Friday, June 01, 2012

I should be preparing for Erlangen

No, I really should. At this time I should have already booked the hotel, I should have sorted out which comics to get for the signing, checked out which artists are the most important to get sketches from and already have a plan for which panels and exhibitions I´m going to attend.

But this year I have a job and the most important day at work is Saturday so I have to work on Saturday. Which means that I can´t stay the full 4 days which so far has always been a given.

No matter what, aside from the first Comicsalon Erlangen where I was unaware of it´s existence, I have been there every time and always for the full 4 days. Because otherwise the long trip there just isn´t worth it. Up until now I went every two years without fail regardless if I had a job, no job, had to do my military service, had to drive there myself etc. Well, it seems the streak ends this year.

What makes things worse is that even if I wanted to go for the first two days and then take the train home all by my lonesome I can´t. Because I´m so far over budget that I couldn´t even pay the lottery tickets this week. I´ll have to wait until Monday to see if I have enough money to pay some debts and my latest order from amazon. And that would leave me at the ultimate limit of my budget right now.

There is of course the possibility that I could make the trip to Erlangen with my brother and then - if I can´t find a Hotel room - tough it out until Friday without sleep. I could take a loan from the war chest and wait with paying my debts until next month. But I´m still reluctant to do that because I´m trying to be in the black figures someday.

On the other hand, Erlangen is only every two years and I don´t have anything better to do since I don´t work on Thursdays and Fridays anyway. And like I always say : the best things in Erlangen are free. There are not many places where you can meet all the comic people and I really need more sketches. So right now I´m kind of undecided but the prospects of me going to Erlangen don´t look good.

And if I really should be able to go it´s going to be one of my usual chaotic trips anyway.


If you can´t go to any conventions this year, what just might be my fate this time around, at least you can read LOVE AND CAPES creator Thom Zahler´s writeup of his experiences at Houston’s Comicpalooza! festival ( exclamation mark required ), Kristin Bomba´s con report from the Dallas Comic Con and Dore Ripley report from San Jose’s Big Wow ComicFest . And if you like it a bit more exotic Mark Millar has a travel diary about his trip to the Phillipines where he talks about the Filipino comics scene, the massive amount of promotion for the signing and the crowds of fans that showed up. And since we´re already in that corner of the world here´s an article from the LOS ANGELES TIMES in which Joyce Man profiles the Hong Kong comics industry , which after a decade of falling revenues is experiencing a resurgence largely due to the Internet.

If you DO go to conventions you might want to read Tom Spurgeon´s 170 tips for going to the San Diego ComicCon as you might find some interesting tips there.


One graphic novel I absolutely have to check out if I really manage to go to Erlangen is Nicolas Mahler´s Angelman of which the english version has just been published by Fantagraphics . I don´t know if I already mentioned it on this blog but I first became a fan of Nicolas Mahler through his brilliant FLASCHKO series which are all strips about a guy in a heating blanket and his mother.

Mother : What are you watching, Flaschko ?

Flaschko : Beats me. Is it art ? Or pornography ?

Mother : How long have you been watching this ?

Flaschko : Half an hour.

Mother : Then it´s pornography.

Now it may surprise some people that a guy who looks primarily for the art is a fan of Flaschko and Nicolas Mahler but he´s just a brilliant comic artist. It´s not easy to condense human life into the tiny microcosmos of a small town or the street in which you live. Mahler goes even one step further because he manages to capture the essence of what makes us human not in a house, not in a room in that house but just in one corner of a room. The small corner where Flaschko sits in his heating blanket, watching tv and having verbal exchanges with his mother who is just so typical laconic and on the point. Who answers Flaschko´s existential cry of pain " Mother, why have you borne me ? " with a simple " You were getting too heavy in the long run. "

Besides Flaschko ( which has already three volumes out I think ) Mahler has done a lot of other books like TNT and LONE RACER, both about sportsmen who are underdogs. The first one is about a boxer, the second one about a racecar driver who both try to have a comeback but I have to say I like the second one better because in LONE RACER the lead character ( no pun intended ) really pulls it off.

