Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Ninja Baseball Kyuma Vol. 1

I've seen too many variations of the kung fu-skills-used-to-excel-in-non-combat-situations gag to find it funny anymore, but then, I'm old, and this cute manga is aimed at kids ages 9-12.

The similarly aged Kyuma is the last living member of his ninja clan, living atop a mountain and continuing to train and hone his ninja skills while awaiting the fulfillment of a prophecy that one day someone would come to him and need his service in battle. Meanwhile, a kids' baseball team gets trounced by older kids, and the team captain is told—by one of his players, who can read the future in a crystal baseball—that he will find the player he needs to win atop of Kyuma's mountain.

When the baseball player and the ninja meet, Kyuma naturally assumes that he's needed to fight for his new master, and that baseball is some form of ritualized combat between two opposing armies. From this initial misunderstanding, mild, grade school-aged hilarity ensues. Luckily for our protagonists, not only is the young ninja superhumanly loyal to his teammates, but most of his training—catching shuriken thrown at him, chopping firewood, etc—have equivalent actions within the sport.

Kyuma's training partner and best friend is his dog Inui, who wears a little ninja headband and also seems to have some pretty boss ninja skills (Inui throws the shuriken that Kyuma catches and dodges, for example). He's a pretty darling character design; a big, round pillow of a puppy, and the humans all have puppy-like proportions of their own, with big hands and feet they haven't quite grown into yet.

In this first volume, manga-ka Shunshin Maeda explores the initial premise, and then gradually introduces new characters, so that it isn't until the end of the volume that what seems to be the entire cast is assembled. I imagine younger kids will dig this book, but there was very little for me to grab on to. The volume was pleasant enough while it lasted, but I wasn't given much reason to look forward to a second volume.

But, again, I'm old.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The only thing I didn't like about this week's Runaways #10... that Wolverine didn't actually let Molly fight the opponents she had the Danger Room generate for her before he turned it off.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eoin Haggerty should draw Batman

This is the picture he drew of the characters he found in the Lego Batman video game, a picture that appeared in the letter column of this week's Batman: The Brave and the Bold #5. You can tell Batman is the hero because he has the biggest head.

I'm not sure how old Mr. Haggerty is, but he doesn't seem to have any problem drawing feet, which means he's already got at least one skill that at least one recent Batman artist has lacked. He also draws a darling Catwoman; that's her swinging from the N, right? Looking all like an angry little panda person?

According to his letter to Johnny DC (in which asks where Alfred is at), Haggerty has even made his own comic, and it's called Mancat.

Johnny DC, you should totally publish Mancat; I really wanna see it!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weekly Haul: May 28th

Avengers: The Initiative #24 (Marvel Comics) According to the title page, this is only part four of a post-Secret Invasion storyline entitled “Avengers: The Initiative Disassembled,” but man it seems to be taking forever. In this issue, writers Christos N. Gage continues to rearrange the cast and status quo to bring it in line with “Dark Reign,” and artist Humberto Ramos continues to draw everyone with gigantic teeth.

Avengers/Invaders #11 (Marvel) At the end of an issue in which almost nothing at all happens (beyond the usual Bucky and Toro wondering about their deaths, and Iron Man having a sad about Civil War), The Red Skull uses the infinite power of the Cosmic Cube to summon up a team of super-Nazis to fight the good guys. That’s them on the cover. There’s some kind of vampire, an Iron Man-type wearing an iron cross, someone who looks like Captain Nazi, a Nazi dominatrix, and an underwater Nazi guy with a “U” on his chest, probably U-boat Mensch or something or something like that.And then you have Thor. Just plain old looks-the-exact-same-as-usual Thor. Ha ha, Thor is so goddam Aryan as he was originally conceived that there’s absolutely nothing anyone could think to do to Nazi him up a little.

This is the penultimate issue, by the way; there will be but one more, and then I’ll be as sad as Iron Man is in this series.

Batman in Barcelona: Dragon’s Knight #1 (DC) This out-of-left-field one-shot features a script by Mark Waid and 38-pages of art by Barcelona’s own Diego Olmos, whose work is very strong. He does a nicely detailed, but not overly so, Batman, and he’s quite dept at action, character interaction and observational details, like Batman taping up his hands before going into action.

I do hope there’s more Batman work in Olmos’ future.

The script is nothing terribly revolutionary—even the Killer Croc as a dragon to be slain by a knight idea was present Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum 20 years ago—but Waid covers that several even more familiar beats quite well. His Batman is a very gadget-oriented, very human Batman and, of course, he’s Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne-as-Batman is something that’s a bit rarer in DC comics than usual at this point.

I liked the idea of Batman having satellite Bat-caves in different cities around the world, and the weird two-wheeled miniBatmobile he drives around in this, which looks like a more practical Bat-pod, or a Bat-pod crossed with a Batmobile, is pretty cool-looking, although I confess to groaning when I got to the splash page which reveals why Waid and Olmos must have given him such a vehicle (Hint: It’s not because it’s more practical on Europe’s smaller, more crowded streets).

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #5 (DC Comics) I’m often surprised at how far the comic book version of this (utterly fantastic) cartoon series deviates from the show’s formula. This issue, for example, features a hero and villain who haven’t showed up on the show and/or the original, classic Brave and the Bold comics run so many of the show’s team-ups seem culled from. And Batman isn’t transformed at all at any point, nor does he put on a different costume at any point.

Huh. There’s nothing wrong with this, I just find it kind of surprising is all, especially considering the way the comic tries to hew to the short team-up followed by long team-up format of the show.

This issue is written by J. Torres and is drawn by Carlo Barberi, an artist who is quite okay, but isn’t my favorite of those who have drawn this series so far.

On the first two pages, Batman receives some unexpected help from “The Haunted Tank of World War II’ while taking on The Key in a museum.

In the next 20, Batman teams-up with Captain Marvel and Billy Batson to stop the Queen of Fables from abducting children, whose tears she uses to stay young.

It’s decent enough, but never really reaches the giddy heights of the cartoon, or the better issues of the comic-based-on-the-cartoon. Well, I shouldn’t say “never,” but “rarely.” There is a scene where Batman runs up to two fairy tale wolves and says “Why, Batman, what big fists you have… The better to sock you in the teeth with!” while punching one out. That’s pretty awesome.

Green Lantern #41 (DC) This comic book, written by Geoff Johns, features a scene in which someone gets their hand chopped off. Shocking, I know.

Incredible Hercules #129 (Marvel) I know I’ve pointed out a few dozen times before how one of the great virtues of this book is the way Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente manage to fuse real Greek mythology with Marvel mythology in an organic enough way that the latter seems to flow naturally out of the former. That’s no surprise at this point.

It is surprising that Pak and Van Lente keep doing it though, and do it in such original and funny ways.

In this issue, for example, they visit Hades, which is a casino (Pluto being the god of riches and wealth as well as the god of the underworld), and a bored Amadeus Cho rattles off the obvious symbolism, given the similarities between casinos and the afterlife.

It is full of the dead, including many familiar Marvel characters who have recently kicked the bucket.

They are, according to Herc and Cho’s guide Aegis, “Those who believe they have unfinished stories, and ache for a chance to be reborn,” gambling for the chance to be reborn. “Although, to be honest, more of them win than you might expect…,” he adds parenthetically.

Damn, that’s good.

It’s also quite funny. I honestly laughed at every single panel on the first page. Not only is this Marvel’s best ongoing, it is apparently even getting better.

Challenge for any Marvel zombies in the reading audience! Can you identify the 12 ead folks on pages 21 and 22? I recognize Orka, The Abominaiton, Demogoblin (I think that’s his name, or is it Jack O’ Lantern? The dude with a pumpkin head on the flying disc?), one of the Baron Zemos, the queen of the Amazons from “Love and War” and…that’s all I got.

Justice League of America # 33 (DC) This issue is a pretty good example of what’s so horribly wrong with this title.

