Monday, August 30, 2010

Baltimore Comic Con: Harvey Award Winners

I didn't make it to this event. But since I posted two separate articles on the nominees I wanted to follow through and list the winners here (thanks to Comic Book Resources) . . . . .
The awards were presented during a special awards banquet on Saturday evening August 28th at the annual Baltimore Comic Con.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baltimore Comic Con, Day Two

I arrived here roughly the same time as yesterday - - and just like then the line to get in was stretched outside and down a full block already.
I passed on the opening 11 a.m. presentation choices, so this gave me an hour to mill about the show, checking out the special buys on trades, etc. and meeting an assortment of artists and writers. I knew that once I started attending the presentations that I would probably remain in the upstairs conference room following one session after another from 12 noon until almost show close. In preparation for that I ate a large breakfast, and subsided all day on a few dixie cups of water and a small pack of peanuts.
One of the highlights of Day Two was meeting Sergio Aragones and hearing him relate his beginnings in the comics buisness. He is a very natural and easy going speaker with great recall, entertaining and amusing at the same time. I'm planning a longer write-up of his session for this site.
My earlier plans were adjusted, as I opted out of viewing the Costume Contest at 1 p.m. and instead attend the Comics Rewind: The 1980's session moderated by Mark Waid. They didn't cover the core books of the 1980's as I thought they might, and instead swapped stories about the work enviroment then. However, it was still fascinating - - especially seeing this stellar gathering at one panel: Walt Simonson, Louise Simonson, Tim Truman, Marv Wolfman, Matt Wagner, and John Workman along with Mark Waid.
Another highlight of the day was hearing artist Dean Haspiel and colorist Jose Villarrubia talk about their role in the upcoming CUBA: MY REVOLUTION, an incredibly powerful biographical work coming out in September. I'm reading it for the second time and finding even more things to admire. Look for a longer piece about this from me soon.
The 4 p.m. session I attended promised A CAGED EVENT - - PAUL POPE VS. BOB SCHRECK, which never got to that level. There was more mutual admiration occuring, but both participants did spend a good amount of time explaining the creative process as it applies to them, and some insights into their styles.
Another trip through the vendor/exhibit area for me resulted in a few more bargains found, and I left Baltimore Comic Con 2010 with a smile on my face.
Apparently I was the sole representative of the BC Refugees. I didn't see anyone else, although it's a huge show and quite possible to miss each other.

Comics I Read: Daredevil & Shadowland

Daredevil 502-507: In these compelling pre-Shadowland issues (just collected in the "Devil's Hand" TPB), Andy Diggle takes Bendis' and Brubaker's Matt Murdock to his logical next step in self-destruction. Unable to stop his old friends from being manipulated by Wilson Fisk, Matt throws himself completely into the task of making the Hand a force for Justice in Hell's Kitchen. He makes some very questionable choices, not the least of which is commissioning Shadowland to be built on the site that Bullseye blew up, but at this point he's still recognizably Matt. His Japan trip in #505-507 shows that Matt is being manipulated by the Hand's elders (which he knows) and betrayed from within his inner circle (which he doesn't.)

Shadowland 1: This is my only real issue with Shadowland so far: At the end of DD #507, Matt has gone down a dark path, but he's still recognizably himself. Here, in the next issue following that, he's in a dark version of his costume -- wonderfully drawn by Billy Tan -- and doesn't seem to have any compassion or inner struggle at all. Even the recap page says "Matt Murdock dared evil and lost", which didn't seem like a foregone conclusion to me at the end of #507. However, I do love Bullseye's escape from the helicopter, and I don't even mind what Matt does to him at the end of the issue -- as I said, I think it's the logical result of everything he's been through -- I just think he should have been damned afterwards, not before.