His newest comic is ANGELMAN but like all of his heroes ( or antiheroes if you want ) Angelman is not your typical superhero although he has to deal with the typical supoerhero stuff. Which in the case of Mahler ( who enjoys the scene around superheroes more than the actual superheroes himself ) means that the typical superhero stuff is changing powers, being retconned, undegoing changes because of copyright issues and living through more and more absurd stories - mirroring the progression of superhero comics through the ages - and ultimately falling prey to some of the same boondoggles that have plagued the writers and artists who created some of the most memorable heroes of our age.


Now before commenting on any other superhero news I just wanted to mention that it seems that Alan Davis has now Red Bull flowing through his veins. Otherwise I don´t know where he takes the energy from to not only do a kickass storyline on the new CAPTAIN AMERICA book and covers on any other comic - that hasn´t a cover by Walter Simonson or Art Adams - but also draw a Clan Destine story that goes through this years annuals of DAREDEVIL, FANTASTIC FOUR and WOLVERINE. Oh, and he also will be doing a story that goes through the Thor books. Now I don´t know if he has given up on sleeping or if he has done these some time ago and they are all coming out in bulk now. Any way, I´m not complaining because I love me some Alan Davis.


Now I´m a bit behind on my DC news since I consciously try to stay away from it ( it´s just too depressing ) but I wanted to post this interview with Judd Winick on CATWOMAN and BATWING because Batwing is going to cross over with NIGHTWING and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, two of the few DC series I´m still reading. Although Justice League International is slated to end with issue 12 . Damn you, DC, you got me again.

Okay, you ask why is the DC news so depressing ? Because they are just desperate at this point. Otherwise I can´t explain why they came up with the big news that Earth 2´s Alan Scott is gay just after Marvel announced Northstar´s big fat gay wedding ( which should be the title for the issue ) in ASTONISHING X - MEN 51 ( preview ) . Already there are negative reactions to DC´s new gay reveal like conservative Christian campaign One Million Moms dropping off Facebook .

Since we´re already on the subject Joshua Yehl has an article on The State of Gay Characters in Comics you might want to read so you know which comics to check out ..... or stay away from depending if you´re for such things or against it. Of course Erik Larsen´s Mace character is missing from the list but so are a few others since the focus seems to be on the ones who have been in the news. And Brett White asks What's So Special About Marvel's Gay ( Mutant ) Wedding ? analyzing what Marvel's latest plot development says about modern comics and American culture.

Back to DC´s NEW 52 newsarama have published a few interesting ONE YEAR LATER posts ( it is one year later than when the NEW 52 was initially announced ) about 10 suggestions for the future of the NEW 52 , 10 lingering questions about the NEW 52 , 10 characters who should thank the NEW 52 as well as the best of the NEW 52 and the worst of the NEW 52 . Although I have to say I don´t think it´s a bad thing that DC is having so many fill - in issues by tried and true artists. Okay, some readers wanted the NEW 52 to be all - new all around. But I have always said that publishers should give more books to comic artists who put solid storytelling over flashy art and who can deliver a book on time.

Because you don´t want to have the case that the issues that should give your regular artist a break end up destroying your shipping dates. And really, when DC announced it´s new lineup I was a bit surprised that they didn´t get the best creators on the books and opted for a lot of new artists. Not to dis them but this is the new " we either are going to make history or BECOME history " lineup so it´s make or break time. I also was a bit surprised how many writers did three or four books. Talk about stacking the deck against oneself instead of bringing the whole a - game to one book. And make it the best you can make it.

Now, talking about a book that failed to be the best DC can make ( or maybe that´s really the best JLA book DC can come up with now ) : I have finally gotten around to read the JUSTCE LEAGUE ORIGIN hardcover by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee ( one of the reasons why I don´t have much money right now ) and to use a word from YOUNG JUSTICE´s Robin, I was quite underwhelmed by the story. For a story that is supposed to not only re - introduce the newest incarnation of the Justice League but also the new DC universe not a lot of information was given to the reader.

