots
October 29, 2004
Boston, Massachusetts
A very incomplete article that states it is a difficult time to be a comic book reader and lists recent plots in comics that have resurrected characters or rewritten continuity. In fact the article is so incomplete, I wonder if the article didn’t get posted correctly on the website. In any case, I think the author needs to expand his comic-reading horizons and try something a little more small press. If he’s disenfranchised with the big two’s plots, he might want to try something else, and there’s a lot out there from which to choose.
Read the full story from The Boston Herald.

Auction Features Old Comic Books
October 28, 2004
West Salem, Wisconsin
An auction that just occurred on Friday had about 12,000 comics on the docket. The same auction company also recently auctioned off approximately 7,000 comics at one event.
Read the full story from the West Salem Coulee News.

Birth of the Comic Book
October 27, 2004
Talk of the Nation on NPR speaks with Gerard Jones about the birth of the comics industry.
Listen to the program on NPR.

Cartoonists and Fans to Celebrate Cartoon Day
October 27, 2004
Myongdong, South Korea
Cartoonists for local South Korean comics and animated programs will gather October 29 through November 3 to celebrate Cartoon Day with fans. They will also have a commemoration ceremony and parade to designate an area in Myongdong as Cartoon Street.
Read the full story from The Korea Times.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Lonnie Allen "The Icon": Review and Interview

Earlier this year, I stumbled across a mini-comic by Lonnie Allen called “The Cheerleader & Other Stories.” I enjoyed a couple of the short stories contained in the comic and was curious about what else Allen had done. Allen was kind enough to send me three other comics.

Lonnie Allen’s Mini-Comics
The first, published earlier this year was “Tell Tale Signs,“ a short tale of the dangers of alcohol told entirely by using icons you might find on street signs along with other symbols ingrained in our psyche. He also sent “The Boxer” #1, another compilation of short stories more traditionally drawn, which debuted at SPX, The Small Press Expo, held October 1-3.

Boxer Cover from www.squidworks.com The last mini-comic he sent was “USA War™ Instruction Manual,” which is included in the SPX 2004 Anthology currently available. This latter comic employs an iconic style and appears exactly like an instruction manual for a do-it-yourself bookcase or TV remote control. However, Allen’s manual is a biting, and very funny, satire of the U.S.’s treatment of war and the American populace.

You can see sample pages of The Boxer or order comics at Squidworks, or see Allen’s homepage at Dadagraphics.com, and read his online comic Mammalbot.

Interview with Allen
Recently, Allen agreed to talk with me for the following interview conducted via email.

First, a little about Lonnie Allen himself:

TCQ: Give us some history on Lonnie Allen -- how did you get into making comics? Have comics been a part of your life for a long time?

Allen: My father was in the military, so I moved around a lot. When he'd make trips to the convenience stores, I'd tag along and began to notice comics. Comics have been a part of my life for a long time. I can remember reading comics in 1st and 2nd grade. Neither one of my parents are comic readers, but it was something I was really attracted to. I remember my favorites were "X-Men" and "Daredevil." I used to trace over the drawings over and over when I could. I also remember those issues being really tattered and eventually thrown out. It wasn’t until much later that I realized one could keep them in good condition to reread.

TCQ: What do you do for a day job -- or do you?

Allen: I work in digital prepress for a printing company. Printing knowledge is very valuable in making professional looking comics without a budget.

TCQ: Who are some of your favorite creators/comics and/or authors/books?

Allen: When I was that kid tracing daredevil artwork; I was tracing over David Mazzucchelli artwork, although I didn't know or care about that at the time. Later, I was really attracted to his "Batman: Year One" artwork. I remember thinking the art was so different and cooler than anything I'd ever seen before. By then, I started taking note of who was drawing and writing what. I followed Mazzucchelli into the alternative press stuff with his Rubber Blanket series and Drawn & Quarterly appearances. I lived in Clovis, New Mexico at the time. We had one comic book specialty shop in town, and the owner was helpful with ordering anything weird that I was into.I picked up the first "Love & Rockets" trade paperback, and I became hooked on those for a while. I've collected mainstream and alternative comics ever since. My favorites are of course, Mazzucchelli and his "City of Glass" adaptation. I love the Hernandez brothers' work, especially Gilbert's. The more recent stuff that I really dig is Rick Smith, Jeff Smith, Chris Ware, Ron Rege, Juliet Doucet, John Pham, Sam Hiti, Allison Cole, John Porcellino, and a bunch of other people I can't think of now. Overall, the small press is just amazing these days. As far as mainstream creators: I try to follow Ed Brubaker, Alan Moore, Frank Quietly, Paul Pope, and Grant Morrison when finances allow.

Now, about your work:

TCQ: Are you an artist who creates more with an audience in mind, or is your work more personal, more for yourself, that is?

Allen: Haha. I think it's telling that you're even asking me this question. I actually do write for this imaginary audience (and it'll probably stay that way :-)). Rick Smith mentioned recently that my storytelling requires more effort than usual from the reader, and people may not want to put forth the effort.

Originally, I wrote more personal stories as in "The Cheerleader and Other Stories," but as time passed, my focus has shifted to broader spectrum of content.

TCQ: At least what I’ve read by you, you’ve primarily created very short stories – do you have any desire to try your storytelling in a longer format?

Allen: I have. After I complete a few more short story obligations I have for "Mauled" and "Potlatch," I want to buckle down and complete my graphic novel.

Tell Tale cover from www.squidworks.com TCQ: Of the four comics I've read, you use quite different styles. “The Cheerleader & Other Stories” and “The Boxer” are done in a more "realistic" manner while “USA War™ Instruction Manual” and “Tell Tale Signs” employ a much more iconic style. How did you come about this latter style? What about it appeals to you as a creator?

Allen: I've drawn for as long as I can remember. Throughout high school, I worked at crafting a photo realistic style, but when I studied art in college, they began to focus more on conceptual art. I was somewhat resistant to it. So much of the conceptual stuff seemed to paint (no pun intended) craft as a lower skill, but then about a year ago, T. Motley a fellow member of the Squid Works, a Denver based cartoonist co-op, and a great cartoonist, brought up the point that most comics are not much more than storyboards for films. I thought about that for a while. In a way, I came back to the ideas that were taught to me in college, even though I didn't appreciate it at the time. I began to think about what would work as something unique to comics which is how I came up with "Tell Tale Signs" and "USA War ™: Instruction Manual." Both styles appeal to me. I'll never give up drawing even though I say I will sometimes, and I like the challenge of conceptual comic making.

TCQ: To interject my own opinion into this interview, I though “USA War™ Instruction Manual” was your best work. It gave the message or story (and the art as well) more directly and cleanly. How did this mini-comic come about? What motivated you on this one? Talk about how you created this one.

Allen: Thanks. I touched on this subject in the previous question, but I'll elaborate by saying that I'm upset at our current political situation. This year, SPX's theme was war so I decided to make a satire. People don't like being preached to unless it's damn funny. My work isn't usually so didactic, but I'm outraged on daily basis by the news these days and I'm trying to change things in my very small way. I'm happy that it's in included in the "SPX 2004 Anthology," as it will reach a wider audience. I just hope I'm not preaching to the choir.