Daredevil 508: I thought we'd get more insight into Matt's heart and mind in his own book, but he's completely obtuse here except for a moment that's open to interpretation -- is it a possession of some sort, or is it possible that this isn't Matt at all? Diggle's clearly made a deliberate choice to isolate Matt from the reader in the same way he's isolated from the supporting cast. It's a bold choice in a book that's, at least in recent memory, been all about Matt's morality and his choices. It works because it forces us to sympathize with Foggy and Dakota (not to mention the surprise guest star on the last page), who are on the outside just like us.

Shadowland 2: There's some really nice character work in the first few pages, where Danny Rand and Luke Cage try to justify Matt's actions at the end of #1 and when they can't even when they can't they try to mitigate it. "You could tell he was...ashamed. He knew he done wrong", Luke says, but that's not really shown in #1 so is it true or is he just rationalizing? It's also nice to see what appears to be a little genuine frustration from Matt: "They made Bullseye an Avenger! They spat on everything we ever fought for! And now I'm the bad guy?" But then when Shadowland's prison level is invaded, he goes completely off the rails and attacks his old allies.

Daredevil 509: The Izo/Elekra scenes are terrific. Izo's theory is that Matt was acting of his own accord until he became a killer, and then he was lost to the Hand. But as I said before, to me it seems that he was lost before that action. When they get back to New York we'll find out whether that's an inconsistency or a deliberate plot point, I guess. Meanwhile, parallel to the events of Shadowland #2, Matt gets a new ally (from "Avengers: The Initiative", though you don't need to know that) and we further feel Dakota and Foggy's alienation as they're forced into hiding after being attacked while trying to see Matt. (Foggy: "You can't believe it was Matt." Dakota: "He built a castle in the middle of Hell's Kitchen, Foggy. Personally, I don't know what to believe anymore.")

Shadowland: Blood on the Streets 1: For some unknown reason, I've been a fan of The Shroud since his "Super-Villain Team-Up" days so it's fun for me to see him headline a book for the first time in years (decades  maybe?) He crosses paths with Misty Knight because of a mutual case, and she's our gateway into how the NYPD is dealing with what's going on in Hell's Kitchen. There's also a subplot with Silver Sable, but I liked that writer Anthony Johnston remembered that she's foreign (but not Russian). Art is by Rellington Alves, who I've never heard of, but he's good especially on the splash page and the full-page reveal on the last page. It's a little early to tell how interesting this is going to be when all the threads come together, but so far so good.

Shadowland: Bullseye: Sort of a one-shot "Frontline" or "Embedded" where Ben Urich is (literally) forced to cover -- spoiler alert -- Bullseye's funeral. I can't talk about it too much without giving away all the twists and turns, but John Layman ("Chew") and Sean Chen did a great job and I recommend this.

Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow 1: Part of the fun of these spinoffs is to see some great street level characters shine who couldn't normally sustain their own book. Case in point: Misty Knight's former partner Colleen Wing. What I like about this is that she's the first character we've seen so far who might actually join Matt instead of fight him. The lesson of the success of Norman Osborn as a character in "Dark Reign" is that he had a point, and while Matt's point is less defensible (and he's arguably less crazy) there's still enough to cling to that it's believable that Colleen would seriously consider helping him. I'm not a huge fan of the cover, but the interior art is good.

Shadowland: Moon Knight 1: Basically a continuation of "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" by the same writer, exploring his remaining identities and his connection with Khonshu. Hurwitz brings you up to speed fast, however, and the flashback scenes of MK's childhood will be enjoyable to both current fans and fans of the original Moench/Sienkiewicz series. So far, however, it's unclear how this story matches up with his undercover appearance in Shadowland #1.

