Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back Issue Week Wednesday


DEADMAN: Love after Death
DEADMAN: Exorcism
collected as a TPB as DEADMAN: Lost Souls
Published by DC
Written by Mike Baron
Art by Kelley Jones 

I really enjoyed these books. The ability of Baron to take a tumor and make it burn and hurt, i.e. the undead existence of Deadman is brilliant.  The story asked questions like, if you can never die, can you love, can you have ideas, what is it like to live an existence that others can never understand or perceive.

Something that people might like or hate, is, the art.  I think that the previous version of Deadman, being a dead guy is rather limited by the look of the character.  He is a dead guy who is muscular and such.  Kelley Jones the artist made the DEAD part of the Deadman feel, look, and BE dead.  This new depiction adds a layer of metafiction without forcing it down the readers throat.  Additionally, the stories shift from "super heroey" to metaphysical and cosmic.


RUNE
Published by Malibu Comics
Story by Chris Ulm and Barry Windsor Smith

Some might think that RUNE is an unpleasant comic.  The protagonist is evil, alien to humans and unlovable.  He was an alien humanoid in the Ultraverse, until acquiring magical artifacts that made him ultra powerful, and nearly immortal.  He became stranded on Earth, and much like the Alien Astronaut theory, his great power and unbridled malice made him worshipped as a god and reviled as a demon by humans.  This character is dark, and I never found myself liking him.  I found myself enjoying the stories, because a great villain brings out the greatness in heroes.

These back issues are unlikely to be hugely expensive.  They were not, to my knowledge, ever collected in TPB form. 



THE HOOD
Story by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Kyle Hotz

Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Kyle Hotz and Eric Powell, The Hood first appeared in his own self-titled MAX limited series in 2002, which featured his origin, as a character who possesses a cloak and boots stolen from a Nisanti demon, which grant him invisibility and limited levitation ability, respectively.

This work is dark, with a story that features a criminal, using his new found powers for reasons that are less than good.  The art is amazing because it allows depth of the darkness to prevail.

I thought, when this came out, that it was a B+ on a grade scale, but now I think differently.  Much higher.


CATWOMAN
DC COMICS
Story: Mindy Newell
Art: J.J. Birch & Michael Bair

This was follow up series to the Batman Year One series by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.  The first year of Batman's career, followed up by the first year of Catwoman's career as a theif, adventurer, and defender of her world.

I liked the art a great deal, and the story worked well, evoking the atmosphere created by Mazzucchelli and Miller's Gotham.  But more, this work felt like it belonged in the Batman world.

GRENDEL
From COMICO and DARK HORSE
By Matt Wagner
and friends

I know friends who abjectly hate Grendel, and others who think it is sublime, perfect and undoubtedly the best comic ever.  I am of the opinion that you need to be aware that Grendel is a demon, who has inhabited many cloaks of flesh.  As such, his goals are not that of a happy camper.  He is not moral.  He might well have a code he lives by, but it is not the one that most people would have.

But, all that said, his stories are wildly dark and entertaining.  I never picked up a tpb or graphic novel and ended up being disappointed. 




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

RIPPER Comics

As a writer of a book about the Ripper it could be assumed that I like Jack the Ripper in comics.  The answer to that is sort of.  That isn't me being equivocating, it is me saying, most people haven't done the research enough for it to work for me.  That isn't to say everyone sucks. And it isn't to say that the stories that aren't "factual" or conversant with the facts, aren't good as stories.  It is that their use of a character that there are known facts about is perhaps either lazy, or cliched.  I am not making accusations.  Simply, that if you want to use a historical figure why not create your own?  This is like writing a story taking place in the American Civil War, using a character named Abraham Lincoln, and his being short, fat, and stupid.  He is clean shaved, wears a beany, and never made hard choices during the conflict.  Maybe that is a bad analogy, but the truth is, if you can't pay justice to the character, use your own, or a different one you can do justice for.

Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell show how to write a story that isn't focused upon the facts of the slayings, but is honest and faithful to the facts that are known.  From that point we engage the focus of the story, which is, Batman lived in Victorian era Gotham.  He is the answer to the new terror that has struck Gotham, Jack the Ripper.  It is an amazing tale, with emotive writing, and moody successful art.

The truth about this story is multi-fold.  It created the imprint Elseworlds for DC, a place where the often iconic figures in DC's universe are allowed to consider what if scenarios.  Secondly, it showed the world, from the first step how such a story should be done.  Thirdly, many people who otherwise would have been bored by a true crime story, were thrilled by the story of the same, only using the Batman and others to create a new way of considering it.




Don't confuse the placement of any series here as my saying that all of the works on Jack the Ripper are equally good. They are not.

The series Jack the Ripper from Eternity/Malibu was a quick fun read.  It was not a text book, nor historically factual.  But it was fun, for what it was.  I think it does make some mistakes, but, it is a work that would lure into more study the casual reader.

NBM Publishing's A Treasury of Victorian Murder: Jack the Ripper by Rick Geary was magnificent.  His tongue in cheek style of writing is consistent with the look of his art of the day of the Ripper. The writing and art together tell an interesting version of the story of the Ripper.  It isn't the very best of the bunch, but it takes 2nd place.  This isn't an ultra factual work, but it tells the story with deft talents.

First place goes to TOP SHELF COMIX, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell.  I've written about the series many times, and it is worthy of that attention.  Writer Alan Moore bases his story on the Stephen Knight book JTR the Final Solution,  In this book a theory that the Ripper was a doctor and others who were destroying people who had knowledge about Prince Eddy.  He'd been dingling his fiddle in the prostitutes of the Whitechapel, an area of London known for being a seedy place.  The slaughter hides not only the prince's naughty dalliances, but a secret child who would be an embarrassment to the Crown.  Moore is honest and doesn't say this is the absolute solution, he is saying, according to this theory, this is what happened.  Amazingly expressive, yet unconventional, art by Eddie Campbell adds layers and layers to the story.  Moore is rightfully well considered, and I've known many people who read this and think, that must be the truth.  Moore never claims that it is.  As a result, we have a piece of knowing fiction based upon the world of the Ripper.