I like the Justice League, I like writer Dwayne McDuffie, and I like artist Rags Morales—in fact, Morales is one of my favorite artists working in super-comics. So ideally, I should be able to pick up an issue of JLoA by McDuffie and Morales and enjoy it, right?

This is the second consecutive issue by this particular creative team; the previous issue featured a story of the team disintegrating to the point where there were only five members willing to stick around and be the Justice League, and then those few going off to encounter a huge threat that would take a whole League to stop.

And yet this issue draws on plot points from not only last issue, but from throughout the previous nine issues, many of those drawn by artists who aren’t only not Morales, but whom draw absolutely nothing like him, and whose work, personally, I can’t stand.

Also, this isn’t the second part of a story arc, as one might expect given it’s only the second issue by this creative team, but is in fact chapter six of a story entitled “Metathesiophobia,” according to the title page.

So the heroes from the previous issue seek the help of Hardware, whom I only recognize because I’ve been reading comics sine the 1990’s, when he was a character from the comics company Milestone, which DC is now incorporating into their own superhero universe, although it’s not clear from this issue how (Is Dakota City just a city in the DCU now, or in a different dimension, as it was the last time the Milestone characters met DCU characters?).

Together they journey to the headquarters of another group of Milestone characters, who, like Hardware, seem to have met the JLA in issues #27 (which was penciled by the abominable Ed Benes) and #28 (which was penciled by a Jose Luis), which I know from looking a cover gallery of the series on the Internet (making heads or tails out of some books these days sadly means you have to have the Internet handy while reading). There, a character from the cover of #24 (penciled by an Allan Goldman) appears and gives the heroes a cowboy version of Batman, who was on the cover of #26 (penciled by Benes).

They encounter the villain Starbreaker, an old JLA villain from the ‘70s or ‘80s maybe, who was on the cover of #29 (penciled by CrissCross), fighting Icon, another Milestone character, over the body of some character I’ve never seen before, but looks a little like the guy on the terrible cover of this issue. The last panel includes the tag “To be concluded…”, but the solicitation for the very next issue says JLoA #34 will feature “part 1 of a 2-part story” by an entirely different creative team, and the synopsis given doesn’t mention any of the characters or plot points in #33, so if I were inclined to keep reading the story, I have no idea where to find that conclusion.

McDuffie’s dialogue, what I could follow of it, seemed okay, and several of the characters seemed to have distinct personalities. Morales’ art was mostly very good—I was quite impressed with his Hardware, who didn’t look anywhere nearly as obnoxious as he did on the covers of his old comic book—but the artwork falls apart between pages 15 and 18. It looks as if those pages might have a different inker or colorist the changes is so striking, but not according to the credits. The last few pages are in pretty good shape though.

Can we pause to take a look at the cover, before letting this issue off the hook? It is another of those two sides fighting and/or the Justice League lays on the ground in a rubble strewn, background-less wasteland covers that constitutes most of those that artist Benes has provided so far, and yes, all feet are discreetly hidden. But look at the proportions of this stupid thing. Look how tiny Vixen, who is closer to us than Black Canary, is in comparison to the other here. Not just height because hell, I don’t know, maybe Vixen’s 5’2 and Canary’s 6’2 for all I know, but look at their heads. Jesus.

Is there no one in editor Eddie Berganza’s contacts who can draw shitty Justice League pin-up covers better than this?

Runaways #10 (Marvel) Well, I guess I better go ahead and put Runaways back on my pull-list. I dropped the title a while back during the Terry Moore-written run (or was it just a story arc?) on account of it not actually being any good at all, but this issue, a time-killing issue before the new creative team of Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli start next issue, was pretty damn great, and Pichelli’s art is lovely: It has a touch of Adrian Alphona and a touch of Jo Chen to it, and thus seems perfectly appropriate for the title the former illustrated and the latter provided covers for.

The issue opens with a 22-page story written by Christopher Yost and drawn by Pichelli, who arrives before Immonen. It’s entitled “Mollifest Destiny” and is basically a Molly “Power Princess” Hayes/X-Men crossover (“Manifest Destiny” was the story of the X-Men moving from New York to San Francisco, you see). A psychic summons draws Molly to the X-Men’s new SF headquarters, where Wolverine gives her the grand tour in an attempt to convince her to join the team (at Scott and Emma’s request; neither of them want to deal with Molly face-to-face).

It’s all quite amusing, and full of many jokes at the X-Men’s expense. The young X-folks from the cancelled Young X-Men (that book was cancelled, wasn’t it?) show up to confront the older Runaways, but they all end up hanging out instead of fighting.

That’s followed by an 11-page story written by a James Asmus and illustrated by an Emma Rios, whose artwork is just flat-out gorgeous. (When I got to the back-up, I was actually a little bummed she wasn’t taking over the monthly). The older kids are playing Truth or Dare, but they end up fighting a bunch of giant snakes, and Asmus-through-Karolina makes the obvious (but no less amusing) joke.

Marvel, please give Rios more work. Like, a lot more. Any time Pichelli needs a fill-in, for example, or if you did any Runaways spin-offs, or maybe if David LaFuente ever needs a break on Ultimate Spider-Man, or…

You can check out some of her work, including pages form this very story, here. Guess I better make a point of checking out the Hexed trade when it becomes available…

Superman #688 (DC) Wow, Renato Guedes is one hell of an artist. Every page of this book, in which his pencils are inked by Jose Wilson Magalhaes, is lovely to look at. It opens with a four-page, 21-panel sequence in which fill-in Superman Mon-El falls a great height into water and looks like he’s about to drown while the Guardian dives to save him, and while there’s next to no suspense that Mon-El which actually be killed off by something so mundane as falling into water and drowning and the scene thus seems like a waste of space, it is so well drawn that it hardly matters. Guedes is really the best kind of comic book artist—one who can draw anything, and make reading it seem well worth your while.

Plot-wise, writer James Robinson’s stuff about “Project Hell” and DC First Issue Special characters is still going on, Mon-El gets a dire diagnosis from Dr. Light II (I really like the power-cell laced costume re-design she got recently, by the way) and apparently whatever Robinson is ultimately up to will tie-in to the introduction of the Milestone and Red Circle characters into the DCU, as some characters stumble across a room full of monitors focused on them (and Magog?).

Trinity #52 (DC) Well, this is the end of this series, something that I’m kind of happy to see and also kind of sad to see. I think I’ll have a longer, more-considered post to say about the series and its strengths and weaknesses within the next week or so (and probably at Blog@), but for now I’ll just note this is a 25-page book with a fold-out cover by Mark Bagley (for regular price), and that every artist who worked on the series returns for this loose-end-tying-up-story (Some of them, unfortunately, seem to be in a huge hurry to finish their pages, as the issue features some of the worst art so far, but only a page here and a panel there).

It’s hard to imagine too bright a future for many or any of the new characters Busiek and company introduced here, mainly in the villains-turned-hero category, but most of the characters who aren’t the title ones get at least a suggestion of a different, somehow changed future in the DCU—even Hawkman.

Oh, and apparently Tomorrow Woman remains alive (Yay!), but is now human and a reporter (Boo!). Part of me hopes someone does something with her (she’s a natural for the JLA), but, like many of the smaller characters I like, I also kinda hope no one does anything with her, which means she’ll be “safe” from bad stories.

For now just let me say congratulations to the creators for keeping this book on schedule and quite readable for a year (I know “It was better than Countdown” sounds like faint praise, but it was better than Countdown, which I could only stick out for five issues, and can’t even bring myself to borrow the trades of from the library). I look forward to seeing what both Busiek and Bagley do for DC next. (Actually, I know Bagley’s going to be drawing Batman for a bit, but it’s for Judd Winick, so I couldn’t bring myself to read that if Bagley personally delivered free copies of it to my apartment and rubbed my shoulders while I did).