Shadowland: Power Man 1: I thought the new Power Man was one of Danny Rand's students from the backup stories in "Immortal Weapons" (which I haven't finished yet), but he denies that in the story here. Still, he is somehow connected to Iron Fist, and I think the dynamic that Fred Van Lente sets up with the new kid's family rings very true to life. There's minimal contact between Luke, Danny and the new Power Man in this issue but the ending is killer and I look forward to more.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baltimore Comic Con, Day One

Whew! I'm beat. It's been a long and eventful day. I need to save some energy for Day Two tomorrow. If you've got the time to get here and you've been sitting on the fence trying to decide to come or not, make the decision to show up tomorrow. I don't think you'll regret it.
I don't have the time, resources, or expenses to travel to several comics conventions every year - - so I'm glad that the Baltimore Comics Convention is so accessible and features so many guest artists and writers, exhibitors, and special informative presentations. I also don't have any other conventions to refer to or compare it to, but it rates highly in my opinion as as a very well organized and planned event. The attendance confirms that. Day One was jam packed with participants. When I arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center shortly before 10 a.m. the line waiting for the doors to open stretched out of the building and one block down a side street.
Once I got inside the exhibit hall there was one hour for exploration before the programs began. I took a long walk along the outside perimeter of the hall and made mental notes for places to return to later. There are approximately 112 retailers and exhibitors with booths, and the adjacent artists alley includes 86 organizations and/or creators. You could spend all day in here going from spot to spot.
But that wasn't my plan. The presentations looked interesting, so I headed upstairs to the conference rooms beginning at 11 a.m. and stayed for three consecutive one-hour programs before heading to the streets at 2 p.m. in search of a lunch spot.
I heard an overview of the prior year's events at ComiXology and what they see ahead for digital comics,providing applications for both retailers, publishers, and consumers and hoping to partner with smaller companies and independent artists in the future.
The immediately like-able and friendly Mark Waid gave a preview of upcoming events in the IRREDEEMABLE and INCORRUPTIBLE series, and spoke at length about his partnership with Stan Lee in creating some new super-hero titles at BOOM!.
THOR creators, both old and new, shared the spotlight for a Question and Answer session on all things THOR, including the upcoming movie. Walt Simonson made the biggest impression on me, full of enthusiasm and many stories. I think some of the other panelists were a bit in awe and allowed him to dominate the proceedings.
Mike Allred the person is as interesting and quirky as his creations. Even his style of relating his personal background in the field becomes an adventure as he tells it. I really enjoyed his presentation, and now want to look up more of his work - - including the new iZombie series. iZombie writer Chris Roberson was the host of this panel and asked all the right questions (as he has come to know Mike very well).
The last panel I attended was a lively q & a with IDW Editor Bob Schreck and four creators. They managed to fill the hour in spite of a failing av system that wasn't geared up to show their visual presentation.
This left me with an hour to head back into the exhibit hall before the doors closed at 6 p.m. After speaking with some friends/acquaintances I killed some time at a retailers 25 cent book closeout and picked up some good secondary reading on the cheap.
I passed on the Harvey Awards banquet. I considered trying to pick up a ticket but the combination of dinner plus awards presentation seemed too daunting to me, since I'd just spent most of the day sitting. I need to keep those back muscles loose and flexible for more extended sitting tomorrow.
Just before departing Baltimore, I made a side trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum of popular culture. It's quite the collection and brought back some warm memories (and regrets for books I no longer possess.)
There's more great information and sites I'd love to write about on this site, enough for several extended articles on the presentations I saw. Hopefully, I can find the time to post again in the next several weeks.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A tour of my favorite comics store

Most of you have heard me talk about it; and more of you have read my writings about it and seen some pictures here during FCBD.
But now, thanks to indie comics creator Ryan Claytor, you can take a tour of my favorite comic book shop - - - Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware.

Check it out.

Maybe this will prompt you to visit and see what I'm excited about.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Comics I Read: Hulk(s)

Now that Jeph Loeb's Red Hulk epic is concluded as of Hulk #24, it's time to go back and look at the stories that have come out since "Fall of the Hulks" Alpha and Gamma. I'm not going to name the Red Hulk's real identity here because the collection with that story hasn't come out yet, but beware: Marvel's not being coy about that identity anymore so if you read any solicitations or interviews with Hulk creators you're liable to get spoiled before you read the actual story.