In this series from DARK HORSE, Francois Debois writer and Jean-Charles Poupard artist tell a tale after the slayings in Whitechapel that is very delicious.    It is Spring, 1889 and the ripper slayings have ended in London.  But when the chief inspector of the investigation learns that there are a series of murders in Paris, he is curious and suspicious.  It turns out that these Paris slayings are very very similar to that in Whitechapel.  This works because it is familiar with the facts of the Whitechapel slayings, and introduces the reader to aspects of the case that a reader might not be familiar with.

Robert Bloch's Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper from IDW is based upon the novel and short stories of the same name.  This broad expansive work is an example of the fiction based on the exploits of the Ripper.  It enters the area of speculative fiction when it shares tales of the Ripper in other locations, and eras.  Chicago, space, time, the future, and again, Whitechapel are the setting for the slayer.  This work is amazing.  Less great than the novel, which was insanely good, it still reverberates with stunning effectiveness. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Back Issue Week Monday

This is a continuing feature here, giving a number of comics to enact a search for, and to recommend them as being worthy of the time, the effort, and money to find and purchase. 

TUROK SON OF STONE
Published by Gold Key 

I do not know who was the writer and I have no idea if I could find the name of the artist or not.  The stories are exciting, very well done, interesting, and were perfect for me, who as a kid, loved dinosaurs, was often the "Indian" to my brother the "Cowboy" in play, and loved the world of comics.  I cannot tell you that all of the comics are solid, but I have never, ever, read one I didn't enjoy.  I don't know how common it is to find these, but I know I've seen them go for insane amounts on ebay, and for as little as a buck a book at conventions.  For me 3 bucks on down would be a steal for any of them in reasonable condition.


T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents
Published by Tower Comics
Written by Len Brown
Art by Wally Wood

The series T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and other series from Tower were amazing for their day.  Each possessed amazing art, new, interesting characters, and no overarching continuity from dozens of years past that gave you shortcuts to the stories.  Each was complete in itself, being dependent not, upon the previous works, but succeeding only if the story at hand worked.  The art on various issues, with Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Reed Crandell and others, was beautiful.  I was not aware of these as a child, nor even as a teen.  My first encounter was in the late 1980s, when I said, what the hell are these.  They have become collector pursuits, but I am not saying buy them to speculate and make money.  I think, for their day, were rare gems in the vast world of common and old super hero stories.


EVANGELINE
Published by Comico and First Comics
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Judith Hunt, Jim Balent and others

Every now and then you meet a comic that has a great concept, quality work by the talents on board, interesting characters, and a setting that is perfect.  If you find it, then you are going to have to find every issue.  Because if the concept is great, it doesn't mean the comic will be.  If the writing and art is great, it doesn't mean the comic is great.  Some characters, like Spawn are flawed in their concept, but there are issues of it that are brilliant. 

Evangeline as a concept was rather different.  The art and writing in it were amazing.  And the setting?  The 23rd Century earth, after the world was a wastleland in areas, deserts, but also, areas of remnant modernity, and areas of wild life that is new, different, and very very ancient.

The character?  Oh she was very different.  Not by today's standards, no, but the world has changed in 30 years.  It has changed a great deal.  Evangeline was vigilante nun, who was also willing to be sexy as the situation needed, and deadly, taking her orders directly from her boss, Cardinal Szn.  In the 23rd century various powers, such as major churches, groups of people with similar outlooks, and remnant powerful nation states with dangerous technology, scarce now in the changed, wild world.

The writing was my first introduction to Chuck Dixon's work.  It was brilliant.  And the initial artist Judith Hunt took great care to depict the heroine.  I loved the series, and wonder, why can't there be a tpb collecting it?  Oh well, at least this series is relatively inexpensive, and whether through Ebay or at a local comic shop or convention, you can pay as little as 2 bucks a book and collect the whole series.

I sure would like a collected edition, though.


FANTASTIC FOUR 1234
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Jae Lee

Grant Morrison is my favorite comic book writer.  I liked his DC work more than most anything else by anyone else.  But I chose this series because it is relatively easy to find, inexpensive to buy, and a very fun to read.  I might not be a hard core super hero team buyer and reader.  I used to be, but my tastes have changed, evolved, matured, over time.  But I always liked the Fantastic Four.  For me their stories were different than other teams, and the reason was : as a team they were truly a family, and, their adventures were, indeed, adventures.  While they saved the world, and were heroic, they were more about learning new things, meeting new people, and traveling across the universe.

Grant Morrison often challenges conventions, and all of his work is different in ways of content, conventions of the industry, and expectations the reader might have going in.  In this clever work he goes back to the early days of the FF becoming a team, when Prince Namor, the Sub-mariner challenged Reed Richards over the romantic interest of Sue Storm.  It isn't a retelling, but the story harkens back to the days of that time, and, the art fully translates the lust and love going on.

This is an awesome comic, and one I enjoyed, first read, and many more reads thereafter.


Friday, May 19, 2017

News from me, and comics from the rest of the World

MY NEWS

As an invited guest of MSP ComiCon, I invite YOU to attend as well.  This isn't an "Entertainment" guests and comic people con.  This isn't flashy.  This is about comics.  If you like them you can find hundreds of creators, plus comics that are offered, often, at a discount.  Toys, Movies and other items are available as well, but, buy comics.  Hell, buy my comics.  Buy anything I sell.  I am broke, I am tired, and I am somewhat happy, due to life.  You see, my son has attended almost all of the shows I visit, and this year is his last as a child, as he graduates from High School two weeks or so from this weekend.  I'll be in a good mood I think, so, hit me up for good readin's.

I am selling a streamlined variety of books.  Normally I try to bring EVERYTHING.  But I have 30 plus books, and lots other things.  So, I will be bringing all of my comic book work, and my postcards featuring my poetry work on them.  The postcards are a buck each.  The comics are tpbs, so not cheap.

