Friday, June 30, 2017

Parody and Satirical Heroes

COMMENTARY
By Alex Ness
June 28, 2017 


I have heard some people say that Parody and Satire are the same, which is possible, but not always, and each are distinct.  Parody is an homage or spoof of an independent source, possibly in biting criticism or  meant in humor. Satire is a work that mocks, ridicules, or makes visible critiques of some society or individual with hyperbole.  So, parody can be satirical in its aims.  Satire might spoof, but it would have a specific goal of making a statement about a subject.  Some of the most fun comics are written with spoofs and comedy, but they become important and even more interesting when there is a layer of satire.

However, for Parody to work, it must understand and make good use of the source material.  Which means, the deeper the understanding the more rewarding the story.  The surface level only understanding results in cheap rip offs.


I am not going to describe each of the displayed works, they have qualities of their own to recommend them.  I enjoyed all of them and you should consider them if they stoke your interest.  I will say just this, the best of the bunch overall I think is Marshal Law because it is insanely fun.  The title is an obvious pun/double entendre, the character is cleaning up the world of violent heroes and villains, at the same time using even more violence.  It is perfectly over the top for anyone intelligent enough to see the themes exposed.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tiny Explorers and Warriors

COMMENTARY
By Alex Ness 
June 26, 2017

While it is true that I am a fan of this franchise, I am less saying that it is a good thing, as something else, something less exciting.

I remember being too old to be interested in the Micronauts as toys when they came out.  I loved all things Japan even way way back then, so finding out that they were toys from Japan, I was interested in them, even if not as toys, from the first.  And one way I applied my interest was to buy the comic book with that amazing Michael Golden art.

I bought issues as well as a person in a small town could.  Between the drug store, IGA grocery store, and trips to my family's relatives in Mpls/St Paul, I tried to collect a number of comics.  I had the money, I just didn't have the access.  There was never a guarantee that I'd get the comics that were supposed to come out.

The original series had an energy that any other media adaptation didn't.  This was a really unusual combination, of being a toy, without my knowing any backstory and being really good.  I have longed for a tpb or 3 of the many different runs.




And IDW would be the best company to reprint them, if possible.  They do a wonderful job capturing previous works, of licensed works.  However, I don't see it being announced anytime soon. Three series happened at MARVEL, each having quality and worth collecting.  I loved the Micronaut Special Editions, they were reprints but with wrap around covers...


When I next saw them they came out from Devil's Due Pres,  but through the publishing help from IMAGE.  With this run I was very happy to read the issues, I found the art to be superb, but the series was really wanting for a single, strong, focused writer.  As such you got a little here, a little there, and the art was good.


DDP took over Micronauts as the publisher too, and attempted to reboot the series.  It was really not anything special, but for some ok art.  It didn't last, either.

And then IDW announced that they were going to play in this publishing game.  And their books are always consistent, and the first run, while good, was a drink of water, when you needed a beer.  It was good, even satisfying, but you wanted more.


So what is my big deal with writing this?   I wonder why so many of the comics on the shelf are either mainstream superheroes or media adaptations.  Intellectual properties are great, but, just as someone can make a better living working for the big 2 (Marvel/DC) or create a portfolio by working at lesser rewarding jobs, there used to be tons more to choose from.  I love the Micronauts, but they keep coming back.  I wonder what comics didn't happen when a publisher was searching for a quick dollar by publishing a well recognized media product.  I wonder this but probably know the truth, comics sell at such a rate that a publisher doesn't feel it can take a risk.  And the independent comic writers and artists don't have a shot to impress, because in order to be in print you need a background of being in print.   That is, in order to get the job you need experience, and you can't get experience unless you have had the job.

(Description from wiki: THE MICRONAUTS 

The Micronauts comic books featuring a group of characters based on the Mego Micronauts toy line. The first title was published by Marvel Comics in 1979, with both original characters and characters based on the toys. Marvel published two Micronauts series, mostly written by Bill Mantlo, until 1986, well after the toy line was cancelled in 1980. In the 2000s, Image Comics and Devil's Due Publishing each briefly published their own Micronauts series. Byron Preiss Visual Publications also published three paperback novels based on the Micronauts. In July 2015, IDW Publishing announced that they would publish a new comic book series.)




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

WORLD WITHOUT END: A review


  
WORLD WITHOUT END: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION
Written by Jamie Delano
Art by John Higgins
First publisher: DC Comics
Reprint Publisher: Dover Publication

Product supplied by one of the creative artists.