Hulk 19-24: Jeph Loeb's more sophisticated storytelling that I liked in #18 continues here, as the Intelligencia tries to capture the eight smartest people in the world and hook them up to a machine that long-time FF fans will recognize. This gives Ed McGuinness a chance to draw the FF, Black Panther, the X-Men and the Avengers, including their "Hulked out" versions at the end of #21. Since "Fall of the Hulks Gamma" Banner and the Red Hulk are working together, and if I had changed my Red Hulk guess like my instinct told me to when that happened I would have been right. Unfortunately I was stubborn so I can't say "I told you so". #23 is the big Red Hulk reveal (actually it's the last page of #22), and since the story spans the Hulk's history (that's a clue) Loeb recruited 10 former Hulk artists for a double-sized issue including Sal Buscema's first pencils in years. That issue alone is worth your time even if you're not interested in the rest of the saga. I don't want to give much away about the big Green Hulk/Red Hulk confrontation in #24 but I thought it was resolved really well. Rereading these issues knowing the Red Hulk's identity is a different experience, so kudos to Loeb for crafting a story that holds up to scrutiny.

Incredible Hulk 606-611: Whew, these issues are so dense that they resist any kind of summarizing. Suffice it to say that the Intelligencia and Banner's intricate plans are both in their endgame, and Greg Pak does a terrific job portraying Banner as a master manipulator. ("...if any of you knew all the different angles I'm playing, you'd never trust me again.") I especially loved how Banner manipulates the Avengers into helping him "rescue" Betty by playing on their guilt about their lost loves. Paul Pelletier also outdoes himself, making the story with dozens of characters and emotions dynamic yet easy to follow. The Red She-Hulk backups in #606-609 tell some of her story before her first appearance during the Red Hulk/Wolverine fight, and in retrospect I see some clues to her identity (though they may be subtle enough that they're only obvious after you know the answer.) The fantasy sequence in #609 is well done, ending in the surprise reveal of the Red She-Hulk's identity. Her origin and a long-time character's sacrifice are featured in #610. The big Skaar/Hulk confrontation in #611 has been building for years. Sometimes it's inevitable that nothing can live up to the pent-up expectations, but I'm thrilled to say that's not the case here. It's brilliant and moving. I'm not sure what to make of the "Son of Hulk" backups: at one point it was supposed to be unclear whether he was delusional or whether he really was related to the Hulk but now everyone in the story seems to accept it as fact. (Hiro-Kala also stars in the "Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk" mini, which old-time Hulk and Micronauts fans will enjoy.)

Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk 1-4: Jeff Parker gets the thankless task of weaving a story from the various (at the time) unexplained backgrounds of the second tier players, but he manages to do it in an emotional and entertaining way. #1 details the background of the Cosmic Hulk robot and reveals some creepy details about how MODOK maintains his misshapen body. #2 is about Thundra and her daughter (and the Hulks) Lyra, which is especially tricky because of the time travel involved, but it shows Lyra's motive for joining in the attack on the FF in Hulk #19. There's also a huge clue to the Red Hulk's identity in #2, which I should have caught the first time around. #3, my favorite of the series, is about Rick Jones' transformation into A-Bomb and his relationship with Banner all the way back to the original Hulk #1 as well as the reason for the Abomination's murder in (Red) Hulk #1. #4 is my least favorite, but I can't go into detail without spoiling the twist at the end.

Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks 1-3: Another intricately plotted  mini from Jeff Parker, this time revealing who confronted Lyra at the end of Incredible Hulk #605, as well as what the missing Jen Walters has been up from the time of her disappearance to the beginning of World War Hulks. There's also some key evolution in the Red She-Hulks character, but no more clues to her identity. I don't like this as much as the "Red Hulk" mini, and I don't think the art style matches the rest of the books in the line well, but this is pretty good and as a $14.99 trade with the Incredible Hulk #600-605 backups included it's a decent value.