If you are attending and wish to buy books I might not be bringing, please contact me.  I am very happy to bring whatever you might wish to buy.





COMICS ACTUALLY EXIST IN OTHER LANGUAGES?
OTHER CULTURES HAVE COMICS?
WHAT THE...

FROM FRANCE

There is a power of line in the work of Philippe Druillet.  His work NOSFERATU was wild with power and dripped with darkness.  The story revisits the myth of vampires and combines that with a post-apocalyptic futurism.  I know many great artists, and writers, but never read anything like this before.




FROM FRANCE

Long time readers of me will know that I love Jean Giraud, aka MOEBIUS.  A great artist, and thinker, his work is beautiful at the same time as it is dangerous, moving, and subtle.  I love his art, like his writing, and the scenes from Arzach will blow your pants off.


FROM ARGENTINA

RACE OF SCORPIONS was a shock to me.  I liked Hiyao Miyazaki, and his Nausicca, and the aforementioned Moebius and Arzach.  Race of Scorpions is the marriage of both, and still unique to itself.  Try to find issues online or in your local beloved comic shop.  The work rewards the reader.


FROM CHILE and FRANCE

If you've never encountered the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, you need to do so.  His Metabarons series, The Incal, and buttloads more are power filled imaginations of dark futures.  The works he has done that I have read move me deeply.




And lastly FROM ARGENTINA

Juan Gimenez has an imagination that is brutally enormous.  If you take a sip you will be engulfed.  And I like that.  He has power, grace, and beauty in his art, and I am a fan.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nothing Ever Ends


It's been said that The Golden Age of Comics is Twelve, meaning that the comics you first read when you first got into reading comic books always seem to be more meaningful and more special than comic books today. For me, that era was about the time I graduated from college and finally had the disposable income to buy comic books for myself.

So maybe it is just nostalgia talking, but nevertheless I think that the mid-to-late 1980s was an incredible time in the comic book field, especially for fans of DC Comics. The company had just dismantled their long-standing multiverse in the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and every month readers could watch them rebuilding the universe, issue by issue. John Byrne was retooling the SUPERMAN titles; George Perez was breathing new life into WONDER WOMAN; Frank Miller was startling us with his dark violent take on Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS; new or re-vamped characters were being introduced into the DC Universe.

And then there was WATCHMEN.

To begin with, WATCHMEN was a completely radical rethinking of the most revered cliché of comics, the costumed crimefighter. The writer, Alan Moore, was already a rock star among comics creators for his dazzling work on the British comics MIRACLEMAN and V FOR VENDETTA and his reworking of DC Comics’ SWAMP THING. Moore wanted to totally re-think the super-hero and create a story about what would happen if super-heroes existed in the real world. 

The idea of realism in comics in itself was nothing new; Stan Lee had ushered in the Marvel Age of the 1960s by giving his heroes realistic characterizations. In the early ‘70s, Denny O’Neil brought "relevance" to comics by addressing social issues in GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW. But WATCHMEN took this trend much farther. It was part of a huge surge of "grim ‘n’ gritty" comics in the mid-to-late ‘80s that re-defined the genre.

WATCHMEN is set in a world in which Richard Nixon is still president and considering running for a fourth term in office; Vietnam has been admitted as the 51st state; most cars run on electricity and the world lies teetering on the brink of nuclear war. All this can be connected, directly or indirectly, to the superheroes who once operated in this world. Most of them have retired now, since the government ban on masked crimefighters several years past. One of them, a psychotic vigilante named Rorschach, never quit; and when a former hero turned government agent named the Comedian is found dead on the sidewalk beneath his penthouse apartment, Rorschach believes it is murder and that someone is out to kill his former associates.

As Rorschach investigates, he and the other heroes find themselves drawn into a plot to commit an act of violence that makes the 9/11 attacks look like a fraternity prank. But the purpose of the horrific crime is to prevent a worse one: nuclear Armageddon. The heroes fail to stop the plot; but as a result of their failure, the world is saved.

Dennis, the resident intellectual of our comic book club, insisted that the Ozmandias, the mastermind behind the plot, was the real hero of the series because, after all, he did save the world from nuclear destruction. (Although to be fair, a major element of his plot brought the world up to the brink). The central theme of the comic, Dennis said, was an inversion of the standard comic book plot. In comics, any problem can be solved by beating the snot out of a bad guy. WATCHMEN points out that the most serious problems in the world can’t be solved that way; and so it falls to the "bad guy" of the story to solve the problem of nuclear war.

I think, though, that Dennis was also being a bit simplistic in his analysis of the story. There is another moral in Watchmen that I think he missed. It comes near the end. After the climactic confrontation, there is a conversation between Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan, a super-hero with near omnipotent power who is frequently used in the story to symbolize God. Ozzy asks Manhattan if he did the right thing, if it all worked out in the end. 

Dr. Manhattan replies, "In the end?  Nothing ends, Adrian.  Nothing ever ends."

He then teleports out of the room; and we see Ozymandias looking puzzled and concerned. What the heck did he mean by that?

When Zach Snyder came out with his 2009 movie adaptation of WATCHMEN, I was interested to see if he retained that line. Snyder's version was remarkably close to the original comic, not only taking dialogue directly from the book, but often striving to re-create the comic panel by panel. He did use the line “Nothing ever ends,” but gave it to another character, the Silk Spectre, who quotes it to Ozzy as a something Manhattan liked to say. The way she delivers it, she makes the line sound hopeful and life-affirming; but that's not how Ozymandias took it in the graphic novel.

I think I know what Dr. Manhattan meant. In that scene, Ozymandias was really asking if the Ends Justify the Means. Here Ozymandias achieves achieves World Peace and the Cessation of the Arms Race … at the cost of half the population of New York City. Dr. Manhattan does not answer directly, but his remark gives us a clue. This is the moral I took from Watchmen:

The Means that we use to accomplish our Good and Noble Ends have consequences and repercussions that far outlast those Good and Noble Ends.