TCQ: Many of your stories have similar themes – the consequences of our actions/lives, significance yet insignificance of our lives, the circular nature of being. While these are quite universal themes employed by many storytellers, this seems to dominate your work. What appeals to you most about these subjects? What is your unique take on these themes?

Allen: Let me say that I'm a closet Buddhist. I read a lot of eastern philosophy which probably affected my writing. I also read too many naval gazing science books like: "Chaos," "Hyperspace," Joseph Campbell and Carl Sagan stuff. I'm more of existentialist than anything, but I think there are definite consequences to our actions, karma, if you will. Yet, for all the wonderful and horrible things that go on; over enough time, they'll become insignificant. So in a way, they were always insignificant. You catch me? Obviously, we can't go through daily life keeping this in mind; it's impractical. As an artist, however, I can allow myself to contemplate this idea. They appeal to me because they are the big questions, but I'm not conceited enough to think my take on these themes are unique. The best I can hope for is that they are unique to comics.

TCQ: What are you currently working on -- any upcoming projects to look for from you?

Allen: As I've mentioned earlier, I have some short stories planned for some anthologies like "Mauled" and "Potlatch." I have written a story for a comic called, "Crazy Asian Girl" which will be drawn by John Peters of "Forty Winks" fame. You can check out some of his sketches for it at: http://www.gypsygirlpress.com/CAG/. The book is lighter than most of my stuff, and is some of my best writing, if I do say so myself. I also have another story that fellow local cartoonist Paul Niemec is working on. It's something more in the "Heavy Metal" vein. I have another issue of "Boxer" lined-up which I plan to release this year. Finally, I hope to complete a longer narrative piece by the end of next year. The graphic novel is tentatively titled, "Lone Star State" that will take place in Texas circa 1988-1989. It will involve a death of a high school student and his circle of acquaintances. I started it a couple of years ago. I had about ten pages inked and fifteen drawn at the time when I lost them on our light rail. I was so discouraged at the time that I put it away. I still have the script, so I hope to complete it by the end of next year.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

DEMO #11 Preview

DEMO 11 from www.ait-planetlar.com

Demo #11 “Midnight to Six”
Writer: Brian Wood; Art: Becky Cloonan
AiT/ Planet Lar; $2.95

Three 13-year-olds make a pact in detention. By signing The Slacker Pledge, Jill, Jace, and Brad agree to “do the bare minimum in school & our future jobs … leaving our minds uncluttered & open to new experiences.”

Cut to 10 years later. All three, now 23 years old, live together, party together, and work together “Midnight to Six” at a local grocery store. They do the bare minimum to get by and, in theory, are then able to live life to its fullest. But, we find, this theory hasn’t exactly panned out for the three, and we see how they each deal with this realization.

Now anyone who says the idea of just coasting hasn’t at least for a moment sounded very tempting is lying. But in reality, most people just aren’t built for coasting. Most human beings have at least some kind of drive or interest in growth in their lives. That’s what this issue is about. The realization that maybe there is more out there to discover and try.

The series DEMO isn’t about young people dealing with superpowers, it isn’t about the supernatural. Sure, these may be plots points, but this is not what the series is really about. DEMO is about individuals making changes, choices, decisions, in their lives.

We see main characters in the series at a crossroads -- each must make a decision to change. Maybe it’s a physical change like moving or running away, or living “life” as the undead as in issue #3; or maybe it’s a mental realization that their character, or personality, has to change as in issue #9. Or maybe it’s just about accepting who you are and liking that, which is also a choice -- sometimes an even harder one to accept -- as in issue #4.

Issue #11 is by far the lightest issue of the series so far. It really is quite funny and the most entertaining and wholly satisfying of the run. But in spite of this, “Midnight to Six” managed hit me like a punch to the sternum. Jill says to the biggest slacker of all, Jace: “That’s the name of the game, dudes. Do what makes you happy. And if it’s on your own terms, all the better, right? So, Jace. What’s gonna make you happy?”

If you’ll allow me to get a little personal in this preview, the reason it slapped me back so hard was because it’s as if Jill is popping off the page and asking me the question. And the scary part is -- I know the answer. The answer is this -- this right here. Comics -- full time. I’m probably the only person who wants to get into “the business” who doesn’t want to be a writer or an artist. I’d actually love to be an editor. In reality, to just get my hands into the business of comics every damn day of my life would make me ecstatic. And I’m sure some days make me physically sick.

But that’s why in DEMO we see the characters just as they begin to head down their new path, whether it be physical or mental. Change is hard, but knowing you or your situation has to change and having it just stare you down, is even more difficult. So, in DEMO, we see people take that first, very difficult, step. And while Wood may not always be spot on each issue, this aspect he does very well – he fully understands and communicates the difficulty of the first step.
Bottom Line: A

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Best Book Ever: The DC Comics Encyclopedia

DC Encyclopedia from www.us.dk.com

I celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday a few weeks ago and Erin gave me what might be the best book ever. DK’s DC Comic Encyclopedia covers everyone in the DC Universe. If it is missing someone, I haven’t noticed yet. The book includes all the big players like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman and a ton of the lesser-known characters from Doll Man to Wildfire. It is a great resource if you need a reminder on who a character is and what they’ve done in the paste. Erin already called with a reference question.

Besides containing a wealth of information, the book also includes a wealth of pictures. Each entry includes at least one and some of the longer entries have multiple shots or even show the evolution of a character over time. There are pictures of vehicles, weapons, bases, and hideouts. Nothing is overlooked.

My new favorite time-passing mechanism is just to open the book to any page. Every time I do this, I’m shocked at how little I know about the DCU. There are so many people and so many grudges that I’m unaware of. The best discovery so fair is the Metal Men, a crime fighting team from the 1960s with members like Gold, Tin, and Lead. Now that I’ve found out more about this team, I’m interested in looking for some of their issues and reading their story. It could become very expensive, if I keep looking through and finding more cool characters.

This book is awesome. DK needs to convince Marvel to release a similar book. Every comic fan needs this invaluable reference book.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Comics in the News -- Week of 10/17/04

Illustrator Says He’s Turning Book of Mormon into Comics
October 22, 2004
Tucson, Arizona
The AP sends out a short release on Mike Allred’s upcoming comics based on the Book of Mormon.
Read the full story from the Tucson Citizen.

With no Fanfare
October 22, 2004
Nashville, Tennessee
The Lifestyle section of the Nashville city paper takes a break from traditional book reviews and reviews the following graphic novels and comics: Bone One Volume Edition, Bighead, A Gentleman’s Game, Tokyo Tribes Vol. 1, The Complete Peanuts 1953 to 1954, Strangers in Paradise Treasure Edition, Ex Machina #5, The New Frontier #6, and Palookaville #17.
Read the full story from the Nashville City Paper.