Hulked Out Heroes 1-2: Created to fill a publishing break between the end of "Fall of the Hulks" and the beginning of "World War Hulks", Jeff Parker and Humberto Ramos' story of Hulked-out Deadpol (a.k.a. "Hulkpool") travelling through time is of no consequence to the main arc. Skip it, unless you're a die-hard Deadpool fan.

World War Hulks: Captain America vs. Wolverine 1-2: Even though this seems pretty similar to the "Hulked Out Heroes" concept at first, I liked this a lot better because writer Paul Tobin decided that Wolverine's healing factor makes him more self aware than the other Hulks. This lets him narrate the story, with some good insights about the Hulk's behavior, as well as tell us a good flashback story about Logan and the Winter Soldier. (I don't understand how Cap's bionic arm got Hulked up with the rest of him, but probably best not to think about it too hard.) The Thing/Monica Rambeau fight in the first issue's backup is forgettable, and I can't tell if the dialogue in the Thing/Torch story is supposed to be taken straight or dryly humorous. If it's dry humor, it's hysterical. (Sue: "Reed. Our children are not for experimenting." Reed: "Of course not. One would act as a control.")

World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor 1-2: Another surprisingly good side story. Similar to the above, Kieron Gillen's take on the heroes seems to be that the Hulk process has brought out their essential inner character (as well as the desire to smash, of course.) Thor wants to "save everything" (Thor: "Thor noble like that") and Spider-Man, punctuated by memories of Uncle Ben, just wants to be left alone to study the natural history museum (Spidey: "Am genius, you know? Just not good at applying it"). There are also some great Loki/Thor/Odin flashbacks -- compare them to Peter and Uncle Ben's relationship -- and a nice bit with the hammer in #2. The Cyclops/Iceman backups by Chris Eliopoulos also are great at contrasting their personalities, flashing back to early X-Men days.

World War Hulks 1: This is an anthology with stories of A-Bomb, Glenn Talbot, the Cosmic Hulk robot (!), Samson, Red She-Hulk and Deadpool (!!). My favorites were the A-Bomb story that light-heartedly deals with Rick and Marlo's relationship and Captain America's flashback to the time the Winter Soldier met Glenn Talbot (is there anyone he didn't meet?), and the Red She-Hulk story that follows up on the scene where she appeared to kill Jen Walters.

Overall, though I had some complaints early on, this whole "Red Hulk" saga turned out to be another successful Marvel long-form story and good show to Jeph Loeb for building on Greg Pak's "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" and leaving the next team a lot of interesting characters to work with.

Baltimore Comics Con: Planning Ahead

Thanks to the Baltimore Comics Con publicity machine I’ve got an advance look at the programs and presentations for the 2010 Baltimore Comics Con which begins this Saturday, August 28th.
con logo

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Golden Age Reprint of the Week: Superboy

Last month I posted admiring the Michael Cho cover to the 1940's Adventures of Superboy collection, and now that I've had a chance to read the actual book I found it to be kind of a revelation. I knew that Jerry Siegel had created the character, a matter of some legal dispute, but I didn't know that Joe Shuster had penciled so many of his early adventures. The first 100+ pages of this collection are all drawn by Shuster, and what a joy it is to see this vibrant work of his that I never knew existed. Unfortunately Siegel was in the military when these stories were written, so his contribution here is only the 8-page origin of Superboy that opens the book. (Which is pretty much word-for-word identical to Superman's origin story, by the way -- I wonder what that means to his legal claim?)

Everyone's familiar with the Silver Age Superboy, who's a highschool-age teen living in Smallville with Ma & Pa Kent, working on the farm (later the general store), going to Smallville high with his friends Lana Lang and Pete Ross, and playing with his super-dog Krypto. These Golden Age Superboy stories are nothing like that! Instead, he's a much younger kid of around 10 -- they don't pin it down but I'd put him at the same age as the original Robin -- as you can see on the Shuster cover at right. The Kents only appear in a couple of panels in the whole book, and Clark doesn't even wear glasses for the first 50 pages!