Like others have pointed out before me, it read very much like an early issue of the Avengers and a lot of time and space was wasted with flashy action and splashpages that could have been used for characterization. And some of the splashpages even dropped the ball like the doublepage spread with Superman going up against Darkseid. Which should have been one of the F - WORD YEAH ! moments of the story. All in all a bit disappointing and the inclusion of Cyborg ( or better the shoehorning ) was totally unnecessary. Cyborg has always been the heart and soul of the Teen Titans and his part could have been handled better by Justice League members like Red Tornado or Mister Miracle who would have made much more sense in a story involving Apokolips.

And still more negative DC stuff : One of the big things is still the uproar over DCs BEFORE WATCHMEN and like I wrote before, I´m reserving judgement of the project until I can actually take a look at the issues. To cover this all Noah Berlatzky from Slate does a pretty good analysis of the situation and the controversy while Robin McConnell talks about his reasons for being against it .


Since we´re on the topic of creator rights and last post was about one of Jack Kirby´s greatest comic epics THE FOURTH WORLD SAGA here´s an article by Zak Sally who feels that Marvel should give credit to Jack Kirby for the large part he had in creating the Avengers , and the best way to do this would be to fully fund a Jack Kirby museum. And Matt Brady at WARREN PEACE SINGS THE BLUES has an article about Topps comic series BOMBAST and SATAN´S SIX ( of which I own a few issues ) featuring characters created by Jack Kirby, part of an unsuccessful attempt to launch a Kirbyverse of their own .

Mtv Geek has and interview with Adam Warren about his upcoming 7th volume of EMPOWERED and he reveals that a number of Empowered one - shots are in the works, written by him and illustrated by various guest artists. There is also an interview by Deb Aoki on with Adam Warren about his strong women characters, his upcoming books, and his epiphany upon discovering anime and manga.

EMPOWERED back cover by kiwine a.k.a. TRANTKAT a.k.a. Kevin Hérault

Being a creator owned series there are long waits for each new installment of EMPOWERED, a topic Graeme McMillan touches in his new column on The Middle Ground about his attitude in regards to late creator owned comics versus regular superhero books . I´m not so sure if I make that big distinction between superhero books and creator owned in my attitude towards lateness or switching artist in the middle of a story.

Unless I´m totally uninterested in the art - in most cases because I don´t really like the regular artist or because I buy the comic because of the story - I like the guy who starts a story to also finish it. Lately I´m tending more to buying collected editions ( and mostly hardcovers at that ) and it´s really jarring when you read one big story and you have a different artist in every issue. Of course this can be a big plus if you get a collection like X - MEN SCHISM and have such great artists like Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Alan Davis, Daniel Acuna and Adam Kubert. Too bad they had to add X - MEN REGENESIS by Billy Tan which brings the whole thing down a few notches.

Okay, with superhero books I kind of accept the fact that there will be fill - in artists from time to time. Heck, when I started reading american comic books I only got scattered issues which weren´t necessarily in chronological order so there were bound to be different artists on them. And even when I finally got them from a special store there were bound to be fill in artists from time to time. Some of the fill in artists I didn´t like at first, like Rick Leonardi who kept popping up in my UNCANNY X - MEN and DAREDEVIL issues and late became one of my favorite artists. I mean I was really sad when there was an issue by Kelley Jones of SPIDER - MAN 2099. And I really like Kelley Jones. But SPIDER - MAN 2099 was Rick Leonardi´s book and anything else just didn´t look right.

So I had a lot of fill in issues or better shelf issues when I started collecting comic books. For the younger readers : shelf issues were finished stories out of continuity that publishers used to print in case of an emergency, mostly an issue not coming out on time. Which doesn´t necessarily say anything about the quality of the comic. Contrariwise, one of my favorite DAREDEVIL stories, one of the best I ever read is a fill in story : DAREDEVIL 245, written by Ann Nocetti ( who later became the regular writer ), penciled by Chuck Patton and inked by Tony DeZuniga ( who did a lot of fill in comics back in the 80s and who sadly passed away on the 11th of May ).