Cousins Publish Lewis & Clark Comic Book
October 20, 2004
Turtle Lake, North Dakota
Cousins Orville Evjen and Diane Evjen Schell have self-published a 196-page graphic novel about the Lewis & Clark expedition, which will be featured at Lewis & Clark events at the University of Mary in Bismark. The article interviews the creators and gives information on ordering the book, which will be on sale beginning in November.
Read the full story from the Minot Daily News.

Die-Hard Fans of Spawn Hit Store
October 20, 2004
Tempe, Arizona
Todd McFarlane opens a new toy showroom in Tempe, which will feature exhibits that include original artist sculptures of Spawn; large action figures of KISS, Jimi Hendrix, and Motley Crue; and many other sports and Hollywood action figures, posters, and memorabilia.
Read the full story from The Arizona Republic.

New Comic on Gandhi’s Life in South Africa
October 19, 2004
Johannesburg, South Africa
A new comic on the South African heritage of Mahatma Gandhi has been published by the Gandhi Centenary Council to serve as an educational tool in South Africa.
Read the full story from the Hindustan Times.

Sox are Comic Book Heroes
October 17, 2004
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Three comic book creators in Lowell reissue their comics with special “Reverse the Curse” covers. Johnny Raygun by Rich Woodall, Ant by Mario Gully, and Samurai Raccoon by Kay Cornello will all don the Red Sox-themed covers.
Read the full story from The Concord Monitor.

New Yorker Magazine Charts Cartoon Course in U.S. History
October 17, 2004
Lansing, Michigan
The author provides a review of The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.
Read the full story from the Lansing State Journal.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 10/22/04

Here are comments on a few comics I’ve read from the last two weeks.

Astro City: A Visitor’s Guide
Wildstorm $5.95
Writer: Kurt Busiek; Cover Artist: Alex Ross; And a whole slew of other artists for the gallery of heroes
This book’s concept – a vistor’s guide to Astro City – was a great idea and it certainly was fun to page through. However, I felt like it could have been more complete. For example, the history of Astro City and the guide to Astro City’s Neighborhoods both had page tear aways, so that the entire story wasn’t told, it just looked like someone had torn out the page. Now, if I’m a visitor to Astro City, and they’re handing out visitor’s guides with torn out pages, I’m going to be a little ticked. Now imagine if you dropped $5.95 on it? So, a little disappointment there. The book does have some nice features like the Who’s Who-type section called “Our Brightest Stars” illustrated by a plethora of leading artists in the industry. The short story at the beginning of the guide was also very nicely done. I just feel like they could have made this book one that newcomers would want to pick up just as much as “hardcore” fans.
Bottom line: B

Gotham Central #24
DC $2.50
Writer: Greg Rucka; Penciller: Lark; Inker: Gaudiano; Colorist: Robins
Rucka wraps up a two-part storyline this issue. My favorite character of the series, Renee Montoya, tries to clear her partner on the GCPD, Chris Allen, of the shooting (and killing) he committed to save her life on the job. There are some characters that Rucka tells better stories with, one is Tara Chase in the comic Queen & Country, and another is Montoya here in Gotham Central. Rucka pulls out more humanity, story, and character with Montoya than most other people he writes. So, it was a treat to see Rucka focus on her character again in this two-parter.
Bottom line: A-

Ocean #1 (of 6)
Wildstorm $2.95
Writer: Warren Ellis; Penciller: Chris Sprouse; Inker: Karl Story; Colorist: Randy Mayor of WSFX
This is just solid sci-fi. Non-sci-fi fans are probably yawning right now or thinking, “yeah, you mean it follows the same formula as every other sci-fi story out there.” O.k., sure there is a bit of familiar formula here: start out with a shocking reveal, and set up the mystery through a single character who is going to investigate, usually on a distant planet. Yep, that’s about right. There are coffins floating in the ocean of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and Nathan Kane, a very mysterious guy, is beginning his investigation. Yet, with all really good sci-fi, it’s less about what is said than how it is told, and Ellis tells a great story while Sprouse and Story, through their art, make it beautiful. A warning for those who like their stories told quick and to the point – wait for the trade. If you like to savor a well-told story, though, bon appetit.
Bottom line: A-

Batman: War Games, for the last two weeks
Wow, after last week’s issues (that’d be Batman: LOTDK #184 and Nightwing #98), I was ready to give up on the crossover that is “War Games.” But this week’s books (Robin #131, Batman: Gotham Knights #58, and Batgirl #57) restored new hope into the “event.” I rarely talk back to my comics, but then, in LOTDK #184, Batman narrating says: “The plan was perfect. The entire criminal population of Gotham City assembled together in one place … united under a single leader … a leader who took orders from me. And outside—an army of police, waiting to move in and arrest them all … on my command. Like I said—the plan was perfect.” I couldn’t help but yell at my comic: “Like hell it’s a good plan! That’s the shittiest plan I’ve ever heard of. Nothing could possibly go wrong with all of Gotham’s underworld together in one spot! And of course you’ll be able to order around the police, ‘cuz they just LOVE you Batman.” I’m sorry, I’m all for suspending belief when I read a lot of comics, but come on, it has to be a plausible suspension of belief. I mean Batman is supposed to the “world’s greatest detective” right? Couldn’t he use his detective skills to figure out that his plan totally sucked? Whew, had to get that off my chest.

Batgirl 57 from www.dccomics.comMeanwhile this week’s comics made a whole lot more sense and were much more interesting. Also, James Jean’s cover for Batgirl #57 was beautiful (no big surprise there). A couple little complaints in general, though. Black Mask, the big bad villain, really needs some more backstory given on him. If I didn’t have access to a DC encyclopedia, I wouldn’t have known anything about him. And I’ve been a Batman fan for a long time. (Me: Hi, my name is Erin. I love Batman. You: Hi Erin!). Anyhoo, the other constructive criticism is that DC really needs to give a brief synopsis at the beginning of each issue. This is just common courtesy to the reader in a long crossover like this anymore. Well, it sure doesn’t sound like I’m enjoying the series so far, but really it has had its good moments, it’s just that the issues vary so much from each other that it’s hard to get an overarching feel for the series.

Bottom line: For the series as a whole: B-; for this week’s books: B+

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 10/21/04

Ultra #3
Created by Jonathan and Joshua Luna
Image $2.95

They finally did it. This is the comic book that women have been waiting to be published. Ultra, the story of a group of super heroines that work for Heroine Inc. Sure they fight crime and please the public, but they also go on dates, meet for coffee, and give advice and support for each other. The book captures how women really are with their friends. It’s realistic even if the main character can fly. The Luna brothers have created a book that is about more than the super hero shtick; it’s about real people who happen to get paid to fight crime in a cape. Many women would enjoy this book, as for once, it isn’t about teenagers and high school, but is about real women and grown up life. It’s a shame that the book is only scheduled for an eight issue run.