The stories are formulaic, but fun, mostly consisting of Clark and his gang of (mostly unnamed) boyhood pals doing 1945-era 10 year-old boy stuff like sailing a raft down the river or exploring the woods alone -- basically anything that today would trigger a call to Child Protective Services -- and stumbling across gangs of crooks that Clark has to change to Superboy (usually faking his own death) and rescue them from. There are also a few stories where he helps with kid stuff, like building soap box derby cars for poor kids, and even a couple that remind me of the social commentary of the early Superman stories. In one, Clark's birthday is the same day as one of the neighborhood girls and they plan to have their parties together, until her father is falsely accused of a crime. Even though he is almost immediately exonerated, the neighborhood gossips warn all the kids to stay away from her until Superboy flies the Metropolis DA to his street to apologize in person. Mostly they're more adventure stories than preachy, though bizarrely there's a traffic safety parable featuring one of Clark's contemporaries. Did kids really drive that young in 1945? Some of the later stories draw Superboy into them with the clever gimmick of a Daily Planet reporter who's been assigned to interview him. (Not Perry White, although he does appear as a 21 year-old in one of the last stories in this volume.)

Most Golden Age stories are pretty dopey and these are no exception, but they're very readable and I found them to be lively and engaging despite the simple plots and I enjoyed the novelty of a Superboy I'd never seen before. The stories are too similar to read all in one sitting, but I had lots of fun reading a few at a time. The book is printed on the same kind of newsprint stock as the Kirby Sandman and Atomic Knights collections, but the colors here are much more vibrant than in those volumes and the art (especially Shuster's) just jumps off the page. I really thought this was going to be one of those Golden Age books that I bought just to have the material but didn't really enjoy, and I couldn't have been more wrong.

John Arcudi article link... (and I assume the Sunday Inquirer) had an article today about acclaimed Wildstorm writer John Arcudi, who lives in Philadelphia now.

Rage against the superhero

I knew he co-created "The Mask" and did a Hellboy run, but hadn't heard of his last graphic novel. Evidently it's getting great reviews for those who haven't seen/heard of it. Any reviews?

Edited by Jeff to add: I can't get the pages to enlarge in my browser, but FYI I'm told that the graphic novel pages linked from the article are not safe for work or kids.

Edited again to add: Bleeding Cool wrote about the "graphic" pages here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Comics I Read: Siege

Time to discuss the Avengers titles, up to and including "Siege". As with "New Krypton", I think it would be boring to be evasive about the ending, and the hardcovers are out now. For those of you waiting for the trades, I'll continue after the jump so that nobody visiting the home page is accidentally spoiled.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

I was eventually planning to write about "Thor: The Mighty Avenger", Marvel's delightful new all-ages reimagining of Thor, but NPR's Glen Weldon has beaten me to it here. I like "classic" Thor more then Weldon, but he does a great job explaining the charm of the new series. Basically, if reading a completely different version of Thor won't make your head explode you should be buying this book.

(Thanks to artist Chris Samnee's web site for the article link and the above cover to issue #6.)

Edited to add: Preview art for #4 -- featuring Captain Britain, which makes me very happy -- is at CBR's Robot 6 blog here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Five Guns Are Not Enough . . . . . . . .

                                                   ALONG THE WESTERN TRAIL, PART TWO

THE SIXTH GUN  #1 – 2  (ONI Press, Inc)  Written by Cullen Bunn.  Illustrated & Lettered By Brian Hurtt  (both issues released July 2010)

I’ve said this before in my May review of the Free Comic Book Day Edition of THE SIXTH GUN (same contents as Issue #1):  “This has the potential to be a rip-roaring supernatural western equal to the best of Lansdale and Truman’s classic Jonah Hex mini-series.”   If you’re a fan of those books or weird westerns in general you will appreciate THE SIXTH GUN. 