Wolverine First Class #15 (Marvel) Hey it’s the second Wolverine-mentors-a-little-girl story of the week! In this issue, Kitty Pryde pesters Wolvie to introduce her to Thor so she can impress the mean girls in her dance class, and after five-pages of pestering, he does. It involves fighting a big, Kirby-esque Asgardian villain giant monster man guy, Ulik. (Ha ha, his name is “U-Lick?”). Peter David writes, and Scott Koblish draws; it’s pretty mediocre, which is, of course, much better than being bad. I liked the way Koblish drew beat-up Wolverine’s mask-points all shredded after his fight with Ulik.


If you've read any (on schedule) DC comics this week, then you saw the above image on the DC Nation Page, complete with an image of a piece of paper super-imposed on it. That paper image is a memo to Dan DiDio from Ian Sattler reading, "He Dan, Here is the art from Magog #1. It's looking pretty amazing—when do you think we can announce this an ongoing and say who the creative team is?"

Today, apparently, as DC's Source blog, from which I appropriated the image above, announced the team and showed off another page in a second Magog post of the day. The creative team is going to be Keith Giffen, Howard Porter and John Dell.

I still have a question though: Why?

I'm not trying to be an a-hole or anything, but a Magog ongoing? Does anyone like Magog?

He was created by Alex Ross as a Cable analogue in Kingdom Come to be a living symbol of the shitty character design and free-floating moral code of the superheroes of the Image Comics age. Chuck Austen brought him into the DCU a few years ago as a Superman villain, and then Ross and Geoff Johns more recently brought another version of him into the DCU in their 3,000-part "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline in Justice Society of America. Their new version is a descendant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's, and was a U.S. soldier who was brought to life and given his funny looking costume by a god of the Third World.

I know every character has fans, so I'm sure someone, somewhere really, really likes Magog, but I've never encountered this fan. In fact, I've never heard anyone say anything remotely positive ever about any version of Magog anywhere.

Now, DC often makes perplexing publishing decisions, like publishing a Huntress: Year One miniseries by an un-tested creative team just a few years after a popular writer wrote Huntress' definitive origin, or starting their Final Crisis Aftermath series half a year after Final Crisis wrapped, or sitting on an announced Batwoman ongoing for years before finally just shuffling her into Detective Comics temporarily, or launching a Power Girl series for no reason, but this seems so completely random I can't even comprehend it.

I mean, Power Girl launched with a countdown-to-cancellation clock ticking, but its creators have their fans and the characters has some fans. But Magog? Maybe if Alex Ross were involved, and it was premised on a series about the road to Kingdom Come, of the sort that Ross and Mark Waid have talked about as an idea that was once tossed around, but even if that what Giffen and company end up doing, without Ross' involvement, would anyone care? (And that JSoA arc made clear that Kingdom Come was a place outside of the DCU, not a time in it's future).

Although, maybe this is set in the Kingdome Come-iverse, rather than the DCU? That seems like it would potentially be a better hook but, again, it doesn't involve Ross, so will anyone care?

If brand-name heroes, originals or legacy characters, like Catwoman, Firestorm, Aquaman, Hawkman/Hawkgirl, The Atom, Blue Beetle and Manhunter can't carry books, why on Earth would anyone greenlight a Magog ongoing?

My mind boggles. Or is boggled.

At any rate, are any of you out there Magog fans? If so, let me know below; I'd like to hear from you, as that would indicate giving the guy a monthly comic isn't as mind-bogglingly strange a decision as it seems to be to me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weekly Haul: Memorial Day Week Special

It’s Wednesday as I write this, and usually that means I’m getting ready to post reviews of this week’s new comics releases that I spend the better part of the afternoon reading, writing and thinking about.. But because of the Monday Memorial Day holiday here in the states, new comics day was pushed back a day, ruining my week, as it always does.

So, as I did last year, I’ve decided I’d review a haul of something other than comics this Wednesday—children’s picture books. Now, unlike the comics reviews you usually read in these Weekly Haul pieces, this isn’t a haul of brand-new books I’ve personally purchased (they’re all from the library).

Ugly Fish (Harcourt) by Kara LaReau and Scott Magoon
If artist Magoon’s name sounds familiar to you, it may be because I recently wrote about his new book Spoon. I enjoyed his art on that book so much that I decided to seek out more, and this 2006 book with writer Kara LaReau was where I landed.

Ugly Fish tells the story of an ungly fish named Ugly Fish.

Here is how he’s introduced, with a simply declarative “Ugly Fish was ugly” statement, followed by his even more negative attributes:

On the next page, we learn that he likes to swim around in his fish tank, going in and out of his driftwood tunnel and eating “his special briny flakes.”
One thing he doesn’t like, it seems, is company. A new, tiy little fish named Teensy Fish appears one day, only to learn “there’s only room for one fish in this tank,” and that fish is Ugly Fish. After a brief chase, Ugly Fish totally eats Teensy Fish.

Similar fates befall Kissy Fish, Stripy Fish and Spotty Fish. After devouring every new fish introduced into the tank, Ugly Fish becomes lonely and glum, and doesn’t enjoy things like he used to.

“Chasing those fish was fun,” he thinks, “If only I hadn’t eaten them.” Yeah, if you’re going to be a bully, you have to remember not to murder your victims, because then they won’t be around to bully anymore.

Finally, another new fish enters the tank, and this time Ugly Fish plans to be nice and make friends with him. Unfortunately for U.F., this new fish is Shiny Fish, some sort of big, round fish tank-sized shark, and he thinks like the old Ugly Fish—there’s only room in the tank for one fish.

So Shiny Fish eats the title character. The end.

I was kind of surprised by all the wanton killing in the book, and even more so that our protagonist is killed off in the end too, but I suppose after killing the other fish, it might have seemed unjust to simply reddem Ugly Fish without making him pay for crimes (If I’ve learned anything from fairy tales, it’s that kids have a very Old Testament understanding of justice).

LaReau's narration is short and to the point, and usually rather clever. Magoon’s art was what attracted me to the book in the first place, and having actually read the book, my opinion of the art’s primacy hasn’t changed.

As with Spoon, he has a thin, slightly wiggly line, and fills the pages with what looks like slightly undisciplined watercolors. Ugly Fish himself is quite a design, looking precisely like the evocation of his name and few-word personality description (You can’t see in these pictures, but the inside of his mouth is striped two different colors of blue. The other fish are similarly well designed, all looking radically different but still looking like various fish.

Little Pea (Chronicle Books) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
This is another book by the writer of Spoon, which, judging by its cover, looked like it might be as cute and wonderfully drawn as Spoon was.

It is but it’s also kind of terrible.

Okay, you know how little kids often don’t like to eat vegetables, like, say peas? And how they would rather eat sweets? Well, Rosenthal tries to flip that around and build a kids book around the idea, but it doesn’t quite make any goddam sense, since peas are themselves a foodstuff.

Now many little kids might not mind puzzling through the elements of the story and realizing they’re illogical, but it would have bugged the hell out of me as a little kid, and it still bugs me now.

On the first page we see Corace’s drawing of three peas. There’s a big pea with two little dot eyes and a smile, a medium pea who looks the same, only with eye lashes, and a teensy tiny little pea, who has freckles, and an open smile showing a pink mouth.

Like all of the images in the book, the figures are set in a field of white, given weight by their shadows and the thick-here, thin-there lines around their outlines, but otherwise the page is light and airy, almost space-less.

“This is the story of Little Pea, Mama Pea, and Papa Pea,” the page reads.

“Little Pea was a happy little guy,” we learn on the next page. “He liked to do a lot of things.” Among these things is “hanging out with his pea pals”:
What…what the fuck is this? The peas have hopscotch? And swings? Why do peas have swings? And where do they have them? In their sealed can of peas, which is much bigger and spacious then we humans might think, or perhaps in a bag, frozen?

On the next page, we see Papa and Little Pea playing with a huge spoon, just as we see on the cover. How come the soon is so big? Because on the previous page they have swings scaled to their size, but this spoon looks scaled to human size? (Well, smaller than human, but much larger than pea; judging by how much of the spoon Papa Pea takes up, that must be a little elfin spoon that gnomes use in their tea.