The story has the Black Panther as a guest star and it´s about Wheeler, a guy down on his luck who is addicted to gambling and who owes money to every bookie in Hell´s Kitchen. Once a member of Wakanda´s Armored Forces he crosses paths with both superheroes when he tries to rob a bank to buy some food so his wife will stop locking herself up in her room. Both superheroes manage to foil his attempt ( he still has the battle armor from his glory days ) but they fight against each other - what do you expect in a superhero comic - over what should be done with Wheeler.

The Black Panther wants him to leave his family ( Wheeler´s wife is a cousin of T´Challa ) and never see his wife or son again. But Murdock believes there´s still hope for Wheeler.

And while the story starts off really sad it has a promising ending. Wheeler has a new job, he´s out of debt, he has sworn off gambling for good and there is food in the kitchen. The last panels shows his shadowed figure standing in the doorframe with a broken arm and it´s a really emotional ending ( read a longer review of the issue here ) .

So having a fill in story might not be that bad.

As for creator owned comics they get a lot more leeway from me because basically I´m not reading it for the character - or at least not only for the character - but for the creator. USAGI YOJIMBO is one such book on my pull list and I really don´t care when it comes out. Every new issue is wonderful and brilliant and while it might be interesting to see others interpretation of the longeared samurai rabbitt I buy it for Stan Sakai´s unique magic. The same goes for Erik Larsen´s SAVAGE DRAGON or whatever Terry Moore is doing after he finished STRANGERS IN PARADISE.

These comics don´t come out every month and if there´s a bit of a wait between them I don´t care. There is still a big pile of comics I haven´t read and in the meantime - and this goes for the superhero comics too - there are a lot of other series I haven´t had the chance to read. Like the NEW LOVE AND ROCKETS comics, Jeff Smith´s RASL or such brilliant graphic novels like ASTERIOS POLYP or Darwyn Cooke´s HUNTER series. You see, there is plenty of stuff to read whenever an issue is delayed. Of course I´m not always this relaxed and laid back because sometimes I´m going crazy when a particular comic I can´t wait to read is late. After all I´m only human.


Now this is always the part of comic news I want to write about least of all, namely when another of the great comic creators dies. And even more so when it happens only one week apart as not only the aforementioned Tony DeZuniga has gone away forever at the age of 79 but also Ernie Chan has left us at the age of 71 . Oddly enough both artists were from the Phillipines.

The newest editions of THE LINE IS DRAWN have a Tribute to Tony DeZuniga with Jonah Hex crossovers and a Tribute to Ernie Chan and this one is all about mash ups with the comic character he was best known for - Conan the Barbarian.

Another great artist who passed away is HERMAN creator Jim Unger who died at 75 . You probaly have read one of his brilliant cartoons somewhere.


More bad news : Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. Here´s the link if you want to help him out.

An interesting article from John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. This might be especially interesting for younger comic readers since it´s their chance to get an impression how things used to be done in the comic industry.

Last but not least, this is also the last chance to vote for the Eisner Awards as the deadline is next Monday.


One of the things that pisses me off lately are the previews. Well, not the fact that there are previews or the selection but what really gets me riled up is like, for example when I get a preview like the preview for AVENGERS vs X - MEN 5 which says 10 page preview. But it´s not. Now the normal comic reader gets all giddy when he reads 10 page preview but you see, pages 1 up to 5 of that preview are the variant covers ( can´t have enough of those variant covers ), page 6 and 7 are the recap doublepage spread and only the last three pages are the actual preview pages.

So if it´s a 3 page preview then call it a 3 page preview. Or if you must a 3 page preview with variant covers and recap. But it´s not a 10 page preview with only 3 actual storypages.