Bottom Line: A

She-Hulk #8
Written by Dan Slott; Pencilled by Juan Bobillo; Inked by Marcelo Sosa
Marvel $2.99

She-Hulk wraps up her adventures at the Universal Court this month with a boxing match against the Champion of the Universe. The basics are there, but the story needs to be fleshed out a little more. The ending came fast and was contrived. The way She-Hulk finally ended up winning the match was so simple. Hopefully there are plans to explore the South Paw character more as right now she only serves as the sarcastic comic relief. This aspect of the book definitely needs work. Here’s wishing that the series gets back on track next month and follows the path that the first six issues laid out.

Bottom Line: C

District X #6
Written by Paul Hine; Penciled by Mike Perkins
Marvel $2.99

This issue wraps up the first story arc. It concludes in a very tidy manner. It might have been a little weak, but the other five issues carried this one completely. There are no loose ends to continue in issue seven, so it’s a perfect time to pick up the book. It seems that comic readers are never offered a clean slate and it feels very refreshing.

Bottom Line: B

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Even More Fund Comics Review

More Fund Cover from www.skydogcomics.com

Even More Fund Comics
Sky Dog Press; $10

Even More Fund Comics, sequel to More Fund Comics, is an anthology by dozens of creators put together to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The material ranges widely in terms of length, art, storytelling, subject matter, and skill.

There are one-page stories like "The Early Bird Special" by Howard Porter, which sees a thinly veiled Superman and Batman running into each other at a diner and commiserating over their jobs.

There are teasers for upcoming comics; for example, the "Samurai: Heaven & Earth Prelude" provides a glimpse at the art for the Dark Horse comic coming out in December.

There's even a sketchbook featuring contributions from artists such as Jeff Johnson, George Perez, Steve Rude, Frank Cho, and Mike Wieringo.

And there's a variety of other comics ranging from short self-contained stories to teasers to whet your appetite for more, which, for many of the comics, is often available online.

But my absolute favorite is the laugh-out-loud funny "Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel" by Ken Lillie-Paetz and Chris Moreno. The title alone made me have to put down the book, I was laughing so hard. Check out a glimpse of the Spy vs. Spy-like insanity at the Monkey Pharmacy website.

Other gems include "Bad Influences" by Ande Park and Mike Hawthorne, where a toddler and babysitter have a Tom and Jerry style adventure while Mom's out. Actually the next story in the book, "The Wretch in Return of the Beacon" had some very nice pencils and inks. The story and pencils for this one were done by Phil Hester and inks by Bruce McCorkindale. Another nice contribution was Jai Nitz's and Shawn Crystal's "Slim Fulton: Steam Powered Cowboy," which I'd really like to read more of.

There are definitely pieces that just don't work very well in the book or really at all, but for the most part, Even More Fund Comics is pretty darn entertaining. At 192 pages for $10, which also benefits a good cause, it definitely provides some fun, light-hearted entertainment and is worth picking up.

Bottom Line: B

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Fables #30 Review

Written by Bill Willingham; Penciled by Mark Buckingham; Inked by Steve Leialola; Cover by James Jean
Vertigo $2.50

Now that’s a lot better. The last Fables storyline was very disappointing, but the book returns to form with this issue. Election day has finally come to Fabletown. Prince Charming and King Cole go head to head in the race for mayor, the only position on the ballot. Meanwhile, Snow is giving birth to Bigby’s offspring.

The issue is packed full of action, but flows nicely. It doesn’t seem crowded with information from both storylines. Also Willingham writes very funny dialogue throughout the book. There are many humorous twists and turns, especially related to Snow’s labor.

Fables won the Eisner for best cover artist this year and the cover this issue is a great example of the title's quality covers overall. They are rich and slightly gothic. They also always do a great job of sticking to the theme of the each issue. The title always has a different style depending on the subject of each book. This month the title makes up the baby’s mobile. Each letter dangles on a string of its own. The election is also represented with the baby wearing a button for each candidate. The cover suits the book perfectly. Jean deserves the Eisner for consistently putting out the best cover.

Fables continues to use a great idea, the retelling of classic fairy tales, most creatively. We’ve almost had three years of the book now and happily, I don’t see an end in sight.

Bottom Line: A

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Comics in the News -- Week of 10/10/04

Muscatine Author Pens New Sequels
October 16, 2004
Muscatine, Iowa
Max Allan Collins talks to his home-town paper about the upcoming duel release of his novel “Road to Purgatory” and graphic novel “Road to Perdition 2: On the Road.” Both are sequels to Collins’s “Road to Perdition.”
Read the full story from The Quad City Times.

‘Green Arrow’ to Feature HIV-Positive Sidekick
October 13, 2004
San Luis Obispo, California
The AP covers the recent news that the Green Arrow comic will feature a sidekick struggling not just against the “baddies” but also against HIV. The article claims that this is “the first major comic book to deal with HIV.” I think they might be stretching the facts on this one, since I specifically remember an especially well-done issue of The Incredible Hulk dealing with AIDS in 1994. In any case this article talks about the character, Mia, and series writer, Judd Winick.
Read the full story from The San Luis Obispo Tribune.

‘Hamlet’ Too Hard? Try a Comic Book
October 12, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor
This article looks at high school teacher Diane Roy’s efforts to use graphic novels to encourage literacy and reading in her classes. Differing views on the perceived effectiveness and attitudes toward these methods are presented.
Read the full story from The Christian Science Monitor.

Marvel Studios CEO is a ‘Kid in a Very Big Candy Store’
October 11, 2004
Makati City, Philippines
The Philippine Daily Inquirer interviews Marvel Studios President and CEO Avi Arad. Arad talks about recent and upcoming Marvel movies, such as the Fantastic Four and X-Men movies and his philosophies on the movie and comic properties..
Read the full story from The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Vintage Comics Bring $190,000 at auction
October 10, 2004
Wichita, Kansas
The second auction of comics from the estate of Robert Ford brought in about $190,000. The comics were collected by Ford as a boy and stored meticulously for the many ensuing years. This was the second of two auctions and featured Ford’s cream of the crop.
The Wichita Eagle covered this news, but a more complete story can be found at Comic Book Resources.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I Missed the Boat: Alias

Back in 2001, I wasn’t reading comics. I wasn’t buying them. I wasn’t even keeping up with comic book news. It’s easy then to understand that I missed many great books. Slowly, I’ve been going back and picking up the better titles that I missed. Marvel’s Alias was at the top of my list.

As admirer of Brian Michael Bendis’s work, I wanted to explore his earlier stories that I missed. When I first heard about Alias I thought it might be a book about the ABC show of the same name. It’s not, but like the show, Alias the comic is often billed as a “fan favorite.” This usually means that a book has a rabid, if small fan base. Shows like Joss Whedon’s Buffy, Angel, and Firefly and comic books like Spider-Girl, my personal favorite, often get this nefarious tag. Sometimes this means the title won’t last long despite how much geeks like me love them. With all this in mind, I knew Alias would be right up my alley.

Alias stars Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero who now makes a living as a private investigator. While she once hung with the Avengers and New York’s other caped crime fighters under the name Jewel, now she schleps around New York’s grittier neighborhoods as a PI for hire. Other Marvel characters, such as Luke Cage and Captain America pop up throughout the book.