World Without End was the comic book that ripped open my mind.

When this work first came out I did enjoy a wide variety of genres, and I am not a moron.  But I went into it expecting something that I never received, and the story was so much better for the failed expectations.

Jamie Delano is, presently, a favorite writer, but at the time I was only familiar with his work upon Hellblazer.  I liked that he was so able to write the sort of horror that I found it requiring courage to continue to reading. Opening the book I immediately loved the palette used by John Higgins, but I wasn't aware of his depth at the time I began this journey.  I assure you, by the end of the journey both Delano and Higgins sealed their position in my list of must read all of their work list.

This book was amazing.  If you are the sort who wishes heroes and villains in all of your stories you might well find yourself taking sides in this, but that is a trap.  This is proof that not all problems in life have a solution.  Not always in life do you find the answers in hand to the questions asked.  This work told a linear story that works as myth, and a tale of hope for the future, and it is full of truth.

The myth is the nature of genders and orientations, and how we can become isolated from the other genders and orientations, but we really aren't in competition.  As a matter of fact, we are in need of unification, of communion, with one another.  It is especially apt in this modern day of division, that perhaps the winner take all paradigms Western society has wrapped itself in, is not the answer to the issues at hand.  A professor of mine, who was no genius, expressed that in any other era Winston Churchill might have been a tyrant or as bad as Hitler, but in the era he appeared in, he was the answer to the wanting leadership in the UK.  I don't altogether agree with that, but the idea that genders and orientations and existence is necessarily divisive is deterministic, and, we might be presented with a question, but the answer is not necessarily the easiest to find.


The writing of this book is gloriously rich. While it takes some switching in the mind to prepare the ground for impact, I was completely enamored of the story.  And then we see the art provided by John Higgins.  First off, it is amazing, alive and a perfect accompaniment to the writing.  Painted in violent hues, the action and story move with liquidity.

The physical quality of the product at hand, is very impressive.  As a fan of the series I found nothing about it that would make me unhappy.  There is a great amount of love I have for this work, and the product put forth by Dover enhanced what I already found to be superb.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Memories of Comics Late 1976 to May of 1978

Commentary
By Alex Ness
June 20, 2017

Spending the rewards for having a big newspaper route...


During 1976 I began my paper route.  I was turning 13 and ready to make money.  My often critical father said, before I became an adult that I was good at saving my money, and that was true.  When I began working as paperboy my income skyrocketed from 50 cents a week, to considerably more.  But, even though I had shitloads more money, I put it in bank, except for 2 or 3 dollars per week.

I lied to myself in thinking that I was buying Devil Dinosaur and Machine Man because they were #1 issues.  I still have my copies, and I read the living hell out of them.


I always liked Captain America.  Add Jack Kirby to that, and I am sold.


And I LOVED the X-Men.  I didn't love the newstand at the time, since I missed key issues.


And you can perceive, perhaps, my Marvel Comics were done by the guy who created Kamandi and Omac, as they can be seen above.  I was also a big fan of DC's Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. 


From November 1976 to May of 1978 I was loaded with money on a relative scale to what I had previously had for money.  And, entering high school I placed all of my money in a bank.  And by four years later, in May of 1982, I had 80% of the money stockpile still in my account.

And by the time I entered college, I had to pay it all for school and life.  And by the end of first year in college I was ready to withdraw the last money from the account.  And I haven't been good with money ever since.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Comic Book Publishers Of the Past volume 4

COMMENTARY
By Alex Ness
June 23, 2017 

I am not as familiar with the structure and offerings of Caliber as I am with other publishers, now defunct.  But they did put out at least two comics that I very much enjoyed.  Kabuki by David Mack was luscious in beauty, if not as well written as I'd like.  The Crow was a violent revenge fantasy that I think was pretty good, for what it is.

Caliber made some later efforts, such as creating Desperado in order to publish reprints, to reboot past series, and to try to return as a publisher. 

Gary Reed was one of the guiding forces of Caliber, and his legacy is one of a creative talent who supported creative works.  His death in 2016 at 60 years of age, was a blow to the corporate comic book industry.






CHAOS Comics produced comics I tended to dislike, so I should avoid saying much in that regard.  Brian Pulido is a very nice fellow, but the comics put out by Chaos took a different tact, in that, they didn't play nice, or in general, they focused upon the evil in our world.  And reveled in it.