And what´s up with all that variant cover crap at Marvel anyway ? Okay, so they haven´t flushed their superhero universe down the toilet like their Distinguished Competition. But do we really need that much variant covers ? Now don´t get me wrong. I´m not against the occasional variant cover by really good artists like Walter Simonson, Frank Cho, Paul Pelletier or Art Adams to celebrate special issues like anniversary issues and the likes.

But what´s so special about a variant cover when I get 25 or 30 of them EVERY FREAKING MONTH ( and we´re just talking about Marvel here and not counting all the variants by other companies ). You have variant covers on them second or third printings which in the worst case means somebody just slapped a panel from the issue on the cover, then you have the regular variant covers and then you have on top of this all the DEADPOOL MONTH or VAMPIRE MONTH covers. Which makes no sense. I really don´t want a cover with Spider - Man, the Human Torch and the Vulture on WINTER SOLDIER 6 ( preview ) - unless they actually appear in the issue. And maybe not even then. So cut it out Marvel, will ya ?

This week´s most interesting Marvel previews preview AVENGERS ACADEMY 31 ( I really have to start reading this series ) , DEFENDERS 7 , HULK 53 with art by Dale Eaglesham, WOLVERINE 307 with art by Paul Pelletier and WOLVERINE & THE X - MEN 11 with art by Nick Bradshaw. Here is also a link for the rest of this week´s Marvel previews and for more previews Marvel, DC and other publishers .


Before we come to our last bit of Marvel news I have to mention that The Guardians of the Galaxy - but more importantly Rocket Racoon - have a spectacular return in AVENGERS ASSEMBLE 6 . I always was a big fan of that little sharpshooting rascal and I was really disappointed when Paul Pelletier left the Guardians of the Galaxy book. Props for the gun toting space raccon.

Which is that Marvel has released its second CASTLE original graphic novel STORM SEASON based on the books that are mentioned in the series. The main character is called Derek Storm and these were the books Richard Castle was writing in the tv series of the same title before he found his new muse Kate Beckett. There also are some Nikki Heat books out ( three so far ) but with my always overtaxed budget I haven´t been able to get any of these so I don´t know if they can live up to the high expectations of bestseller fans around the world. Especially the hot scene between Nikki Heat and the character who´s based on Richard Castle that was mentioned in the tv series.

Coming fron fictional writers who make the transition from tv to novels to comics here´s a real writer who did it the other way around. Neil Gaiman started with comics and later did novels which were adapted to the big screen and the little screen rather successfully. You know, there are people who you are envious of and then there are others who are just so brilliant at everything they do that words really elude you. Now words never elude Neil Gaiman and as proof that he´s equally brilliant at giving speeches here´s his commencement speech at the University of the Arts Class of 2012. A must watch for any artist and everyone who hopes to be creative and successful.

Also pretty successful is the first season of THE WALKING DEAD tv series, which has finally aired in Germany. Comic series artist Charlie Adlard talks about the upcoming 100th issue of the title which should be just in time to keep the german audience interested. I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Adlard in one of my first times when I got sketches for myself in Erlangen and he´s a really nice guy. If you are in line for a drawing ask for something out of the ordinary as it can get quite boring to always draw the same stuff. Even zombies can loose their charm after the umpteenth time.

When he was at Erlangen he had just come of the X - FILES comic so I asked him for a Mulder / Elvis combo ( inside joke for those who have watched the show ) and he did a brilliant piece with Scully at the battery.