6th Gun #1      6th Gun #2

       Issue #2 doesn’t disappoint in any way.  The issue centers around events in the classic saloon / hotel/ burlesque   “Silver Palace” and ends up with the place nearly being ripped apart.  Writer Cullen Bunn populates his tale with a goodly number of colorful characters, every one with an interesting and authentic Western-style name.   Speaking of colors,  I’m very happy that Oni Press is now publishing more titles in full color. THE  SIXTH GUN has the richest look I’ve seen on any of their books.  The colors are ideal and well-suited to the narrow panel style that recall the work of Will Eisner.  (That’s the second time I’ve been reminded of Eisner while admiring Brian Hurtt’s art in this book).

       One of the more interesting new characters in Issue #2 is Billjohn O’Henry,  a hefty, bearded cigar-smoker described as “bounty hunter, horse thief, gunfighter . . . and card sharp, among other things.”   Billjohn comes to play a major role in the outcome of the chaos soon to erupt in the Silver Palace.    We also meet the demonic-like  General Oilander Bedford Hume, newly risen from his grave and full of piss and vinegar as he swears to destroy any who stand in the way of his re-uniting with his spiritual pistol, the Sixth Gun.   Pity poor Becky (Montcrief?), the current possessor of the gun – now miraculously bonded to her after she made a poor decision and touched it while trying to hide it from the hired minions of Hume.  She’s now bound and captive in the basement of the Silver Palace, held there by Hume’s widow.  The widow Hume just may be one of the undead as well, as investigator Drake Sinclair comes to learn.  What is his link to Hume and his cadre of spooky ghost-riders?    The Pinkerton Agency also makes an appearance. Everybody engages in a huge gunfight at the saloon, including  a huge contingent of zombies.  Silas “Bitter Ridge” Hedgepeth has the unusual ability to call into his service all of his former victims, murdered or shot down in gunfights.

I’ll be back for Issue #3.  You just can’t find westerns like this that easily. 

Science Fiction: “TAKE ME TO YOUR READER . . . . .”

                                          Science Fiction In Comics, Part One

William F. Nolan’s LOGAN’S RUN LAST DAY #3  (Bluewater Comics)  Paul J. Salamoff writer;  Daniel Gete penciler; Joseph Baker colorist.

          The saga of Logan continues to run and keeps impressing me with its fresh take on a familiar story.  I’m ready to forgive Bluewater Comics for the long wait between issues,  and hope that other readers are remaining patient.    There have only been three issues released in 2010 (the last, dated March 2010, didn’t hit comic stores until July) but it remains one of the better science fiction titles currently available in what might just be the tip of the renaissance iceberg for more pure science fiction appearing in comics.  If you are not willing to wait so long between issues, I did see on Bluewater’s web site that they announced plans to publish the first story arc (which ends after six issues) in a trade edition.  I’m not sure exactly when that might become available, since Issue #6 was originally slated for July 2010 release.

          Issue #3 has so much going for it - - - art , colors, story.  Let’s begin with the art . . . . . .  

          Daniel Gete puts some of the best facial expressions into his art.  They really help to convey what the characters are thinking as they react to various situations and events.  He also has a marvelous method of conveying the vast scale and depth of Logan’s futuristic world without resorting to full or half-page panels. Rather, his panels are small but appear wide-screen and panoramic at the same time.  It’s similar to turning I-Phone sideways to watch a wide-screen movie  - - the images are much smaller but you can understand and still visualize the scale.


     Gete’s work continues to mature and improve, and it’s a delight to watch it develop in this title.  I see less Perez influence and more of Gulacy’s and Steranko’s stylings in this issue.   I’m reminded of those two classic illustrators in the way Gete uses the size of the panels for scale.  As far as the facial features are concerned, it’s here where Gete moves beyond their styles and starts to blaze his own trail.

   The return of colorist Joseph Baker this issues reminds me of why I missed his work in Issue #2.  He makes such a difference to the art. This book is so cool just to look at.  Baker’s use of  vivid, clean colors highlights and draws more attention to the art; and his use of shadows and shading on faces and anatomy is extremely effective.