Now I’m not done reading the run, but Alias is turning out grand. Five issues in, I already dreaded the end; something that wouldn’t come for 23 more issues. I like Jessica Jones. She’s disgruntled and down on her luck. She doesn’t make lemonade out of her life’s lemons, but prefers to be sarcastic and self-depreciating instead. This is an attitude I can appreciate, respect, and relate to. She lives somewhat of a sad existence and I really pulled for her.

Bendis does great work throughout. The stories are tough and gritty. It’s part of Marvel’s underutilized Max line, so he is allowed to use language appropriate to the rough situations in Jones’s world. This lends credibility to the book and helps to keep the reader immersed in the story. The script never feels phony or unbelievable.

Keeping with the grimy feels of the writing, artist Michael Gaydos keeps the pages dark. Many of the panels have a blue or green tint to them making them feel like they are covered in a greasy film. It looks like the best episodes of the X-Files without the crazy alien abductions and Mulder’s paranoid ponderings. The panel layout is very creative and different, but not at all confusing. This makes the books interesting to read and view.

The covers also make the book stick out. They have a style all their owen and are even like collages. Drawings of bits of ephemera such as stamps, doodles, Polaroids, stickers, and labels accompany a portrait of Ms. Jones each issue. Most covers look layered, like each item is taped or glued in place. It is a cool effect that I’ve only seen here.

The series unfortunately ended in 2003, but all is not lost for Jessica Jones fans. Bendis brought her back in another Marvel book, The Pulse, where she works as a consultant to a new superhero section of the Bugle. Issue six of that series should come out today. While the Pulse isn’t as gritty or R-rated as Alias, the first story line was very good. It’s a great place to catch Ms. Jones if you’re an old Alias fan and need your fix. For a newbie like me, it’s nice to see Bendis use her in more projects. Jones is also set to star in a Bendis helmed What If? in December.

I certainly missed the boat on Alias, but I’m glad to be indoctrinated now .You can pick up the entire run on Ebay for a decent price, probably around $35. That is quite a deal for such high quality writing by Bendis and amazing art from Gaydos.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

SPX -- The Small Press Expo -- News

SPX – The Small Press Expo – was held October 1 through 3 in Bethesda, Maryland, where more than 2,400 people gathered to celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary and check out a plethora of small press creators and comics. This year the event raised more than $22,000 for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). The CBLDF works to protect the First Amendment rights of comic book readers and professionals.

SPX Anthology
SPX and the CBLDF annually publish the SPX Anthology to coincide with the event. The 2004 anthology is due in stores tomorrow (October 13) for $9.95. This year’s SPX Anthology features the theme of "War." As with every year, all profits from the SPX Anthology go to support the CBLDF.

Contributors and story titles are as follows:

Alex Lukas -- "Building it Up Just to Tear it Down"
Drew Weing -- "Leaflet Drop"
Jamie Tanner -- "War Atrocity Love Song"
Justin Hall -- "Dropping a Bomb"
Jakob Klemencic -- "April Fool's Tale"
Scott White -- "Lost Letter"
Robert Bienvenu -- "Staying in There"
Matt Dembicki -- "Blonds Have More Fun"
Winston Rowntree -- "Untitled"
Federico Reggiani & Angel Mosquito -- "Pray"
Kurt A. Belcher & Philipp S. Neundorf -- "White Death"
Vladan Nikolic -- "Victory"
Bruce Mutard -- "The Holy Kingdom"
Diana Yee -- "Ecaep"
B. Vranken -- "The Sweet War"
Joey Weiser -- "Flight"
Bart Johnson -- "Ratty: The Embittered Vietnam Vet"
Ben Towle -- "Toast"
Jeff Smith -- "Come Back, Colin Powell"
Corinne Mucha -- "War is Just a Card Game.."
J. Chris Campbell -- " Saturday Morning Showdown "
Megan Kelso & Ron Rege -- "Fuck the Troops"
Lonnie Allen -- "U.S.A. War™ Instruction Manual"
Charles Riffenburg IV -- "Leaders & Followers"
Matt Bellisle -- "Underground: Maquis"
Weatherwise -- "Good God, Y'all"
Michael Narren -- "A Brief History of War"

2004 Ignatz Awards
Another big part of the event, the 2004 Ignatz Awards were announced on October 3. The Ignatz Awards were created to recognize outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning; the ballot is created by a panel of five cartoonists and is then voted on by attendees at the Expo. Listed below are the nominees with the winner of each category highlighted in bold.

SPX 2004 Eighth Annual Ignatz Awards Nominees with Winners in Bold

Outstanding Artist
Chester Brown, Louis Riel (Drawn and Quarterly)
Dan Clowes, Eightball #23 (Fantagraphics Books)
Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad (iBooks)
Joe Sacco, The Fixer, (Drawn and Quarterly)
Craig Thompson, Blankets (Top Shelf Productions)

Oustanding GN or Collection
Blankets, Craig Thompson (Top Shelf Productions)
The Fixer, Joe Sacco (Drawn and Quarterly)
Louis Riel, Chester Brown (Drawn and Quarterly)
McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, Edited by Chris Ware (McSweeney's, Ltd.)
Teratoid Heights, Matt Brinkman (Highwater Books)

Outstanding Story
"Glenn Ganges," Drawn and Quarterly Showcase Book 1, Kevin Huizenga (Drawn and Quarterly)
"The Little Things," Rubber Necker #3, Nick Bertozzi (Alternative Comics)
"Maggie," Love and Rockets v.2 #8, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
"Paul in the Metro," Drawn & Quarterly #5, Michel Rabagliati (Drawn and Quarterly)
"Portrait of My Dad," McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, David Heatley (McSweeney's, Ltd.)

Promising New Talent
Martin Cendreda, Hi-Horse Omnibus (Alternative Comics, Hi-Horse Comics)
Svetlana Chmakova, Chasing Rainbows (www.girlamatic.com, www.svetlania.com)
Dan James, The Octopi and the Ocean (Top Shelf Productions)
Leland Purvis, Suspended in Language (G.T. Labs)
Lauren Weinstein, Kramers Ergot #4 (Alternative Comics)

Outstanding Series
Black Hole, Charles Burns (Fantagraphics Books)
Finder, Carla Speed McNeil (Lightspeed Press)
King Cat, John Porcellino (Self-published)
Rubber Necker, Nick Bertozzi (Alternative Comics)
Stuff of Dreams, Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics Books)

Outstanding Comic
Black Hole #11, Charles Burns (Fantagraphics Books)
Eightball #23, Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)
Stuff of Dreams #2, Kim Deitch (Fantagraphics Books)
Tepid Summer 2003, John Hankiewicz (Tepid Comics)
King Cat #62, John Porcellino (Self-published)