Staying on the subject of comics and tv adaptions Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson looks at the latest order numbers for the four Robert Kirkman - produced titles ( THE WALKING DEAD, THIEF OF THIEVES, SUPER DINOSAUR and INVINCIBLE ) noting that the two without AMC television series in their pedigree are selling fewer copies :

" There are way worse problems to have, obviously, and I’m not complaining, but it is a little disconcerting that the dividing line between The Walking Dead and Thief of Thieves and Invincible and Super Dinosaur is the attention the former two titles have received from Hollywood. Is that a good thing for those books? Absolutely. But it’s a bad thing for comics as a whole, when we sit back and let mainstream popularity guide how we as industry order and sell comics and how we as a community buy and collect comics. In essence, we wait for someone outside comics to tell us something is worthwhile before accepting it ourselves. And that’s just plain backwards . "

With ROCKETEER ADVENTURES, Rodger Langridge´s SNARKED ( preview issue 8 ) , JOHN BRYRNE´S NEXT MEN ( preview NEXT MEN AFTERMATH 43 ) and the brilliant LOVE AND CAPES series IDW is quickly becoming a big part of my pull list. And since it looks that I will be adding more of their titles like Roger Langridge´s POPEYE, the DOCTOR WHO / STAR TREK - NEXT GENERATION crossover ( preview issue 1 ) or John Byrne´s upcoming TRIO series here´s an interview with IDW Chief Creative Officer and Editor - in - Chief Chris Ryall about the state of the publisher, the progress of its major series and upcoming projects like a new THE CROW series by James O Barr, and IDW's place in the current discussion of creator - owned comics and creator rights. It´s also a good thing that Rger Lagridge´s series POPEYE and SNARKED ! seem to do so well since he just recently decided not to work for DC or Marvel anymore because of concerns about the way they treat creators.


First up a few funny and cool things I found on the internet :

For all fans of 50s EC COMICS ( and who isn´t ? ) Michael Dooley talks to SQUA TRONT editor John Benson about the fanzine that concerns itself with exactly that.

Brian Cronin counts down the 10 weirdest superhero gadgets of all times and I have to say Hawkman´s absorbascon sure would have come handy in those geography tests.

I´m not sure how many students are reading this blog although I do get a lot of comments how my posts has helped them in their college assignments. Apart from the fact that I can´t figure out for the life of me with which kind of assignment my totally confuse posts could help in any way, shape or form there is the possibility that it does. So with this potential readership in mind our first write - in list comes from Elena Verlee, namely the 10 key political issues college students need to care about .Now don´t say I´m not keeping you informed.

The second one is from Roxanne McAnn and although not really comic related this list of 9 unlikely entrepreneurs who changed the market might give an idea to some comic creators out there.

A little bit late ( sorry, I just couldn´t get around to do one of these news posts ) is this list from returning participant Jennifer Lynch and it´s the absolutely not serious list of 10 fools actually born in April . And with this we have once again reached the end of Today´s post.

In my last post I had the Jack Kirby documantary at the end of the post and I already posted the Bob Kane Story this is COMIC BOOK SUPERHEROES UNMASKED.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

Dream a dream of pretty prey, and blood red as rage.


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

I can understand Moore's anger but it is all his own fault. He claims to know how businesses treat people but then claims he innocently trusted DC!!!! See more at CBO!
Sorry to hear you cannot get to Erlangen. Pity they do not do pod casts or put up videos on you tube of the event!

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Hmm. You mention Marvel Comics...heard of them vaguely. Kidding. They are almost as dead to me as DC now.

I get no real excitement when I buy The Avengers (take your pick)or FF that I used to. Most of the characters are not what they were -hey, they have ALMOST been killed off and re-booted as many times (but not quite) as DCs.

I started reading and buying Marvel when I was...8 or 9 years old (I'm 54 this month so..a while). Oddly, I purchased, after watching on You Tube, the animated series AVENGERS Earths Mightiest Heroes. I can HIGHLY recommend it -it's what the old Avengers comic used to be.

I note that Captain Marvel is getting a make over -initially I thought they had made Mick Anglo's Marvel Man into a female character -the ads are in the comics. Costume similar.

Just looked through some late 1970s -1990s Avengers comics and they kick the ass of today's version -Byrne's run on West Coast Avengers almost had me orgasmic...but not quite. Hemm.

Hey, idea: how about some articles on German comics history?

Hope you get to Erlangen -keep on truckin',baby!