Call it the Law of Unintended Consequences. Or, alluding to another graphic novel, you can remember the Road to Perdition and consider how it is paved with Good Intentions.

WATCHMEN ends on an ambiguous note. A brighter day has dawned. The United States and the Soviet Union have joined together and a new era of optimism and peace is unfolding. But this peace is a fragile one; a chance action by a simpleton in the final panel may undo it all. And that situation, with the guy’s hand hovering over the diary that could reveal the whole plot, was indirectly the result of the murder which began the story in the first place.

There the story stops. It’s deliberately open-ended.

Because nothing ever ends.

Paul Cornell talks about his Saucer State


Paul Cornell is a writer who is prolific, well considered by critics, and fans of Dr. Who consider him one of the best for novelizations of Dr. Who.

He has written a series, Saucer Country which had some attention from critics for quality and developed a small but core audience.  And then DC/Vertigo canceled it.

With the world fascinated by UFOs and Aliens, I couldn't understand why it got canceled.  And then IDW, who has a broad audience, offered a new series called SAUCER STATE.

Here I chat with Paul about his work and what to expect from it.  His answers are in Alien green.

Saucer Country struck a tone with a group of readers, but was ultimately canceled before running its hoped for length.  Does Saucer State attempt to do anything differently?

We know we're heading for the finishing line, after the second 6-issue mini, so we're being crisper and a bit more urgent, but I think that quality was always there.  There's a dirty great cliffhanger at the end of #1 which turns everything on its head and defines the rest of the series.  It changes everything.

 


American culture has grown rather skeptical of the Government's attitude towards UFOs.  Is that because they see the truth with their own eyes, or is this, like a conspiracy theory, fed by other factors such as generalized distrust, fear, and even hope for something more exciting?

Well, I'm partial to a particular theory about this, which the plot of Saucer State refers to, so I'm not going to give away spoilers!  

What is your stance on the existence of such things as UFOs and Aliens?

I try to keep a Fortean, not-believer, not-sceptic, attitude about this stuff in the real world.  It's interesting, a small part of it is real, but I don't think that reality has much, if anything, to do with aliens.  



Currently, it could be argued that UFO's and Aliens are becoming more popular in google searches, in television shows, in actual discussions.  How do you create a story that harvests that interest without portraying that subject using tropes and cliche?

Well, Saucer State is about UFOs *as* a mythology, so we take on the fact that these are tropes and then investigate the nature of those tropes and the reasons for them.  The Greys have actually gone away a bit as modern monsters.  Though, not, obviously, for the people still being abducted by them.  


As you, the person, not the entertainer/writer, Was Roswell an alien crash?  Why do you think so?

No, it wasn't.  It was the crash of something, probably from White Sands.  The violence to locals that followed was shameful, but the way the USAF used the event to write some UFO mythology of their own was kind of inspired.  






Will doing the series for IDW allow more freedom than at DC/Vertigo?  Why or why not?

Exactly the same, honestly.  


What do you predict will happen if tomorrow President Trump says, the US is announcing that we've made contact with aliens, and have now a working agreement with them to learn more about their world?

I think the odds against that happening are very, very, long.  


Do you have plans for works about other cryptids, aliens or other not normal things?

Not as we speak.  I kind of want to punt away from this topic once I've said all I have to say in this series.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Just a matter of time




"Whether if soul did not exist time would exist or not, is a question that may fairly be asked; for if there cannot be someone to count there cannot be anything that can be counted, so that evidently there cannot be number; for number is either what has been, or what can be, counted." Aristotle

Time is an enemy of human life.  The more it passes the older we get.  Since life on earth comes with a final end point, we measure time, with extravagant concern, and we crawl through life furtively, as if, we might escape its fate.

But does time really exist?  Isn't it a concept that allows our minds to understand why we age?  So, is there a past that can be reached by the present?  How could that be?  I've seen a great many comics about time travel.  I understand the point of them all, but, Doctor Who and all of these stories aside, I am not certain anything could be done to visit past ages.

And why the hell would anyone want to?  I am 53 years old, I have survived two blown appendixes, yes two, staph infection of my heart WHILE I was getting chemo for CANCER.  I had thyroid disease and treatment.  And on 4 occasions doctors told me You should be dead.  If I went back in time, I guarantee you, something would happen to me, and I'd die.  They don't have doctors that could save me, they don't have space heaters, they don't have internet, they don't have comic books.  So I don't want to go.  But all of the characters in the shown images did want to, and their stories are found here.

TIME BEAVERS was a hoot.  Perhaps naive in its outlook, it is an adventure that goes from 17th century France to the Lincoln Presidency, Hitler's Germany, finally to the Great Dam of Time.  The Time Beavers are warriors, of a sort who protect the time stream, and the various threads of potential crisis.  The graphic novel is fun, but better illustrated than written.  The concept is silly, but with a name like Time Beavers were you expecting anything else? 


The story revolves around a time traveller named Ace who often has to risk life and limb to save the timestream.  A 23rd Century man, Ace is a world traveler, and a time traveling world traveler.  From Ancient times to the future he tries to make the timestream flow correctly.Aztec Ace used a pseudonym when in different eras, occasionally T.A. Zek.  His time in Ancient Egypt and Maya and Aztec Mexico showed his interest in things cosmic.  And he encounter an ugly bastich called Nine Crocodile, who wished to unravel the present and past, to leave only limbo, his personal realm.  The stories are fun, and, if you like metafiction, they are rewarding for the way the writer inserts the lead character into scenes of movies from the eras he travels to.


Rip Hunter was a DC comics 1960s weird science character.  He was not a super hero, rather  an ordinary man who uses his invention, the Time Sphere to visit other times. His friend Jeff, girlfriend Bonnie, and her brother Corky, there is a team of adventurerers.  This character and series was not boring, but it wasn't thoughtful.  It is the kind of comic you can read in the restroom and forget 10 minutes later what it was that you read.  Still, it has its charm.