Other human objects scaled to pea-size show up: A blanket, blocks, plates, bowls and candy.

See, the one thing Little Pea does not like is candy. “That’s what you have to eat for dinner every night when you’re a pea,” we’re told.

I know. Why do they have a plate, and candy? Where do they get teensy tiny little candy, wrapped in cellophane? How do they unwrap it without any sort of digits? Why do peas need to eat at all, since they themselves are food? Wouldn’t they “eat” sunshine and water, if anything?
So Little Pea, who hates candy, has to eat it every night for dinner. But then he gets dessert: A big bowl of spinach. But, for some reason, leaves of spinach are are pea-sized, as if the peas were human-sized and spinach was spinach-sized or something.

This book drove me crazy.

I do like Corace’s art a whole lot though, and her peas are incredibly expressive (as you can see comparing her happy and sad Little Peas above). The sequences where Little Pea struggles through his five pieces of candy, making five faces, and then the three images of him chomping his tiny, big bowl of spinach are so cute I could just eat the page.

Wile Rosenthal’s story didn’t work here, she’d use a similar reversal idea in a 2007 collaboration with Corace that worked much, much better.

Little Hoot (Chronicle) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
This book was clearly designed as a sequel of sorts to Little Pea, as the same creators tell the story of another Little that starts identically, has a similar sort of conflict, also makes bad puns, and some of the exact same beats (the fig. 1-3 part at the end of each, which you’ll notice if you read them).

This one works much better, I think, because while Little Pea’s anthropomorphizing was haphazard (some foods are anthropomorphic, some aren’t; the starring foods eat other foods, etc).

Little Hoot was “a happy little owl,” who liked to do a lot of things (going to school, playing hide-n-seek, and practicing owl stuff like pondering and staring), but disliked one thing: bed time.

But for different reasons than most little kids (and little animals). You know how kids are always whining about having to go to bed at bedtime, and want to stay up later and play? Well, since Little Hoot is an owl and is therefore nocturnal, his parents insist hue stay up playing all night, while all he wants to do is go to bed early like everyone else.

Here’s Little Hoot, all dressed for bed, while his father, getting some coffee, tells him, “If you want to grow up to be a wise owl, you must stay up late.”
He stomps off, thinking, “When I grow up, I’m going to let my kids go to bed as early as they want,” and then he puts his pants and red hoodie back on, and goes about wearily playing for six pages.

“Can I stop playing now?” he pleads with his mother, and she says “Ten more minutes of playing, Mister. And please don’t ask me again.”

Ha ha. It’s all quite delightful, and Corace’s owl are even cuter than her peas. There is a little more detail in this book, as the owls have schools and houses full of objects they can manipulate, and there are a few really great scenes, like a two page spread wherein Little Hoot plays with his skateboard for those “ten more minutes” before bed. Corace draws ten pictures of Little Hoot on those pages, doing something different with his skateboard in each, and each is labeled with how many minutes he has left.

His parents go to tuck him in, “And they owl lived happily after…”

Which is, of course, a groaning pun, but I think I like it better than Little Pea’s “And they lived hap-pea-ly ever after.”


RELATED: Check out Jen Corace's home page here; the gallery section includes lots of nice images of children and animals, plus at least one picture of Chewbacca and Boba Fett. Visit Magoon's page here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wretched, aborted comics projects by Caleb Mozzocco, age 18

I spent some time this Memorial Day weekend cleaning out my "office," which is actually just the bedroom in my one-bedroom apartment where I’d keep my bed if I had a bed, but since I don’t*, I decided to make it into my office, where I’d keep my drawing table. But since it was way too cold in that room all winter to ever actually sit still at my drawing table to draw, I moved my drawing table into my living room, so the office basically became a big dusty room full of comic books (in longboxes and stacks) and piles and piles of papers, art supplies and things I didn’t know where else to put. It was a place I’d venture only once a day to grab my clothes from the closet or dresser, and otherwise ignored.

One of the things in one of the many piles back there is a suitcase I bought at a thrift store, and which is where I used to store all the writing I did in college. It’s full of papers and notebooks containing pretty much every thing I wrote in college—all of it quite dreadful. Poetry, short stories, ideas for stories, unfinished fragments, drawings of’s a graveyard for the products of 18-22-year-old Caleb’s free time, plus a few things created specifically for creative writing classes.

While rooting through it, I found a couple of comics projects from the period that I started and, like just about everything else in the suitcase, never completed.

I didn’t get very far with either, actually, but I thought it might be worth scanning a few images from them and posting them, if for no other reason than to publicly humiliate myself. I mean, that’s what blogs are for right?

The first is a comic I started my freshman year, when I was eighteen-to-nineteen; that would have been sometime between fall of 1995 and spring of 1996. I had a full script for it, written in my illegible, tiny printing on a few sheets of lined paper, the words occasionally broken up by little diagrams. I tried reading through it, and realized I can’t even read my own handwriting anymore; I have this weird problem where I can read my own handwriting for a certain limited amount of time after I write it, but I’ll eventually not be able to make it out. So I’m not entirely sure how the story ended, and I don’t think I even had a title for it.

I clearly remember laying propped up my elbows on my bed in my dorm room and drawing it though, on sturdy 8 x 11 printer paper from the school newspaper’s office, first in pencil and then in ink.

The story was about two young female roommates, one who played the heroine with a sort of super-power, and the other who played the damsel in distress.

The heroine was a girl named Nyx, which I believe is Greek for night. I’d found it in a book about witches I was reading at the time; I think it was Anton Szandor LaVey’s The Satanic Witch or maybe Satanic Bible, or possibly A Witch’s Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar. (I’m sure there’s at least one Suicide Girl using that name by now.)

Nyx always wore black, and wore big, steel-toed boots with deep treads like the kind I used to wear (and used to love to draw) and horizontally striped leggings. I had designed a special hairstyle for her that I also used to love drawing; her face was supposed to be framed by two, long strands that curled at the end, and the rest of it was shaped kind of like a Christmas tree of black hair branches.

Here’s a picture of her:
(See? These are pretty bad even by my low standards. At the time, I was still trying to draw whole eyes, in a more anime style; I’ve since given up on drawing the sides, bottoms and whites of human eyes, and now just do pupils and the tops of eye’s to suggest ‘em. I also never used any kind of reference. So if I were going to draw a boot, I wouldn’t look at a boot first, even if the exact boot I wanted to draw was in the corner, but I would instead just draw my memory of a boot).

Nyx's friend was Lizzie, who had long dreadlocks (which I also liked drawing a lot) and wore hippie-ish skirts and tops, with clogs. One of my best friends in college wore clogs all the time, and I was fascinated by them; also around that time I remember reading a children’s book called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice which was written by Nancy Willard and drawn by Lee and Diane Dillon in which the apprentice wore clogs, and I remember studying how they were drawn so I could draw them. (I should see if I can find a copy of that book at a library; I recall it having a lot of great costuming and set design in it).

The plot was that Lizzie was scared of spiders, and was always either killing them or asking someone to kill them when she found them in the apartment.

One day, she finds a spider in the bathroom sink and hits it with her clog, throwing it out the window. It survives, and goes to The Castle of Spiders to petition The King of All Spiders to take action. See, spiders were protected from humans by the superstition that killing them was bad luck, but now people don’t believe in bad luck anymore and squash spiders with impunity.

Here’s the King of All Spiders:

He’s supposed to be a big spider who spun a body made out of webs, which was human-ish, but with eight human arms, and he lived in the web mummy construct's head. I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be a big reveal at the end; that the Spider king was just a normal if large spider disguised as a big scary monster-y guy. (Please note the shitty dialogue. "Shall be punished"? What the fuck, Past Self?).

He summons his soldiers, who are a bunch of big, cartoony spiders who wear bowler hats and smoke cigars, like the bully bull dogs in old cartoons, and they kidnap Lizzie.