TOPPS Comics were actually quite good.  They had successful comics that were based upon other forms of media.

Xena, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Jurassic Park, X-Files, Bram Stoker's Dracula, various Jack Kirby characters illustrated by top talent were quite nicely put together.  They had a fair sized following, but they tapered off in the end when the investor caused Speculative boom ended.

TOPPS put out some good stuff.





Monday, June 19, 2017

Why new Doom Patrol comics don't matter.

Commentary
By Alex Ness
June 19, 2017
 
Agari あがり

This is a word that has more meaning than simply translated as Sushi bar Tea.  

When a customer is done eating at a sushi bar they will say to the server, Agari.  It is not simply, GIVE ME TEA, but, instead, I am finished eating, the meal is over, please serve me the end of the meal tea.  That is, it isn't at all what it is.  Asking for tea is different than saying Agari.  Agari means you are satisfied and are done.

The Doom Patrol was a team led by a genius in a wheelchair, and the team was composed of people whose lives were changed dramatically when they experienced terrible accidents.  This was their chance to tempt fate and deny destiny.  They were weird, and reveled in it.


I've read all of the Doom Patrol comics from the beginning to 2009.  And I have to say "Agari." AND, I should have said it when the issue #87 ended. 

I was a fool to think anything after Grant Morrison's run, or Rachel Pollack's run could ever approach what issue #19 to #87 accomplished.  This is opinion, of course, perhaps I am wrong.  Or, my taste was so satisfied that, after the end of the Doom Patrol #87 I didn't ever need more.


I am writing this because my son wants me to read his hero Gerard Way's Doom Patrol.  He says it is great.  I highly doubt it will be.  I am willing to try, however.

But I am already full.

20 years since, I am still satisfied fully.


I did love the old Doom Patrol.  They were more than a team, they seemed to be family.  And the evil doers they fought were not typical super villains.  The team of the Doom Patrol was weird, and so were their adventures, and I loved it.

The 1987 series was normal at the beginning, written by Paul Kupperberg, illustrated by Steve Lightle and Erik Larsen.  It emphasized the past, but, while good, it was not great.  And then it got better.  Starting with issue 19, Grant Morrison's first issue, the whole series took a turn, a few turns, and it was no longer a super hero comic.  It was an impossible to define the genre comic.  Among the many different things encountered, were, a street that is sentient, paintings that come to life, and fears that the Chief was not as benevolent as we once thought.  In fact, what he did was not just gather freaks of horrible accidents and unite them as a team.  He was more than a leader.  I won't reveal what he was... but it was perfect.

The events of this run were painted in such a way that they still linger in my mind.  I've spoken with numerous art teachers and professors, and in each case they said, this is a post modern work of genius.  It might not be to your taste.  It was a perfect fit for my own taste.


2001  I read the series that started with this.

I found it pretty, but horrible, boring, and unoriginal.

The stories felt like the writer and artist had no idea what made the Doom Patrol great.






2004

And then I read this horrible series that seemed to have as its goal regurgitating shit.  It was unoriginal, and a bit like a vanity project to correct errors in previous works.  But, what that author did was pretty much create a pointless work.  It was pretty, put together with care and talent.  But it was a bit like wanting to read William S. Burroughs and instead reading Mickey Spillane.  Mickey Spillane was great, but the cognitive dissonance between your stated desire and what you instead read, is massive.  I might have liked this, if I had never read any previous version of the team, but, as it is, this is a work that had precious little new, different, or worthwhile.  (And, briefly, I think that John Byrne is very talented, and has many skills from his years in the drawing and writing world.  This wasn't his best moment)



2009

And I bought a couple issues of this last series, and I could see it was about to stink.  Again, it was not an empty void, but wasn't able to capture the depths, differences, or intrigue of the early works.










Saturday, June 17, 2017

Another Gallery of a series worthy of being collected

LONE WOLF AND CUB
Art by Goseki Kojima
Written by Kazuo Koike

Artist Goseki Kojima and writer Kazuo Koike created a samurai epic, that resonated with readers.  The samurai story in Japan is one that forms the legends, the myths, and cultural memory of the Japanese.  The story of the samurai, in general, is one that belongs to the past of Japan, just like the myth and legends of the American Cowboy resonates for the American readers.