Alan Moore was known to be a super writer following Swamp Thing.  But these are a variety of stories, with some level of quality from his (and others) 2000AD work.  The most interesting is the character Dr. Dibworthy.  The stories follow the time trips taken and the adventures that doing that leads to.  Some of the time travel happens only in the mind, but the rest are quite physical and some are quite funny.  (Actually, I think they are reprints from 2000AD, but can't remember, and don't have the comics nearby to check.)


The Chronos Files: Time Trial follows the adventure through time by a doctor of great time travelers, who had, incidentally, saved time.  She has some innate abilities regarding passing through time, and has the sensibilities of girl from 1931, but, her understanding that time is a path, not a stationary obstacle makes her more "worldly".  The stories are great, and deserve an audience.


The Time Breakers and The Black Lamb were the two best series that DC Imprint Helix put out.  Time Breakers features a team of unusual people who are dedicated to tie up the loose ends of time travel, extinguish paradoxes found in the stream, and seek a long term solution to the problem, the end of time itself.  I like Rachel Pollack's writing, and Chris Weston is so bloody good I can't even stand that he doesn't have a dozen more series out.



Although the character Chronos was originally a villain, this series is not about that version of the character.  This Chronos, with the civilian name of Walker Gabriel, was revealed to be the son of a temporal theorist who had worked with the original Chronos.  The father also created Chronopolis, the city beyond time. This series takes a character who had very little nobility in him, to negating time lines that were going to cause a horrible tragedy with his acts.  In the end his decisions even affect his existence in time.  A thoughtful series, worth a read.


I liked Timespirits.  I didn't love it, but it was an entertaining ride about an elder with knowledge of more than the present world, and a youth from his era.  The elder travels about, and finds in the youth a great talent for being a time spirit.  They go about their adventures visiting eras and places, and not necessarily leaving them unchanged.  The art is beautiful, and the story rather fun.

Tempus edax rerum
Time, the devourer of all things
Ovid

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Few points and a rant



POINT 1

I wish to point out that in addition to getting hatemail, which I will cover in the next point, the people sending this are fools.  If I am writing a column regarding Image Comics, who does not have a woman founder in the group, I am not supporting misogyny.  I am writing a column about comics.  I do not believe that you correct past historical "mistakes" by changing the history of it.  No one, to this point I guess, has gone back in time.  And for my money if you did, you'd be a fucking moron to go change history by dealing with comic book company's and their hiring or formation process.  I'd kill Hitler, and a few other assholes from the past.  You do not make the world better by bitching at people who do positive work regarding the industry you are angry towards.  So, here is a lesson for the fools who don't get it, you can start your own website, some are even free.  You can write a blog, which are also free.  Shitting on, or towards, or trying to silence people for doing their work, is not the answer.  You cannot change history, but you can make history.  GO DO IT YOURSELF.  Shitting on others doesn't fix anything.

POINT 2

In endeavoring to return to full time writing about comics, I've received new writers of hate mail.  I understand that there are people who won't like me, or, enjoy hurting people, or, aim to feel superior over another.  Doing this makes them feel things.  But, from here on out, all of the emails sent to me will be published here and are considered for print.  Your emailing me with negative motives will be the permission to publish.

I've responded to almost every legitimate email sent to me over the course of my writing online, since 2002.  I do not live my life with fear of others writing to me.  But, it isn't pleasant, and I do not enjoy it.

POINT 3

I was asked if I accept pdf copies for review.  No.  I do not.  I do not read ebooks.  I do not possess any sort of kindle, nook, or whatever.  I do not enjoy it, and I do not have any interest in such things.  I will review books or comics, sent to me in physical form.  Email me for my address.


WHY I HATE KICKSTARTER, and to a lesser extent Gofundme.com & Patreon



I don't have any steadfast beliefs about the economy.  I don't understand most of the things I hear, regarding banking, currency exchange, or compound interest.  I have a relatively high IQ, but my skills are not as concrete or tangible as math.  Sometimes I could see it being a failure of intellect, but, mostly, I knew I'd never really do well in any math oriented field, so I never bothered.  That said, I've done variously Wall Street picks and done well, and I've always done well in the office pools for weekend football scores.

Um, Alex, what's the point you are making?

Right, getting on to it.  A person buying a book, cd, movie, comic book is giving an artist something, and getting something in return.  Doing so follows a commonly acted out display of capitalism to some, simply the market to others.  I do this, it gets pushed ahead into print, as my publisher pays for the materials, the risk, the distribution, the pr, and other sundry items.  I have heard books sell when people write them, I haven't experienced that, but I believe in many things I've not experienced.'

In the market, there is a perception of value in exchange for currency.  Labor, materials and all that go into the cost.  People can argue if it is a working system, but the market, for good or evil, has existed from the time Caveman Ogg gave Brontosaurus Rider Blok five duck eggs for that shank of T-Rex.  One had something, the other wanted it, there was an exchange.

So get to the fucking point Dude!  

OK OK, there used to be a system in place where a creator had to go through hoops to find an employer to publish his creative work.  But something happened to this system.  There are the giant corporations who make money and if they don't they don't do that any more.  But for the creatives who have work that is less popular, perhaps highly intellectual work that doesn't appeal, experimental work that has no previous examples, or simply a work that has no established popularity they have fallen from access to the market.

The use of Kickstarter Patreon, and to a much lesser extent Gofundme are a result of the lack of a system that allows anyone but the most popular access to an audience.  Some have said it is a result of the crash of the economy, and as such, the bigger businesses cast out anyone but the best sellers, the middle and smaller size companies went belly up and the market has no model for individuals trying to sell a product directly to the customers, or some other form of money making enterprise.

I understand the desire to start projects and have it be paid for.  WHO DOESN'T.  I get that.  But, I don't think the system works because some folks are getting ripped off, and Kickstarter does not police those who do not repay their buyers if there is no product.  There are numerous cases of people not paying out.