Outstanding Minicomic
Big Questions No. 6: Anoesia and the Matrideicidic Theophany, Anders Brekhus Nilsen, (Self-published)
Lucky #3, Gabrielle Bell, (Self-published)
Quantum Entanglement, Spooky Action at a Distance, Teleportation and You, Jim Ottaviani and Roger Langridge (G.T. Labs)
Thankless Job, Pat Lewis (Lunchbreak Comics)
Underground: Souvenir, Matthew Bellisle (Gravity/DSN)

Outstanding Online Comic
American Elf, James Kochalka, americanelf.com
Apocamon, Patrick Farley, e-sheep.com
Desert Rocks, J.J. Naas, dr.ungroup.net
The Pain … When Will it End?, Timothy Kreider, thepaincomics.com
Tailipoe, Craig Boldman, craigboldman.com

Outstanding Debut Award
Astronaut Elementary #4, Dave Roman (Cryptic Press)
Attic Wit #6/#7: Hell and Heaven, edited by M. Dembicki
BABEL #1, David B. (D&Q)
Bighead, Jeffrey Brown (Top Shelf)
Blood Orange #3, edited by Chris Polkki (Fantagraphics)
DOGS & WATER, Anders Nilsen (D&Q)
Doppler Effect, The, Gabriel Greenberg (Appollo Bunder Comics)
Elyse & Fields, Calvin Sands (Faded Parchment)
EVERYMAN, Brothers Goldman, art by Joe Bucco (FWDbooks)
Expert's Guide on How to Kill Things That Go Bump in the Night, The, Darren J. Gendron and Robert Zailo (Dernwerks)
Fred the Clown, Roger Langridge (Fantagraphics)
HECTOR MORTEM'S CASTLE FREAK, Chris Reilly (self-published)
Love Eats Brains, Dash Shaw (Oddgod Press)
OR ELSE #1, Kevin Huizenga (D&Q)
Scheherazade, Megan Kelso (Soft Skull Press)
Stalagmite 2, Craig McKenney (Headless Shakespeare Press)
Supernaturalists, The, Patrick Neighly and Jorge Heufemann (Mad Yak Press)
Teen Boat #6: VOTE BOAT, Dave Roman and John Green (Cryptic Press)
Temporary # 1 "Cubes and Ladders, Damon Hurd and Rick Smith (Origin Comics)
Worn Tuff Elbow, Marc Bell (Fantagraphics)

Ignatz 2004 Jury Panel
Kevin Huizenga
Megan Kelso
Rich Koslowski
Layla Lawlor
Steve Lieber

Monday, October 11, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 10/11/04

Y the Last Man #27
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Pencils by Pia Guerra; Inked by Jose Marzan Jr.
Vertigo $2.95

Y just keeps plugging long. It’s a hardy title and this issue finds more of the same. Yorick is a clumsy oaf, always making mischief. 355 is serious, uncompromising and kicking butt. Hero is as messed up as ever and getting closer, within days of finding her brother.

This issue felts like a big fat tease to me. It left me wishing that the next issue was already in my pull box waiting for me. Usually the feeling of wanting more would be a good thing, but not this time. While the ending was exciting, the issue itself was very boring. Only one thing happened and that could be explained in a few pages. This certainly wasn’t the strongest effort from Vaughan, but everyone is allowed one bland issue especially since the previous 26 were spectacular. It’s a good issue compared to other comic books, but not good compared to past issues of Y.
Bottom Line: B-

Jubilee #2
Written by Robert Kirkman; Art by Derec Donovan
Marvel $2.99

I liked the first issue of this Marvel Age title and I’m a big fan of the old Generation X title. Jubilee has always been one of my favorite X-Women. Her spunky attitude is not common in the X world. Kirkman captures Jubilee’s fun rebellious personality here, but that’s about all we get. She doesn’t use her powers. She doesn’t get a date. She doesn’t do much of anything. I was looking forward to finding out more about Aunt Hope, but we only see her twice. This issue was a big letdown after a decent start.
Bottom Line: C

Catwoman: When in Rome #1
Written by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale; Letters by Richard Starkings; Colors by Dave Stewart
DC $3.50

I don’t read many DC titles that aren’t Vertigo and I’ve been trying to change that. This six part miniseries was a great place to start. The cover calls the book “a Catwoman murder mystery” and the writing and art fit the theme. The whole book has a film noir feel to it. When not dress as Catwoman, Selina Kyle looks voluptuous and stylish, like a starlet from the 1940s.

The book starts with Catwoman and the Riddler going off to Rome on a working vacation. They argue along the way adding some laughable moments to the issue. Their interaction is sharp and Loeb and Sale do a great job on the script. This 6-part story has started off strong.
Bottom Line: A-

Ultimate Spider-Man #66
Written by Brian Michael Bendis; Pencils by Mark Bagley; Inked by Scott Hanna
Marvel $2.25

This was appropriately title “Even we don’t believe this.” It couldn’t be closer to the truth. I actually thought that I had missed a few issues of the book. Somehow Spiderman and Wolverine wake up in each other’s bodies and in each other’s homes. The issue is a lot like the movie Freaky Friday or those other switched places movies from the 1980s. Considering where we last saw Peter Parker, mourning the loss of Gwen Stacy, it is strange to see Bendis jump to such a light hearted story that doesn’t fit with the last issues. The issue is very funny, but it doesn’t fit where the storyline was going in issue 65.
Bottom Line: B-

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Comics in the News -- Week of 10/3/04

Comic Book Artist Recreates Ancient Rome
October 8, 2004
Rome, Italy
French comic book artist Gilles Chaillet has recreated the city of Rome in 314 AD on a 11 ft. by 6.5 ft. map. He first thought of the project when he was nine, and now after 5,000 hours at the drawing board and 3,000 hours of coloring, the map is completed. He has also published a book to accompany the map titled "Inside the Rome of the Caesars."
Read the full Associated Press story from the Tallahassee Democrat.

Korean Comic Books Broaden Inroads to Germany, France
October 8, 2004
Seoul, South Korea
Comic book publishers have launched a major promotion campaign in Germany and France to attract a larger European audience. This campaign includes a special section for South Korean comics at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2004 and a four-day road show to large bookstores across Germany and France.
Read the full story from The Korea Times.

FunMail Announces Peanuts Comics for the First Time on Mobile Phones
October 7, 2004
Pleasanton, California
FunMail and United Media just completed a licensing deal for FunMail to produce and distribute Peanuts for fans on the go. FunMail's Peanuts Comics are a "best of" anthology that allows a new strip to be downloaded each day for a monthly subscription fee.
Read the full story from Yahoo! Finance.

Nashua Grad is Drawn to His Art
October 7, 2004
Nashua, New Hampshire
Rich Woodall returns to his hometown for a comic convention where he will be signing copies of his comic Johnny Raygun. This article is a nice local paper interview with Woodall.
Read the full story from The Telegraph.

The Greatest Canadian Cliffhanger Ever
October 6, 2004Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Dan Brown of the CBC wonders what ever happened to Captain Canuck and revisits the Canadian hero's history. He also talks to Captain Canuck creator Richard Comely and touches on the upcoming new series.
Read the full story from CBC News.