In this story of the samurai, Lone Wolf and Cub features the path of destiny that Ogami Ittō, the Shogun's executioner must walk.  His honor accused, his personal safety threatened, he is forced to leave his home and castle, and take his child, Daigorō, along with him.  His famed and feared weapon, a  dōtanuki battle sword, Ogami Ittō now follows a danger filled path, fighting ronin, ninjas, bandits and others who challenge him.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Comic Book Publishers Of the Past 3rd edition

Comic Book Publishers of the Past
3rd edition
Alex Ness

Welcome back.

The past editions of this column I've tried to share both important and less important companies.  But in this edition I discuss two very important companies. I say this because in the first case, Kitchen Sink Press, the publisher sold a great variety of artistically important work. In the other, Pacific, it was a company that used the direct market as a way to reach readers, rather than the news stands. The kind of work each published was different than typical fare at the time.

Kitchen Sink Press published both adult works, science fiction, and fantasy works. and combinations of both. Pacific published heroic tales in the fantasy realm, science fiction tales, and some amazing works from creative talents that had decided to escape from Marvel and DC. I liked a great many books from each publisher, but my view of them being important isn't from buying habits. Both became outlets for different works, different than the then current offerings in the marketplace. Kitchen Sink Press was begun in 1970 and named for the publisher, Denis Kitchen. The initial focus was upon underground works, but also, they began reprinting the important the Spirit works from Will Eisner. The last years of the company saw few releases, due to lack of funds. and though it died as a publisher, it could be said that it has not left, since the various formations of the company lived on in different form.

Pacific Comics was born from a comic book store taking advantage of the new direct market and the opportunity to produce non-comic code restricted works. as the market began to grow several of the series begun at pacific moved to other publishers, such as Eclipse, First or Comico. Still, no matter the slowing of output, and ultimate death as a publisher, a distributor and retail outlets, the works published were new for the day.

LINKS FOR THIS EDITION

KITCHEN SINK PRESS
DENIS KITCHEN

PACIFIC COMICS

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Review : BIKER by Mike Baron

REVIEW 6/15/2017
by Alex Ness

BIKER
By Mike Baron
Published March 12th 2013 by Airship 27
Published September 20 2016 by Liberty Island
Review copy provided by Author



I am a fan of Mike Baron's comic book work, but this was my first go at his prose. I should start by saying that this book is about Motorcycle rider culture as much as it is a straight forward tale.  As such I cannot speak to the authenticity of the experience.  I am not a biker, have never driven one, and have only been on a motorcycle the last time 1985.

FROM THE PUBLISHER

" Josh Pratt is an ex-con turned private investigator. Ginger Munz, a woman dying of cancer hires him to find the son she lost as a baby. The child’s father is a sadistic sociopath named Moon who has vowed to kill her, and Josh’s girlfriend Cass, for ratting him out. The trail leads to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and west into a no-man’s land where Josh learns the monstrous fate of the stolen child."

It could be argued that any book about motorcycles and the culture around them will follow certain conventions.   The tough guy with a good streak, the bad guys who can't be trusted, the road's ability to crush souls of the weak...


I am actually happy to say that this work is exciting, mostly free of cliche, and felt fresh and interesting.  The main character feels real, and is likeable, the people in the book feel real as well, when it would be much easier to paint with stereotypes and cliché.  There is a sex scene, which is well done, and, oddly discreet.  There is a flow of dialogue through the work that sounds like life.  He doesn't trim the work to fit the scene, he makes scenes that feel like they might happen, at the same time as the conversations sound accurate.

The pacing of the story is rather fully charged.  The only portions of the book that don't feel real is the secondary cast and officers of the law.  But if taken as a whole I liked almost everything, it was time I am happy to have spent, and it felt like there will need to be sequels. 

Any fan of action fiction would like this, I believe.  It is a scary ride, along with a subtle humor.  Good stuff maynard.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In the Age of Men who could fly

COMMENTARY 6/14/2017
By Alex Ness

In the days when human flight was young, writers and artists, filmmakers and dreamers imagined the tales of men who could fly, and save their world.


CAPTAIN GRAVITY

From Penny-Farthing Press, Captain Gravity is a black male in Hollywood of the 1930s.  He acquires the mystical Element 115.  With it he is able to control gravity.  Thus, he is able to fly and more.  In the 1930s the Nazis seek the Element 115, and this work touches upon the difficulty of being black in pre-civil rights era America.  The war with the Nazis brings a contrast between overt racism and subtle.  Either way, the story of Captain Gravity is fun.