KICKSTARTER STUDY ON FAILURE TO PERFORM AS PROMISED 

People do want to support creatives.  When creatives do not deliver after funds were given, people have a right to be angry.  I've seen people I respect simply stop talking about the work, after having taken in many thousands of dollars. 

I see some people like Bob Giadrosich who had a lovely book featuring his art fulfill and go to the max to thank people.  

And I see people like Ken Whitman who gets stupid kinds of angry when people want to see performance on the promises, and fails.

GoFundme is more personal, you might be helping people, but, there are people who have made miserable life choices, riding high on credit cards and asking to be rescued from debt along side of people who were evicted, have 5 kinds of cancer, and their dog died.  I get many gofundme campaigns.  I completely accept those, but damn if the more insane ones take up my time.

Patreon is a way to support creative people by the month.  I understand this.  But this is charity and nothing less.  If you want to pay people for being creative you all owe me a bajillion dollars. Seriously.  I spend 80 hours a week working, and I make very little money.  VERY LITTLE.

Anyhow, I really think big businesses are happy as anything about kickstarter existing.  They get to skim the cream at the top, cast out everything other than that, and still make oodles of money.  That is a economic system that works, for them alone.

 So remember, you all owe me money, and Kickstarter sucks.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Discussion of the world of comics, with writer, artist, former publisher, Erik Larsen.

I have a great amount of respect for Erik Larsen.  I am a fan of his work, but more, a fan of his striking honesty, refusal to be "politically correct", and his kindness to me, and others I know.  He is great representative of the world of comics.
He has worked in the comic book industry for a long time, over 30 years.  He has created numerous characters, many of which are found in the Savage Dragon/Image continuity.  As a child he began creating characters and fleshing them out, and he has seen that foundational work come to published life as a writer, artist, publisher, and co-founder of Image comics.

I've interviewed Erik Larsen a number of times.   Sadly some of my over 250 interviews were lost through website disappearances, harddrive crashes, and the Chinese hacking of Popthought.  So I am always interested in revisiting Mr. Larsen, and I am grateful for his willingness to share his view of the comics industry, from an insider's perspective.

Alex Ness: I've told you in the past that in my mind you and Walter Simonson are the true inheritors of the Jack Kirby Mantle.  There are others who suggest John Byrne is, (this group primarily being John Byrne).  I think you are this because, among other things, your comics are meant to entertain, they have humor along with action, and the way they are presented on the page, reminds of JK.

Was Jack Kirby your primary influence?  If not he seems to still show through your work.  Also, I think you should take a bow for creating a long run of a very fun comic and in that way, you are also like the King. 






Erik Larsen: Jack was in the mix pretty early on. My dad read comics as a kid and we grew up with his comics. My brother and I devoured those. My sisters not so much. He let us at them when we were far too young and we destroyed a chunk of them but there were numerous survivors. The first comic book I bought that was new was an issue of the Incredible Hulk and that led to me getting into comics, eventually. My brother lucked into a run of the Hulk from some kid at school and he gave them to me in exchange for doing the dishes or something and that got me going. In a few years I was buying everything. I discovered Kirby at DC. He was writing and drawing Kamandi, so that was my first exposure and I ended up finding a few others in the mix. I took to his work immediately and bought what I could, be it Omac, Mister Miracle, Manhunter, Atlas or Dingbats of Danger Street. By the time he came back to Marvel I was all in on Jack Kirby.

As far as longevity went—I didn’t immediately know that Jack did long runs on the Fantastic Four and Thor. When I came into contact with him he was on books that didn’t last that long. Kamandi being the obvious exception.

Alex Ness:  How hard is it to be so regular, and productive, when you see others fall away, or even don't finish mini series?


Erik Larsen:  I don’t really take into consideration what others are doing. I’m making my own comics and doing what I want to do. What others do is up to them. There is something of a temptation to do other stuff from time to time and I have dabbled a bit but Savage Dragon is home.

Alex Ness:  The comic book industry has shifted to digital in many areas.  Some say there are still the same amount of readers, they just moved to reading electronically for the most part.  I think you and I could agree, there is a shitload of people downloading for free.  How does the comic industry stop that, and, what happens if it doesn't?


Erik Larsen:  Well, clearly it can’t stop it and when the numbers fall enough comics get cancelled. Ultimately that’s the end result. Comics need a certain amount of revenue in order to keep going. If that goes away—comics go away. But policing it is next to impossible. It’s a huge problem. And every individual taking stuff with the excuse that they’re only one person and that they wouldn’t buy it anyway exacerbate the problem. At some point it all goes away.
 
Alex Ness:  Alterna has begun a return to newsprint and lower cover price.  Is that a way to bring in new readers?  Can it sustain itself?  And, this might sound snarky but I don't mean it as such, isn't the best way to bring in readers is write and draw the best work you can?  Isn't newsprint and lower prices a symptom rather than the cause of the lower sales?

Erik Larsen:  Nobody seeks out a book because of its cover price. If it’s inexpensive—that’s great—but if I don’t like cauliflower it doesn’t matter how inexpensive it is—I’m not going to buy cauliflower. If a book is insanely overpriced, sure, that’s an issue but comics are still a relatively inexpensive hobby as long as you don’t buy everything. The goal is to produce the best book you can at the lowest possible price. Fans seem to think this fancy printing is the cause of all of their problems. They seem to think a return to flat color and newsprint will lead to lower cover prices and that sales will boom if that happens—but that’s nonsense. If I want a book—I’ll buy that book regardless. If that book costs 50¢ less—I’m not going to buy two of them. I’ll still buy one. I don’t go into the store determined to spend $20 and if prices are lower I’ll buy more books—I’m there to get the books I want and if that’s one comic book—that’s all I’m buying.