Comic Books Interest Reluctant Readers at Middle School
October 5, 2004
Mattoon, Illinois
This article spotlights a middle school program using comics and graphic novels spanning different genres to help teach reading skills as well as connections to history and other school subjects. The article also puts out a call for donations of graphic novels. My favorite quote is "'The State of Illinois has really pushed to have graphic novels in schools by offering grants to libraries.'" Nice.
Read the full story from the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier.

A Comedic Effort
October 5, 2004
Austin Texas
A spotlight on Brad Neely and his underground comic "Creased Comics." Neely began the series in 1996; and his single-panel comics will be compiled into an anthology to be published in January 2005 from Lime Publishing.
Read the full story from The Daily Texan.

Spinning New Tales
October 4, 2004
Cleveland, Ohio
An interview with Allan Heinberg, writer on "The O.C." who is making the leap from television to comics writing. The article also takes a look at other writers who have followed the same route, such as Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini, and Brad Meltzer.
Read the full story from The Plain Dealer.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Spider-Girl #79 Review

Script, Plot, and Pencils by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz; Finished art by Sal Buschema; Letters by Dave Sharpe
Marvel $2.99

First off, I need to come clean; I am hopelessly addicted to Spider-Girl. Yes, I am one of THOSE people: the petition signing, Spider-Girl saving kind of comic book fan. This book has brought me back to comics twice now. I’ve quit the hobby all together a few times, but after a year or two I wonder how my girl May is doing and I come back. I’ve been back for about a year and while Spider-Girl may not last forever, I plan on reading comics for the rest of my life. Now that I’ve shared my Spider-Girl admission with you, I can move on with the review.

Spider-Girl weathered her makeover pretty well. She is back in the traditional spidey colors now, but the art has also undergone a change. Eyes are bigger and faces are bulgier. I can’t say I like the changes to May’s face all that much. She looks bloated at times. To their credit, they didn’t make her ankles and neck smaller and her breasts bigger. Sometimes the incredible shrinking ankles effect, a pet peeve of mine, passes as a character makeover. Thankfully, that is not the case here.

This issue finds May saving Normie Osborn once again. The premise is a bit different this time, however. Normie has been kidnapped by a cult devoted to the original Green Goblin. A crazy character Elan, Queen of the Goblins, heads it and believes she is betrothed to Normie. The story is great and the cult has a lot of potential for future use.

The weak points I see are what consistently hampers the title. I’m tired of Normie and Raptor’s relationship dragging on in mediocrity. It looks like their relationship will be coming to a crossroads in the next few issues though. I’d also like to see Spider-Girl actually make it somewhere on time. She must be the flakiest friend of all time. Besides those minor sticking points, the story moves at a good pace.

The best thing about this issue is definitely Elan, Queen of the Goblins. She earns her spot on the cover. She is evil, wicked, and probably insane. Her costume is a lot like a female Green Goblin’s outfit would be, but there is also a few surprises. Long slim knives, almost ice picks actually, come out of her wrist cuffs and her belt buckles in a Goblin face. Her ears are gigantic. She is everything I want the Queen of the Goblins to be. DeFalco and team don’t let us down in writing her either. You know she is crazy and that she truly believes she is to marry Normie. DeFalco easily makes Elan believable.

It looks like the next issue will be a good time to jump on to the series. Spider-Girl sure could use the readers. It is a great little series with quality writing. Why not give this title a little love?
Bottom Line: B

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Demo #10 Review

Demo 10 cover from www.ait-planetlar.com

Demo #10 “Damaged”
Writer: Brian Wood; Art: Becky Cloonan
AiT/ Planet Lar; $2.95

This issue of Demo tells of Thomas Martin, a seemingly successful, wealthy, and also troubled 20-something who just doesn’t quite know what to do with success. Thus, he’s the “Damaged” one.

Or is he?

Enter seemingly homeless mystery girl, whom he first encounters on a NYC sidewalk. She can eerily just know things about him.

Or can she?

She talks with him, acting almost as a counselor. The story from there out is seemingly predictable.

Or is it?

O.k., alright, I’ll stop doing that. But admit it the questions and “seeminglys” have you more than annoyed -- perhaps even intrigued?

The plotline works well here, but really the stand-out aspect of the issue is Cloonan’s art. I’m continually amazed by her work. (Note to self: pick up more Cloonan art.) The characters have a kind-of facial “manga look,” which isn’t completely my cup of tea, but she really does use the style nicely to pull out the emotions that are needed. Page 14, panel four is a nice rendering of the profile of the girl’s head – I want more of this. It’s just a bit different – more exact, a little more realistic, but really locked into the style I would have liked to have seen for the characters throughout the book.

Enough of my personal preferences, though. The most effective and well-employed artistic device in the book was Cloonan’s use of photographs of NYC given a photocopied look and incorporated with her drawings. It gave an immediate sense of place, and was integrated with the rest of the art, therefore giving the effect a distinct look, but kept it from being jarring. And the last page was just sweet. Cloonan uses simple lines to emote with the best of them.

If you haven’t picked up an issue of Demo yet, this is a good one to try. Each issue tells a separate, one-issue, story. Some have a distinctive A, B, to C plotline, others are more a moment-in-the-life-of stories. Some will ring truer than others for you, but I guarantee which issues those are will vary from individual to individual.

Bottom Line: B+

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 10/5/04

mycomicshop.com cover image

Adam Strange #1 (of 8)
DC $2.95
Writer: Andy Diggle; Artist: Pascal Ferry; Colorist: Dave McCaig
I’m not a big Adam Strange fan, in fact, I don’t know much at all about the character. Going into this book, I knew the basics – Adam Strange would periodically be transported to the planet Rann by a Zeta beam where he lived a separate life. Other than that the character of Adam Strange is untrespassed territory for me. With this in mind, I thought this was a very good comic. Diggle’s writing was concise and natural, and Adam Strange’s premise was easily and quickly laid out. Like I said, Adam had an alternate life on Rann where he had a happy family life and was becoming increasingly attached to Rann. Adam was transported back to Earth some time ago on a final trip to wrap things up, and then the Zeta beams just stopped appearing. Cut off from Rann with only Superman’s word on what went wrong, Adam hits rock bottom. The frame for this backstory is that Adam has been arrested in suspicion of arson to his apartment building and is trying to clear his name with the interrogating officer. One criticism I have of the issue is the hackneyed police officer. Other than that, I don’t have any reservations. From pencils to inks to letters and especially to colors, this is a beautiful book. The art alone is most definitely worth buying the book, and with Diggle on words, the comic is even better. I’m expecting good things from this limited series.
Bottom line: A-