Here are three consecutive panels, where one of them rings the girls' doorbell and then disappears, to distract Nyx:

A couple of talking bats, who were Nyx’s witch grandmother’s familiars, visit her and give her a magic umbrella that is actually a pair of person-sized bat-wings wrapped around a cane (So, when Nyx opens the umbrella, the wings fly off it and attach to her back).

The bats then lead her to the Spider Castle, and after that I don’t remember what was supposed to happen, and I can’t read the rest of my story. I guess Nyx just shows up and fights all the spiders and the King Spider, maybe? And wins?

That’s…that’s not really much of a story. Hero fights villains and wins? I’m not really sure what possessed me to spend as much time on it as I did—I had about six pages of it drawn, a seventh done in pencil, and the whole story scribbled out in prose first—beyond the fact that it was full of a bunch of things I liked to draw.

So, that’s that story.

The next one was from my sophomore year, 1996-1997, so I may have been 19 by the time I did it. I remember the impetus for it much better.

I was taking a class called Environmental Studies, which fulfilled my science requirement to get a BA in English. One of the final projects was to create something in any medium that had an environmental message. My first impulse was to do a comic book, and I started it before realizing just how damn long it actually takes to draw a comic book. I ultimately ended up doing a spoken word-like poem performance that a musician friend of mine helped record. It’s abysmal, but I’m still proud of the samples from an environmental documentary we put in it.

This project didn’t have a title either, but the plot was that there was this factory, see, and it was totally polluting a swamp in the Everglades or somewhere in Florida. And the chemicals were causing the wildlife to mutate into horrible monsters. Two characters would encounter and fight all these monsters, and the ultimate moral would be that the people polluting are the real monsters. Deep, I know.

This was the first page, an establishing shot of the swamp:

This was during Kelley Jones’ run on Batman, and it couldn’t have been too long after the two-part story in which Swamp Thing summons Killer Croc to live with him in the Everglades or in a Louisiana swamp somewhere.

I’ve talked about my love of Kelley Jones quite a in the past, and while I sure wish I could draw as well as him, if a genie were to appear and offer me the ability to draw exactly like him, I’d probably decline. I like the way Jones draws heroes and monsters and animals and settings, but I don’t really care for the way he draws human beings, particularly women and younger people. That is, I like his drawings of them, but I don’t think that’s, like, the ideal way to draw them (Except for his hands; Jones draws fantastic hands).

I read a lot fewer comics back then, and really pored over the ones I did read, particularly the Doug Moench/Kelley Jones/John Beatty Batman comics. Jones’ style doesn’t appear to be an over detailed one, but he used to really filigree the objects and settings in his panels. I loved the way he’d draw building or forests in the background, or every ripple in the water, or every scale on a reptile. Often I'd spend some of the time between issues with an issue of his Batman open next to me while I tried to figure out how he drew a hand, or a spine, or a night sky or whatever other aspect about a particular image really grabbed me.

I’m sure almost every element of this image came from those two issues of Batman. If I flipped through them today, I’m sure I could find that exact same snake, the reeds and lily pads, and maybe those trees. I’m pretty sure I just took a bunch of elements from a bunch of different panels and smashed them together here. I know the moon and the background trees were an attempt to do what Jones did; you can see his version of that moon on the cover I posted above (And I did a much simpler version of Jones’ background swamp trees more recently).

That degree of filigree really appealed to me, and I spent a lot of time drawing unnecessary stylistic details, which, whether I realized it or not, was really just a way to disguise weaknesses in my own drawings with busy-ness. Was that a poor drawing of a tree, or a very lame snake? Maybe, but look at all those lines on the tree, and all the checkered scales on those snakes in the background! It took me forever to draw them, and they’re full of lines, so they must be good right?

Here’s the second page, which I wasn’t planning on scanning due to how terrible the narration is, but what the hell: Yes, I actually wrote, “A verdant dark wet Eden, teeming with life…and death.” How did I resist the temptation to put an exclamation point after the word death?

Also, I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve ever used the word "verdant."

In the third panel there, that’s one of the monsters created by the pollution. It was based very loosely on a picture of the Jersey Devil on the cover of some book I head in grade school about those sorts of cryptid monsters. The one on the cover was a mountain lion with horns, bat wings and a devil-like tail, but it was laying sprawled out leopard-like on a tree branch, the moonlight showing its tawny hide and rippling cat musculature, red eyes and feline face. Mine is crouching and hidden in shadow, which meant I didn’t have to make it look like anything other than a dark shape.

I bet that factory in the last panel is also taken from a Jones issue of Batman, but I don’t think it was one of the Swamp Thing/Croc issues, as I don’t remember any factories in it.

I was quite enamored with the opportunity that shadow and darkness provided me with not having to draw detail. On this page, I used it as an excuse not to draw this guy’s face, although I’m sure I told myself it looked more dramatic that way:

That giant leech was based on my memory of Rick Veitch’s mutant leech character from his three-part story in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #24-#26 (A common leech sticks on Raphael's skin and sucks some of his blood, which is enough to make the leech start mutating into a more humanoid form, and Raphy to start devolving into a more turtle-like form). I wouldn’t have been able to look it up for reference, since my TMNT comics would have been at my parent’s house while I was drawing this in college.

The guy doing the kicking was the hero of the piece. I can’t remember who he was or what he was doing in the swamp, but at some point he was supposed to meet up with the heroine and help her through the swamp. He would do most of the monster kicking, while her dress would get more and more ripped.

Okay, now things are going to get a bit worse.

This is the heroine:
I’m afraid I don’t remember if she’s supposed to be a plucky gal reporter trying to break the story of the industrial pollution that created all these monsters, or if she’s the daughter of the wealthy industrialist who owns the factory and she is trying to convince him to stop dumping monster-making chemicals into the swamp.

I think it may have been the latter, as she’s wearing a mink stole for some reason. I have no idea why I drew that, other than the fact that I must have seen someone wearing a fur like that somewhere and thought it would be fun to draw.

I remember quite clearly where I got her clothes and hair though. Rolling Stone had a cover with Gillian Andersen on it around that time which showed her decked out like that, and I remember spending part of an evening trying to draw it.

(In addition to trying to draw images from comics I liked, I'd also try to draw magazine covers and photos and ads I really liked).

That Rolling Stone cover may have actually been the genesis for the whole idea of this thing, as it involved a woman with a cool hairstyle in a tiny, ripped dress being menaced by a monster in a swamp.

Ha, I drew her totally cross-eyed. I was still apparently drawing whole eyes at that point, and hadn't learned about this thing called symmetry, which I guess is sort of important.

Here’s her father and/or the pro-pollution industrialist who owns the factory:

Ugh. The tops of these two pages are full of space because I was going to fill it with their conversation about whether polluting is bad or not, but I drew them both with their mouths closed, which is a bad way to draw people who are supposed be talking.

I used to always draw pin-striped suits, as that gave me an excuse to fill them with lines. I’m not sure what’s up with his eyebrows, other than that I must have not liked them and figured if I added a bunch of idiosyncratic details to them, they might come off as “stylized.” I think that’s the same reason why he as that Rob Liefield-esque brow shading going on.

I started one more page of this, in which the people on that tug boat, which included the woman character, were floating around testing the water for pollutants, and hit something (I think just a rock, as I don’t recall planning any giant monsters). That’s as far as I got with it before I realized there was no way I’d finish the assignment in the month or so I had to do it, and I gave up.

I never wrote out what was supposed to happen in it, but was just going to create it page by page until I ran out of swamp monsters.

And that includes this look at the terrible comics I started when I was a youngster. Maybe next time I need something to post, I’ll tell you about the superhero universe I created between the ages of 16-18. How horrifying is that? Well, it had a character named Gambit who wore a black-and-white-checkered suit like Ragman's, and he had chess powers. Yeah.

*I have a really large, bed-like couch, to anticipate your question.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Raw Junior's Toon Books: The rest

Having read and wrote a little about Otto’s Orange Day and Stinky, I figured I might as well go ahead and try to track down the rest of the Toon Book/Raw Junior line, for completeness’ sake.