KING OF THE ROCKETMAN

The 1930s and 1940s movie serial KING OF THE ROCKETMEN is adapted by Innovation. Taking clues from the original, King of the Rocketmen expands upon the themes.  The world of King of the Rocketmen is filled with intrigue, jealous thieves of technology, and murder.   The work is delightfully beautiful. 


THE ROCKETEER

From Pacific comics, Comico, and later Dark Horse and others, Rocketeer is a return to fun versus the dark comics of its era.   Cliff Secord discovers a stolen rocket pack.  He becomes the Rocketeer, and turns around his fortunes.  But doing so, invites intrigue, attention, and danger. Who knows who might be interested, but at the least there are Feds, Nazi spies, and more.  Less serious than it is fun, this is pure adventure.

Monday, June 12, 2017

THE 2017 INKWELL awards


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The 2017 Inkwell Awards Ceremony at Heroes Con Headlines By Legends Joe Giella and Allen Bellman


 (New Bedford, MA/USA—June 8, 2017) Results from the 10th annual Inkwell Awards will be presented at the inking advocacy group’s 7th live awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. The awards ceremony is scheduled for Friday June 16, 5:00 PM at the Charlotte Convention Center, in room 209-210.

Golden/Silver Age ink artist and famed DC Comics mainstay Joe Giella is scheduled to appear as Guest of Honor. Golden Age and Timely (Marvel) pioneer and penciller/inker Allen Bellman will act as Guest Speaker for one of two Special Recognition Award recipients.


“We are very fortunate to have two living legends from the dawn of the American comic book industry to attend our celebration of inking in the sequential arts”, said Bob Almond, the Inkwell Awards' founder/director and MC of the ceremony. “Together they've inked many seminal works that have influenced generations of professionals and readers alike.”

The Inkwells have five categories: Favorite Inker, the “Props” award for under-recognized professionals, the S.P.A.M.I. for Small Press And Mainstream-Independent work, Most-Adaptable Inker, and the “All-in-One” for the artist who inks his/her own pencil art. Thousands of voters cast their ballots at the group’s website in April to log their support and choose their favorites.

In addition to Giella and Bellman, other speakers/attendees include host and presenter Almond, hostess Hailey Skaza-Gagne as spokesmodel Ms. Inkwell, Inkwell Assistant Director/co-presenter and artist Mike Pascale, and other volunteer staff members. Announced with the publicly-chosen award-winners will be the internally-voted two recipients of the yearly Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award and two recipients of the third annual Special Recognition Award.

Almond added, “We're thrilled to have more award-recipient creators appearing live than ever before, so fans will get to see and hear more of their favorites.”

Other related guests at the Heroes show itself include Inkwell ambassadors Laura Martin, Mike McKone, Cully Hamner and J. David Spurlock. There may also be surprise appearances at the ceremony by member-creators, the award recipients or other supporters. 

As an added bonus, the first 25 non-member attendees will receive a raffle ticket for an automatic door prize. After the event, every ticket holder will win a prize as explained at the ceremony.
 (L-R) Joe Sinnott, Ms. Inkwell Holly Black and Bob Almond at the June 5, 2016 Albany Comic Con (photo by Mark Sinnott)

“We've had record attendance for the last couple years,” said Almond, “and plan to repeat that achievement, especially with our impressive lineup and prizes.”

The Inkwells will be set up in Artists Alley at an as of yet unspecified location to be announced soon at the Heroes Con website, offering (for donations) their recently-released Ms. Inkwell Gallery art book, signed by cover artist Bill Sienkiewicz as well as Joe Sinnott, Bob Almond and Hailey Skaza-Gagne, along with plenty of other Inkwell merchandise to help raise much-needed funds. (The organization will delay the next Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge book until 2018 to celebrate their tenth anniversary.)

Almond concluded, “We can’t show enough gratitude to promoter Shelton Drum and the Heroes Con staff for annually supporting the community and giving fans an opportunity to learn more about and appreciate this often overlooked industry craft and its artists. Looking forward to seeing everyone on Friday and during the con!”


The Inkwell Awards (www.inkwellawards.com) is an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize the best ink artists and their work. Now approaching it’s tenth year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.



Web site: inkwellawards.com.