The Losers #16
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Andy Diggle; Artist: Jock; Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Well speaking of Andy Diggle, here’s a look at The Losers this month. So far in the series, readers have been watching a group of ex-CIA operatives – the Losers – try to find “Max,” the mysterious person, or perhaps myth?, behind the story of these operatives’ journey into the underground. While the comic has been a great ride in terms of gritty action and writing, my one big criticism has been that for more than a year of issues, we don’t have enough backstory to really latch onto these characters. What are their motivations? What’s the whole story behind the Losers? I do like a good mystery, but you don’t want to cheat your readers by not giving them a big enough nibble from the dangling carrot, either. Beginning with this issue, it looks like we’re going to get a big bite of the carrot. This is the first issue in a storyline revealing the Losers’ backstory, and therefore is a good issue to pick up for first-time readers.
Bottom line: B+

Ex Machina #4
Wildstorm $2.95
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Penciller: Tony Harris; Tom Feister: Inker; Colorist: J.D. Mettler
Through issue three, I’ve consistently felt this is one of the best new books around. However, Vaughan is losing me a little with this issue. Vaughan is certainly a good writer, but some of the dialogue felt a forced and I’m not sure I like where the plot is going. Or maybe it’s that I’m not sure I like how we’re getting there or the pace of it. Story-telling-wise this issue treaded water and maybe took a stroke backwards. I’m sure Vaughan has more up his sleeve, and I’m onboard for the foreseeable future, I just don’t think this is the best issue so far.
Bottom line: B

Wonder Woman #208
DC $2.25
Writer: Greg Rucka; Penciller: Drew Johnson; Inker: Ray Snyder; Colorist: Richard & Tanya Horie
Alright, now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve enjoyed Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman quite a lot, but the last couple issues have dragged a bit. With part three of the storyline “Stoned” Rucka picks up the pace and gets to the heart of the plot. Medusa is front and center in this issue and ready to take on Wonder Woman. Most action scenes don’t do a whole lot for me, but the fight between Wonder Woman and Medusa was well done. The dialogue kept the pace in check, and the art kept the action fluid and interesting. By the end of the issue we’re set up for the next chapter, which looks to be the climax of the storyline.
Bottom line: B+

Queenly Declarations: An End to Variant Covers

Occasionaly, we “Comic Queens” get a little peeved at bits of news from the comics universe and become less than ladylike. Instead of being vengeful and pestilent rulers, we put our self-proclaimed titles to use and make a declaration. This is sure to benefit all of comic fandom, not just us, because we care about you, our royal subjects. We here at The Comic Queen have your needs in mind.

Flipping through the October issue of Previews, I noticed a disturbing new trend. Small publishers are putting out variant covers, where an issue is released with a number of different covers, at an alarming rate. While we are used to seeing this wasteful practice from the big guys, it is now catching on with the smaller publishing houses as well. This is not something that the Comic Queens approve of, so we therefore declare that variant covers will henceforth be banned.

The two instances in Previews – Unholy #1 and Army of Darkness: Shop ‘til you Drop (Dead) #1, that drove us to this declaration are both quite ridiculous. Unholy has five different cover choices: the regular one, one by a different artist, and the wrap-around are all regular price; a premium cover is $9.99, and the leather cover (Yes, actual leather!) is $24.99. Our insatiable lust for comics is getting out of hand and now, not only do we have to kill trees to get our beloved comics, but we also insist on taking out cows as well.

Army of Darkness also comes with five cover choices: the regular one and four others by guest artists. Thankfully all are regular price. To make the special variants more collectable, they are limited to small runs. For example the regular cover of the Army of Darkness book will appear on 50% of the issues released and the four special covers are to be split equally over the other 50%.

At a time when the comics industry is desperately trying to attract new and younger readers, there doesn’t need to be confusion in the form of variant covers on the racks. It is already hard enough for new readers to find a jumping on point without trying to figure out why a bunch of issues look different, but contain the same story. Even for longtime fans, variant covers sometimes feel like a ploy to get even more of our money. While I realize that there are hard-core collectors who don’t read the books they buy, in our ranks, there can’t be enough to warrant this extravagance.

What do companies hope to accomplish by selling variant covers? Of course, they make a quick buck, but what keeps that boom going on to the next issue? It certainly doesn’t add to the fan base, because the people who are buying the variants most likely aren’t even reading them. Variant covers are a guaranteed bust-inducing phenomenon. This is one part of the nineties that we won’t soon forget. Other than crowding the market, it just doesn’t make long-term business sense at all.

And if individual comic buyers think keeping track of variant covers is a pain, then comic shop owners must really be suffering. The small publishers are most likely not doing this, but Marvel, for instance, is infamous for its incentive variants. Incentive variants require shops to buy a certain number of several titles to get just one of the coveted variant covers. This forces shops that want to please their customers to often buy more than they want of certain titles, limiting the amount of money they have to take a chance on small-run titles.

Let’s not let the publishers get the best of us. This scheme doesn’t work in any other industry. No matter the wrapper on a candy bar, the treat inside tastes the same. This inside, what the wrapper protects and serves to attract snackers to the product, is what consumers are really buying. If anyone told me they spent $24.99 on a candy bar because it was individually numbered and sealed in a limited edition full color naugahyde wrapper, I would know they had lost their mind. Changing that analogy to comics doesn’t make much difference to me. It’s crazy to spend that much on a standard 32-page book because it’s sheathed in leather. It’s crazy to buy three copies of the same book, because the covers are different.

If the industry really wants to be accessible to all, like it professes to, then publishers will have to stop all the shenanigans and work on being a hobby that is easy to understand and quick to pick up. Comic collecting and reading needs to make good economic sense. Limiting or even banishing variant covers is a good start. Therefore, all publishers large and small let it be so.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Comics in the News -- Week of September 26

When Nerdish Boys Dreamed Up New Comic-Book Heroes
October 3, 2004
Washington, D.C.
Stephen Goode of The Washington Times favorably reviews the new book “Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and The Birth of the Comic Book” by Gerard Jones. The book examines the early days of superhero comics, the ideas, and writers and artists of the time.
Read the rest of the story from The Washington Times.

Exhibitions, Book Trace Development of Comics
October 1, 2004
St. Louis, Missouri
The School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis has just opened two exhibitions “The Rubber Frame: Culture and Comics” tracing the evolution of comics from the early 1800s through the comix underground of the 1960s and 70s through today’s alternative comics.
Read the rest of the story from The Record.

DC’s Green Lantern Resurrection Hangs Out Hope for Hal Jordon
October 1, 2004
Boston, Massachusetts
Mark A. Perigard of the Boston Herald takes a preview look at the upcoming six-issue miniseries “Green Lantern: Rebirth” to begin in October.
Read the rest of the story from The Boston Herald.

It’s a ‘Super’ Trademark Mess
September 23, 2004
New York, New York
A federal judge won’t throw out a trademark infringement suit DC Comics filed against Kryptonite Corp., the bicycle lock company.
Read the rest of the story from the New York Daily News.

‘Uncle Pai’ Celebrates 75th Birthday
September 22, 2004
Mumbai, India
Anant “Uncle” Pai, the editor of the Amar Chitra Katha comics celebrated his 75th birthday on September 22. Pai is considered the father of Indian comics.
Read the rest of the story from the Indo-Asia News Service.