I still haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of Harry Bliss’ Luke on the Loose, but I think I’ve got the rest of them. I should note before starting that these are all comic books packaged and sold like children’s books and are, in fact, intended for little kids. So if I say something like “This book totally sucks” or “This was a complete waste of time,” I’m only speaking here of my own personal reaction to the work, and not damning it or some aspect of it entirely.

I’m well aware that I’m pretty far outside the intended audience for these things, and as such I’m hardly the best person to ask for assessments of how good or bad they might be for that audience. I do feel pretty comfortable talking about how good or bad a comic is in general though, and I hold to the belief that the best works for children can still be enjoyed by adults, so deeming a work “not for me” doesn’t make it a bad comic, but certainly means it could have been better.

Anyway, let’s read some comics…

Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever by Dean Haspiel and Jay Lynch

This is a superhero comic, and as such, is closest to what I spend most of my comics-reading time with, and it’s also illustrated by Haspiel, an artist whom I was already familiar with before encountering his work in this book (And man, not only does Haspiel do great superhero art, but he proves much more adept at drawing a kids comic than I might have expected).

The superhero he and Lynch have created here is a rather random amalgam of powers and visual notes, a sort of generic hero that seems assembled of spare parts of other superheroes, and whom the Legion of Super-Heroes would have laughed at, and maybe even spit on, as he walked dejectedly away from Legion try-outs (Those Legion brats can be such jerks!)

He’s The Mighty Mojo, and he wears a red and yellow version of your basic Superman costume of tights, tunic, cape, boots and underwear-on-the-outside, with his name on the his chest (Unlike Superman, however, he wears gloves).

He’s got a Superman-like dollop of hair on the front of his head, and wears a smart Douglas Fairbanks-style moustache.

His powers are in his suit, and they consist of magnetic boots that allow him to run up the sides of buildings, and stretchy arms that allow him to, um, stretch his arms, making him like Plastic Man or Mister Fantastic, but only between the shoulders and fingertips.

Okay, he’s not going to be starring in a major motion picture any time soon, or sustaining a 350-issue monthly comic book series in the years to come, but he’s only gotta last about 40 pages. And besides, he’s not the focus of the book, his successors Mona and Joey are.

They’re the world’s two biggest Mighty Mojo fans, and also insufferable brats. When we first meet them, they’re arguing over whose turn it is to play Mojo on their videogame system, each of them pulling on a different side of the controller.

That’s when their gray-haired, mustachioed mailman Mister Mojoski appears, reveals that he is actually the Mighty Mojo, and bequeaths them with his super-suit, as he’s gotten too old and decided to retire.

The little brats fight over the suit, tearing it in half, but their mother is able to fix it and turn it into two suits, so now they each get one of the powers.

They still argue—a lot—which is where the title comes from; see not only are they fighting together as allies, but they’re fighting one another. Get it?

Anyway, there’s a big parade downtown the next day, and after the brats argue about who got the cooler powers (Neither; both power suck), they end up having to defend a giant, hippo-shaped parade balloon from Mojo’s foe Saw-Jaw, and incredible design that looks a bit like a potbellied humanoid alligator, with a metal lower jaw and weird, insect-like legs.

In the course of the battle with Saw-Jaw, the pair learn to work together, and ultimately become Team Mojo (“Those kids are twice the hero I ever was!” the former Mojo laughs).

It was hard for me to get into the story, despising the heroes as I did, but Haspiel’s art and the bright colors were more than enough to make it seem well worth the few minutes I spent reading it.

Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes

The title characters of this book are a brother and sister pair of anthropomorphic mice. Benny, the older mouse brother, is intent on playing pirate by himself, using a box for a ship and wearing his pirate get-up. His little sister Penny, dressed up as a princess and riding around on her mouse equivalent of a Big Wheel, wants to play with her big brother.

“I can play pirate too,” she cheerfully argues while trying to climb into his box-ship.

“No!,” he shouts, “Pirates are brave, and you are a cry-baby.”

What follows are Penny’s attempts to get her brother to play with her, and Benny’s attempts to avoid doing so. When he finally does get rid of her, by tricking her into playing hide-and-seek and then declining to look for her, he realizes he’s lonely and, when he goes looking for her and can’t find her, he gets worried.

It’s a pretty simple story, but it’s cute and charming and felt relevant to me, both on a literal level (particularly if you grew up with siblings) and a more abstract level of feeling suffocated or pestered by someone close to you until their absence makes you realize how much you like their presence.

Hayes’ artwork looks like it’s done in some kind of colored pencil, but I’m pretty terrible at deducing exact media (That’s just what it looks like to me). His designs seem pretty well balanced between representation and exaggeration; from certain angles his mice look like real mice, but they also have big expressive faces with a wider range of non-mouse emotion shining through them.

Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes

This second Benny and Penny book was something of a disappointment to me, based in large part to my own probably unrealistic expectations. What is “The Big No-No?” What are those two stunned mice looking at with wide eyes on the cover, and what is it that they agree is “a very big no-no”?

I liked imagining it more than discovering it, I learned.

There’s a new kid who just moved in next door to Benny and Penny, and they’re trying to get a look at her or him by peering through a hole in the fence.

Eventually giving up, Benny goes to find his pail only to discover it’s missing! Could the new kid have taken it? Because taking things, Penny says, is a no-no.

When they investigate, they end up in the neighbors’ yard, which is a big no-no. In fact, that’s the big no-no of the title, going into someone else’s yard uninvited.

Oh youth, when that seemed like a big no-no…

The clues seem to point to the new kid being some sort of pail-stealing monster, but the truth is much more benign, and the conflict is eventually settled by the end of the book.

Other than the let-down of the title, I liked this one just fine; Hayes adds another anthropomorphized animal to the mix and does a really nice job of it (I actually like it better than the mice), and he draws awesome birds on the bottom of page 16.

Benny seems like real a-hole in general though. Between him and Mo and Jo, I feel like this line of books is presenting a strong argument not to ever have children, as they can be such horrible little monsters.

Silly Lilly and The Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl

Okay, this is the book that caveat at the top of the post most applied to: I didn’t care for this one bit, and, honestly, can’t find any real redeeming value in it. Rosenstieh’s art isn’t wretched or anything, but not even that struck me as anything out of the ordinary.

If it weren’t for the little blurb on the cover reading “A first COMIC for brand-new readers!”, I’d be confused as to why it was even published. Considering that blurb as some sort of mission statement, and thinking of the book as the Toon Books equivalent of one of those little board books for the earliest readers, I suppose its existence makes some small amount of sense.

It’s the same size as the other Toon books, but it’s formatted landscape style, more wide than it is tall. The first story page is divided into four squares, and in each one there is a globe, with a giant image of the title character astride it, wearing seasonally appropriate clothes to correspond to whichever of the four seasons that square is labeled. In the middle of the four squares is the sun, and little arrows show that the earth revolves around it.

“The world goes around…” Fall Lilly says, “…and the seasons change!” Summer Lilly finishes.

Each of the four seasons (and a second spring) begins with a splash page denoting which season it is, and then that’s followed by a few pages of big panels that fill the page from top to bottom, packed one next to the other like a newspaper comic strip, only huge, and in color. Lilly romps through these having unremarkable experiences and talking in dialogue bubbles. (In spring she goes to the park, where she dances, jumps and naps; in fall she goes apple picking, and so on).

I did like the way you could see the texture of the paper through the art drawn atop it, an dhow the size of the images is big enough that you can really appreciate the way each of the lines are drawn but, um, that’s about it. Additionally, Lilly’s not at all silly, which is kind of surprising, given her name.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another thing I like about the Bat-Computer

The cursor is shaped like Batman's own personal glove.

(Panel from Super Friends #15, drawn by J. Bone)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not trying to be a jerk or beat a dead horse or anything, but...