It’s also a false assumption that slick paper means a higher cover price. At this point, comics on slick paper can be coverless. Most of the comics on the stands now are coverless. In the old days, we’d print a 32-page comic and add a cover bringing the total to 36 pages. Now we’ll just print the interior 32 pages and format page one to look like a cover. But it’s all the same paper. The whole book is on the same cover stock. But you can’t do that with a newsprint comic—it’ll look terrible. So you’ll need two paper stocks and two presses to run off a newsprint comic book while a modern comic requires one stock and one press. In most cases, it’s actually less expensive to do a slick 32-page, self-cover book than a 32-page newsprint comic plus cover.

The conversation about why this works and why that doesn’t is long and involved. There’s no simple answer.
 

Alex Ness:  Let us say there is a disease that could remove either your drawing talent, or the writing.  Which would cripple you more?  I know you've written without also doing art, and vice versa, as a storyteller, do you far prefer doing both jobs?  Why?


Erik Larsen:  I’d lose the drawing. If I lost the writing that’s a mental disorder and I don’t want to have to cope with that. As a storyteller, the two work in tandem. I’ll plot in my head as I draw and script afterward. Sometimes I’ll type dialogue as I think of it, midway, other times I’ll jot down notes in the margins but most often I’ll just script the book in its entirety after it’s fully drawn. It’s just the pattern I’ve fallen into.


Alex Ness:  Savage Dragon is into 220s and few comics in the 21st century have seen such a trajectory, especially independent works.  The only one who did more would be Dave Sim doing 300 issues of Cerebus.  Is the reward worth the labor you've put in?  Does the reward in the end not matter because your journey was so great?


Erik Larsen:  My goal is simply to keep going. I don’t worry too much about the reward. The book sold far better when it started, go in that regard, it’s diminishing returns. I can do the best book of my career and it’s still going to sell worse than whatever I did 25 years ago. If I dwell on that I’ll drive myself to drink.
 
  
Alex Ness:  Would you have anyone take over your characters upon retirement?  Why or why not?

Erik Larsen:  Likely not. I just don’t want to see it. If I did—I’d never look at it. It would be like watching your best friend screw your ex-girlfriend. Nobody wants to see that.

Alex Ness:  When Image was born the group of creators seemed to come ready with characters that they had developed before and during work for the "Big Two".  With the proliferation of POD, smaller press, and more options including IMAGE, do you think creators are still doing this?  Or are they able to do their dream work far sooner?

Erik Larsen:  That’s more of a question for them. And there’s no one answer. Everybody has a different story. Some find huge success doing their own stuff and some struggle with it.

Alex Ness:  How much of Savage Dragon is Erik Larsen?  How do you hide your green skin?

Erik Larsen:  He’s all me. But so is every character to some extent. There’s a part of me in everything I do.



Alex Ness:  I've been told many times, by many different creative people, that of all the media out there, comics has the most jealousy, envy, and infighting.  There are some famous feuds Image guys were in, but would you say that is the medium or the fact that young creative guys are passionate?

Erik Larsen:  I don’t believe that for a second. From my own personal experience it’s pretty minimal. I would expect it to be far worse in other industries. My experience is that, for the large part, it’s a mutual admiration society. People get along famously. The handful of feuds seem inconsequential to me.

Alex Ness:  If you were to offer people 5 comics to prove comics kick ass, what would you offer?

Erik Larsen:  That’s a hard one. Most of the books I love are parts of ongoing serials and without the context of that series a lot is lost. Thor #337 is fantastic but it’s far better in the context of the ongoing Thor comic book. Same with Incredible Hulk #156, Amazing Spider-Man #33, Swamp Thing #21 and Kamandi #6. As a good entry level book—Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is a good start.

Alex Ness:  I used to be able to draw, and draw fairly well.  But after a gap of time, and body aches, I can't come anywhere near where I was.  Does talent ever fade, or am I witnessing a loss of skills that I had learned?


Erik Larsen:  From what I’ve seen—yeah. It can fade. Certainly eyesights can fade and skills can decline. I’ve seen it with numerous artists over the years. And there are other factors. Influences change, tastes change, you can get stuck in a sort of time warp where your work is stuck in the ‘70s or ‘80s or whatever decade that you stopped paying attention to. It can be a real challenge to stay fresh and keep moving and this can be made doubly frustrating due to fans’  nostalgia and their inability to let go of the past. There’s no winning to some degree. If you maintain you’re "stuck in a rut"—if you evolve you’ve "lost it.”

Alex Ness:  What excites you about the comic world today?

Erik Larsen: The next issue, always. I’m always looking forward to my own work and what my peers are doing. There are some fantastic books out there. Many of them are truly humbling to look at.



Alex Ness:  You contributed to the Spawn recently.  Doing pencils and story?  How was it working on another founder's character, was it remarkable in any sort of way?  I know I thought the art was magnificent.

Erik Larsen:  I contributed to Spawn doing fully inked yet somewhat sparse pages and script—both of which were thoroughly revised. The only remarkable part was how incredibly frustrating and miserable it was. I had more writing changes made on a single page than the rest of my career combined. And the art changes were often infuriating, as Todd moved panels from one page to the next with no consideration to internal continuity or story flow. It was just sloppy and poorly done. I thought, well, sure after the clumsily-named Satan Saga War, which was supposed to be his story, he’ll back off but that didn’t happen. The only reason I stuck around as long as I did was because a few covers had been solicited and the last of them was a crossover with Savage Dragon. Hands down the most infuriating collaborative experience in my lifetime.

Alex Ness:  Tell us about the character/property ANT, and what you intend upon doing with it.  How do you come to acquire it?

Erik Larsen:  When ANT came to Image in the first place I’d talked at length with Mario Gully about changes that needed to take place with the book in order for it to work as part of an Image Universe. Prior to the book coming to Image, Mario Gully had done an ANT miniseries at another publisher and it was the story of a little girl who had elaborate fantasies about a superhero which she drew in her diary. I’d told Mario that it would be impossible for ANT to interact with any Image characters because she didn’t really exist—she was a series of drawings in a diary. So I ended up putting a lot of thought into the character from the start.