Okay, in one of his Cup O' Joe columns Marvel EIC Joe Quesada was asked about the Marvel Divas #1 cover by J. Scott Campbell, in which the pin-up and cover artist draws the four leads in-costume with identical bodies and expressions; a background-less image that seems to have little to do with the interior of the book, and is aesthetically quite different than the work of the series artist,Tonci Zonjic.

A fan submitted this question for Quesada to answer:

About the "hating" on Marvel Divas, let's call it what it really is—criticizing how sexist this book appears to be. If Marvel produces comics that are offensive to female readers, why shouldn't people "hate" on it? Why would I want to support a company that produces offensive, sexist material? Why shouldn’t everyone speak out against it? While the book hasn't come out yet, what has been released so far is blatantly sexist. But what troubles me the most is that Marvel thinks people want to read this, and this constitutes strong female characterization. Does Marvel actually want to attract female readers or is the whole point that Marvel Comics are only for guys?

You can read Quesada's entire 700-word answer at the link above. I already mentioned the nonsensical logic of saying, "If you’re Marvel reader and truly feel we’re sexist, then why are you reading our books? Now, perhaps you’re not a Marvel reader, then if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what you’re criticizing if you don’t read our books?"

And I've also expressed my incredulity of his not only liking Pink, but publicly admitting so.

Reading through Marvel's solicitations for their August books the other day, I noticed something odd, based on Quesda's answer to this fan question, so I'd like to parse his statement a little further.

First, there's this:

You haven’t read a lick of this story yet!

Please, I can buy you saying that you’re cautiously pessimistic based upon what you’ve heard so far, but to throw around allegations like that is completely unfair, not just to Marvel or myself, but to the creators and editors who are working on this book.

Creative types and defensive fans make arguments like this pretty frequently. Yes, it is completely unfair to judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, what's so unfair about judging a book cover by itself? That's what's going on here. Sure, people are inferring certain attitudes at Marvel, from evil and misogyny to innocent cluelessness or being out-of-touch with potential demographics the company could be exploiting. But that aside, there is a lot of criticism leveled at the cover image as a standalone image itself, and that's certainly valid.

Is it sexist? I dunno. After that one Heroes for Hire cover, it's actually hard to think of any Marvel cover as comparatively sexist or exploitive (That is, no matter what the image may be, you can always say, "Well, it's not as bad as the tentacle rape one"). It's not a very good cover though, from a technical stand point, and I think it's generally uncool to to use cover artists whose styles are so different from that of the interior artists.

But at the end of the day, who gives a shit? This is a book that was never going to sell more than 20,000 copies. Maybe putting a "hot" cover artist like Campbell on it bumps that up to 25,000, and the "is it sexist?" controversy knocks it back down to 24,000. It's a tempest in a tea pot, but that's only because the comic book direct market is itself a teapot.

Anyway, this is the part that inspired the post:

The cold hard reality of publishing and trying to sell our books to as many people as possible, so here’s an example of what happens more often than you may think here at Marvel. From time to time, we’ll be launching a title that doesn’t focus very heavily on the super heroic. From time to time I’ll get a cover sketch and it doesn’t have a costumed hero or villain on the cover, what we internally refer to as a “quiet cover.” On those occasions, more often than not, I ask my editors to direct their cover artist to give me at least a first issue cover with the characters in costume. Why? Because it will help launch a book that will most likely have trouble latching onto a large audience. We want to give every title the best possible chance to be successful. Marvel Divas is no different and that’s why you’re seeing our strong female leads in their super hero personas.

...then there's the part where he says he likes Pink and that she uses sex to try and sell her CDs (do people buy CDs anymore...?)....

Comics are no different and as much a part of the entertainment business as any other medium, and the cold hard truth is that if we were to launch Marvel Divas with a “quiet cover,” I guarantee you the book would be canceled before it hits the shelves. That’s it in a nutshell, I could sugar coat it for you and give you a million other reasons that would sound plausible, but that’s not what I do.

It is cool that Quesada spent 700 words taking the question I guess, even if all the answers don't really add up to anything. (As a miniseries, this thing is canceled before it hits the shelves anyway, and if they can't a Captain Britain series starring Blade and Dracula above cancellation levels, I have a hard time believing a book starring four unpopular characters is going to sell above cancellation levels).

But regarding the "quiet cover," with the characters out of costume? Covers of women in clothes other than superhero comics doing something other than posing in a field of blank space, surrounded in a ring of fire? Those are to be avoided? Because these are all Marvel covers from August:

It might be unfair to compare all of these as if each of them is the exact equivalent of Marvel Divas #1. Some of these have "hot" artists like Greg Land and Campbell drawing them; the Mary Jane covers are selling sex so if that is the beginning and end of your problem with the Divas cover, it still holds true; MJ is, if not more popular than the Divas cast, is at least starring in a very popular superhero's book, and Marvel has made her the pole around which abig, controversial plot is revolving; Pride and Prejudice is expected to sell like crap anyway and is only being published to make back some money before publishing a trade and so on.

Still, quiet covers with gals in street clothes, just kinda of sitting or standing there not being superheroic. And all from one month; you can look backwards and find a tone of examples of quiet covers on Mary Jane/Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane or Runaways.

I can't think of any reason why Marvel Divas couldn't feature a cover exactly like the Campbell image of MJ, only with Felicia Hardy instead of MJ in it, you know?

Okay, I'll shut up about all this now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

You know, maybe Thomas Karnacki would get a better night's sleep if

his bedroom weren't full of mummies, paintings of skeletons and a hideous homunculus in a jar of formaldehyde. Just a thought.

(Image from an advance uncorrected black-and-white galley of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3: Century #1 by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill, because I didn't want to ruin the spine of the actual, final, color edition by putting it in a scanner just for the sake of a lame, weekend post joke. For my review of LOEG3:C, click here)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A reminder for locals: Jeff Smith/Bone doc at the Wexner Center tomorrow night

Don't forget The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, Bone and the Changing Face of Comics is having its world premiere tomorrow night at The Wexner Center for the Arts' film/video theater (Will there be a red carpet? I hope so!). You can find more details about it here, and read my kinda sorta review-like piece about it on Blog@Newsarama here.

I unfortunately won't be in attendance, as I'll have to be at my day job, which is, on Fridays, actually an afternoon and early evening job. But you should be there, as not only is it a movie about Jeff Smith and Bone featuring interviews with Smith and Vijaya Iyer and Steve Hamaker of Cartoon Books as well as Paul Pope, Terry Moore, Scott McCloud, Harvey Pekar and Colleen Doran, but it's also one Columbus-y movie.

Yes, that's right, Columbus-y. How Columbus-y? Well, it includes:

—Footage of the McCloud/Smith conversation at Mershon Auditorium last May and the well-attended book-signing that followed in the hallway. Scan the crowd scenes, you may be there. (I think I saw SPACE's Bob Corby, but I'm not 100% sure)

—Plenty of screen time devoted to an interview with Lucy Shelton Caswell of OSU's cartoon library, who co-curated last year's Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond show.

—A brief, cameo appearance by Columbus creators Tom Williams and Dara Naraghi (or else two guys who look remarkably like them and also know one another and are interested in comics). They're at the 3:50 mark, Panel fans!

—The back of my head and shoulders (At the 3:52 mark! That's me! And my favorite shirt!)

—A quote from my comic book dealer at the 4:16 mark (that's him in the preview up top saying, "Whether your eight or 80, there's something n this book for you")

—Several shots inside The Laughing Ogre, which, for those of you non-locals, is my local comic shop

—Examples of Smith and his partners' animation work from their Character Builders days, which include a 60-second opening for Jack Hanna's Super Safari show, two White Castle spots and mascot/superhero Warner Cable Man

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekly Haul: May 20th

Agents of Atlas #5 (Marvel Comics) The Agents bathe the New Avengers in a 22-page, fight-tastic issue. See, the Agents are good guys posing as bad guys, and what would prove how bad they are better than beating up a bunch of superheroes? Writer Jeff Parker sets it up so that the Avengers don’t look like saps for falling for the charade, nor do the Agents look super-smart by being able to successfully trick Spider-Man, and Parker also spins the sacrosanct fight-then-team-up ritual of Marvel comics in an interesting way. Here they almost fight, then talk about how they’re not going to fight, and then killer robot M-11 starts firing his death ray at Wolverine for reasons only he understands, and so they all have to have a big fight scene anyway.

It’s pretty good stuff, and it was refreshing to see Parker handling the battle somewhat “realistically,” rather than giving it to his team since they’ve got home book advantage (Were it not for Venus’ abilities, the Avengers surely would have taken the Agents).

My favorite part was the last panel, in which Marvel Boy informs the team that Osborn is part of a cabal of jerks who are currently doing a bunch of shitty things to the world, and one of them is Namor. Then you flip to the “Next Issue” page and there’s a cover featuring the agents dog-piling on Namor while he tries to sing a duet with his cousin Namora.

You know what that means! Next issue will have Namor being a total dick, and punching people! That’s my very most favorite thing about Marvel Comics!

Marvel Adventures Avengers #36 (Marvel) Wow. You know, I almost always enjoy this title. It’s definitely my favorite Avengers book, and my favorite Hercules-free Marvel comic. But it could to me while reading this particular issue that it is actually a perfect superhero comic book.

It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s full of colorful characters with exciting powers they use in inventive ways, it’s got a ton of action, it’s kinda sexy without being exploitive or making a thing out of it, it’s easily accessible and clear enough that if it were your first comic you could make sense out of every page of it (but if you’re already familiar with the characters, you might enjoy some of the gags a little more) and, in this issue at least, it is absolutely gorgeous looking.

Paul Tobin writes it, as he usually does, and he tells the tale of Tigra accidentally unleashing a genie that gives her three wishes, which it will be happy to grant just as soon as it gets done taking vengeance on Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner, who imprisoned him centuries ago (time travel was involved).

The art is by Jacopo Camagni, whose name sounds familiar but whose work I don’t remember seeing in this title before (and I kinda think I’d remember it, given how good it is).

Camagni does absolutely everything right here. Not only is the story-telling crystal clear and the page lay outs expertly (and inventively) handled, but the backgrounds are all deep and full of charming little details, and the character design is fantastic (Storm is a head taller than Spidey and dwarfs most of the team, she has a different facial structure than Tigra, the other female in the issue; Thor and Cap are built like bodybuilders, while Wolverine is stocky and Spidey spindly, etc.)

If you’ve never tried an issue of Marvel Adventures Avengers before, I’d highly recommend you try this one—it’s as fun and accessible as any book in the MA line, and it’s just as good or better drawn than anything else Marvel publishes. (And way better colored!)

And so as not to sound too pleased, I should point out that I detest these sorts of interchangeable pose covers (And what’s Wolvie standing on, anyway?)

Marvel Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) So the artist for this book’s lead feature, Chris Burnham? He’s fucking brilliant. Marvel, I assume you guys already know this since you’ve previously hired him for some X-stuff before this, but you need to hook him up with something on the regular, and pay him lots and lots of money to keep him drawing it for you.

His panels pop with little pleasing details: The pipes and knives and brass knuckles thugs bleed when Namor plows into them, the half eaten hotdog someone drops in a Coney Island action secene, the books on Ferret’s well-appointed shelves, the architectural details on a splash page where the Human Torch and Toro dive towards a rooftop meeting.

And like Camagni, whom I just got done raving about, Burnham is an artist who just plain does everything right, and as lots of little expert flourishes on top of a solid foundation of providing really good art (I liked, for example, how the richly detailed backgrounds he provides for most of the scenes make the background-less ones of Torch and Namor flying in the sky contrast so sharply with their earthbound scenes, and the way he draws the horizon at the top or sides of the panels, to make it clear the airborne heroes are wheeling through the air as they fly).

Like Marcos Martin’s work on the Captain America issue of these specials, Burnham provides excellent work that justifies purchasing the book all by itself.

Not that the story itself is bad or anything. It’s by old hand Tom Defalco, and features a series of Golden Age heroes tackling the same threat individually and in various teams. That threat is Dr. Manyac’s gang of green flame robots, which can freeze anything their mysterious fire comes in contact with, and the something called Project: Blockbuster (Want me to spoil it for you? It is a giant Nazi robot with swastikas for eyes).

In addition to Namor, Torch and Toro, the story also features Betty Dean, the surface-dweller Namor hates the least; Ferret, a “mystery detective” who dresses like a dandy; The Angel, who is just some guy in a funny costume who beats the holy living shit out of people (I counted at least ten teeth knocked out in the space of five panels); and Electro, the robot from J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s apparently abandoned miniseries The Twelve.

It all adds up to 22 beautifully drawn pages of Namor and the torches wrecking Nazi robots and bickering, while a handful of D-Listers also wreak havoc.

The back half of the book includes two Golden Age tales. The first is a Human Torch story by Carl Burgos featuring Dr. Manyac and his first attempt to use the green flame technology for evil. It’s a twelve-page story in which almost every single page is arranged in a nine-panel grid and the colors are just brilliantly bright.

That’s followed by a six-page story starring “Ferret, Mystery Detective” and his sidekick Nosey. It is just awful (reading these two back to back, it’s clear why The Human Torch is still remembered, while the Ferret is simply not completely forgotten). The credits assign this rough, kind of primitive work to a Stockbridge Winslow and Irwin Hasen; it’s kinda hard to believe the former isn’t a pseudonym. It it isn’t, than it is an awesome name, and I will strongly consider “Stockbridge Winslow Mozzocco” for my first-born son.

Ferret seems to be just your average dickhead private eye type, arrogantly solving crimes before the police can and then making fun of them about it. Well, his partner distinguishes him from other private eye types, I suppose: Nosey is some sort of animal, perhaps a ferret, although he is a gigantic ferret. He is usually perched on Ferret’s shoulder, but he changes size in different panels. Sometimes his head is as big as Ferret’s, and he usually seems to be the size of a small dog. Maybe he’s a mink or otter or something?

At the stories climax, the strange beast leaps at the main bad guy and claws his face. That would be a pretty terrible thing to happen to you, even if you were a gangster.

Perhaps Nosey is Ferret’s demon familiar…?

Super Friends #15 (DC Comics) This actually came out last week but I left it on the shelf, as I don’t really care for the book and usually don’t pick it up unless it has something totally awesome on the cover. Well, this cover wasn’t all that awesome really. But then I read Rachelle Goguen’s review of it (and saw her post of Smug Batman) and realized that J. Bone, who draws the overs and whom I always find myself wishing also drew the interiors, did in fact draw the interiors for this issue.

And it was pretty great. It’s still very much more a kid’s comic than an all-ages one, but Sholly Fisch does a pretty good job with this issue, in which some of Batman’s loved ones steal a page from Sue Dibny’s playbook and give him a mystery to solve for his birthday.

Bone’s art helps immensely; I’m still not crazy about (and kinda hate) the basic Mattel Super Friends character designs, but I like them best when Bone’s drawing them. He does great work on the expressions that bring them to life. Seriously, check out the look he draws on Batman’s face in that panel she posted (also, check out Wonder Woman’s face; she likes what she sees!). There are a couple more panels of Batman making faces that are jut as adorable (like page 15, panel 3).

Bone is also a very good drawer of dinosaurs. More J. Bone art please, DC!

Tiny Titans #16 (DC) To help whip the Sidekick Elementary student body into shape, gym teacher Coach Lobo makes them race around the world, and it’s as cute and funny as you would expect from this book by the fifteenth issue. This issue also introduces some new characters into the mix, including Mas y Menso from the late, great Teen Titans cartoon, Bombshell from the “One Year Later” Teen Titans, and, in a crowd scene, Vulcan from the Son of Vulcan miniseries.

Trinity #51 (DC) I did not care for Tom Derenick’s super-buff version of The Thunderbolt.