I was somewhat hands on as the series progressed, helping arrange appearances by other Image characters and suggesting collaborators and so on. I’d even laid out an issue for Mario to draw which was never completed. So, Mario knew I had some love for the character and was invested in her. Some years later, Mario contacted me and said he needed to sell the character and that he had been talking to another party but he said he’d rather have ANT with me. He told me how much he wanted and I paid his asking price.

Alex Ness:  I am a Christian and you are an atheist.  We are friends, in my opinion.  So this isn't meant to be derogatory... Both you and Todd Mc (who similarly is an atheist) have characters who have met or dealt with or tried to kick the ass of GOD.  I wonder why you did this, not asking you to defend it, but wouldn't it be an opportunity to show a cosmos minus the trappings of religion?  As a personal note, I write about the Greek Gods more than I do Christian, because, probably, they are more individually human in their traits.  Also, I mean only to express universal truths, not a literal God while I do so.



Erik Larsen:  It’s fun to play in a world with more toys. I’ve had Santa Claus in the book, I’ve had the Easter Bunny, I’ve used Public Domain superheroes, and various gods from numerous religions, so it seemed like a fun idea to play with. I also had an idea that I wanted to explore. I wanted to have there be an afterlife of sorts in the book. I wanted to come up with an idea which could reconcile the differences in all religions as well as Atheism. The notion that when we die—we’re filled with a sense of having been right—and that we all choose our own afterlife, which I thought was an intriguing idea.

I had also been thinking about Galactus and how his presence was diminished with each successive use. I wanted to use God once, and once only, and never touch him again. Just do it once and drop the mic.

Alex Ness:  I've watched you on Facebook and before that on various message boards give lessons, teaching about art and the way to be a comic artist.  Have you taught in any actual classroom?  Because, I think you kick ass doing so.  ((No nay sayers, that is not my nose up his ass, I actually think he is awesome in how he translates it for the common person.))

Erik Larsen:  I’ve thought about it and I’ve done a class or two at shows or in an actual classroom setting but I simply don’t have the time.

Alex Ness: Humans are born with different talents, IQs, different parents bring more differences, and different families in different nations of the world makes the individuality complete.  That said, do creative people have a gene or something unique in them that makes them need to create?

Erik Larsen:  As far as I know—there isn’t. But I don’t know. You have a handful of comic book artists who have children who are comic book artists but most seem to be one offs.  

Alex Ness:  When you watch a movie, do you sequentially adapt it while watching? 

Erik Larsen:  I do not. I’ll just take it in.

Alex Ness: When you read a fiction novel, do you think wow that would look like this in your mind?  Do you, I guess I am asking, create while you are supposedly not working?



Erik Larsen: Not really, no. Not in that sense. I do think plot constantly—I am continuously trying to plan ahead and think of scenes but the notion of adapting a film or book just isn’t there. I have zero interest in realizing somebody else’s world. I like to enjoy other people’s work for what it is. I will occasionally look at the real world and imagine how it might be depicted with lines on paper but I’m not tempted even a little to adapt other people’s stuff. So much so that unless I’m specifically commissioned to draw something at a convention, I never just sit down and draw favorite characters from movies, books or cartoons. I might doodle an iconic superhero or two from time to time, but almost never recent characters from comics I enjoy.

Alex Ness: Are you normal with regards to your experiences growing up, going to school, and interacting with people in the world?  Or as an artist did you strike a look, manner or voice that was immediately different?


Erik Larsen: Pretty standard stuff. No posturing. I did have my head down drawing a bit and I was something of a class clown—making smart ass remarks and such but I dressed like other kids and did much the same stuff. Even went out for football in high school. Other than constantly drawing, I was pretty normal.

Alex Ness:  Is your wife a creative person too?  And your children?



Erik Larsen:  My wife isn’t a compulsive doodler but she’s currently taking a couple art classes. One of my sons draws a bit—mostly pictures of antique cars and rooms stuffed with old stuff—but he’s not pursuing art. My youngest son doesn’t draw much. Both kids at one point at least started drawing their own comic books but neither got very far. They weren’t bitten by the same bug. 

Alex Ness: What are some of your favorite movies, comics, and books?

Erik Larsen: I’m a big nonfiction reader and it’s largely politics and the like but I’ll read biographies and books by comedians. I listen to a lot of comedy and enjoy that. I’m not a huge movie buff. I’ll go and watch a few movies a year in the theater because I enjoy it but I’m not one of those guys that can rattle off a long list of actors and directors. I liked the Summer of ’42 and Groundhog Day, I can watch the original Ghostbusters movie over and over. In terms of movies it’s pretty mainstream stuff, Star Wars, Star Trek, the various superhero movies. But largely I’ll see a movie once and that’s the end of it. My wife will choose and I’ll just suffer through it. I’m usually the guy suggesting a trip to the theater. She’s usually picking the movies we watch at home. I may watch a movie a week on TV—I watch pretty much nothing else on TV. I’ll watch sports if they’re on but I don’t seek them out. I’d like to get into it because I can see how much others enjoy it but it just doesn’t draw me in. I’ll watch the Super Bowl every year and I watched the World Series when the Cubs were in it but that’s about the extent of it. I love a lot of old comic books. Comics by Kirby, Captain Marvel Adventures from Fawcett, Hulk by Trimpe. Big Frank Miller fan. I’ll read anything he does. Read the X-Men back in the day. Claremont, Byrne and Austin, up through Marc Silvestri. I read Simonson’s Thor, Moore’s Swamp Thing, all the usual suspects. Once Image got rolling my interest in Marvel and DC stuff waned. I’ll follow artists from book to book at Marvel and DC but there’s no title I’m following. I like  Chris Bachalo a lot and Humberto Ramos. I get the Image comps and that’s a treasure trove but I really don’t have much time to read but I’ll flip through it all.

Alex Ness: Thank you for all of your support of my journalistic life.  I have had numerous people in the industry try to help me, and you are among those who did the most.