          That brings us to the story.  Paul Salamoff continues to hold back from revealing Logan’s exact emotions and intentions, but lets a little more escape from his cold and calculating (sometimes aloof) demeanor this time.  It’s a turning point for Logan as he seems to  question his direction and mission and lets that internal conflict manifest in some extreme fashion this issue.

     But it’s Jessica who appears to have the largest change of heart this issue.  A casual reader new to this book and reading Issue #3 only might come to the conclusion that she is the central character  (in spite of the title).  Issue #3 begins with her expressing mistrust and apprehension regarding Logan, continues with her questioning his direction and motives, and ends with her acceptance of Logan as a partner and confidant on their escape path.   If there is a central theme to Issue #3, it seems to be about trust.  In very telling fashion, the issue begins with Jessica rejecting an extended helping hand from Logan on page 1, and ends the last page with Jessica extending a helping hand to Logan.   Logan:  “You could have let me die.”   Jessica: “I’ve seen enough death for today. . . . . . It looks like you’re in it for the long run now.” 

       I don’t want to spoil the storyline, so here’s a quick preview of what to look forward to in Issue #3:   Logan betrays his intentions and blows his cover in a careless response to Jessica, as she corrects him.  The seemingly emotionless Logan explodes with violent consequences for a pack of outlaw “cubs” and later with his own Deep Sleep enforcers.   There are some great dialogue exchanges between Logan and Jessica where he causes her to question her own logic and principles and she does the same to him.   There’s a very telling exchange of glances between a DS agent and the little waif who helps Logan and Jessica board the speed train to the next station of Sanctuary.  Logan saves Jessica.  Jessica saves Logan.  A new character is briefly introduced who seems to be a nice combination of WWF King Kong Bundy and Rondo Hatton. 

Very good stuff here.  Get it or regret it.


THE RISING  #0  Radical Premiere $1.00  (Radical Comics)  E. Max Frye, Creator and Writer; J. P. Targete, Artist

          There is a such a consistency and quality to the entire Radical line that you can pick up almost any of their special preview #0 books and not be disappointed for your $1.00 cover price.    They feature good writing and art with amazing inks and colors that give every one of their books a just-painted look.   The storylines all take place outside the superhero realm  and focus on other pop culture genres - -  western, science fiction, fantasy, crime, horror, etc.   It’s as if they already realized that it’s tough to beat Marvel and DC at their own game - - so why not offer something different and stay with it?


      I couldn’t figure out the entire storyline from the 16-page preview of THE RISING  but I can discern enough to whet my appetite for the first issue when it debuts (not scheduled to occur until Winter 2011).  The beginning of the issue features some soldiers with high-tech gear bogged down in a swamp as they await the amphibian-like alien enemy to come out of concealment and commence the battle.   There’s just a smattering of dialogue and plenty of gorgeous art as the squad captain rescues an injured comrade only to get fried and left for dead by an lightening-like ray from hovering enemy aircraft.   After page 6, there follows 8.5 pages of caption and dialogue free art, leaving the illustration to continue the story of how this  soldier is revived and later joins a tribe of Amazonian people.   He later is captured by the aliens.

        You would think you were viewing storyboards for a movie; and no wonder when you consider who the creators are   - - - E. Max Frye, a screenwriter who most recently worked on HBO’s Band Of Brothers series; and J. P. Targete , a Pixar illustrator who’s presently working on their adaptation of John Carter Of Mars).

          The aliens are apparently ruling the Earth now, with the cooperation of the female President Of The United States and other former world governments.  It seems the brother (Cyrus Jakes) of the captured captain (we don’t learn his name in this preview) has also become a willing ally of the aliens.  He does nothing to interfere with their plans for his brother, which include a trial in front of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission and subsequent assignment to a FEMA labor camp.

    The aliens provide a man of faith to visit the camp, but it’s not for spiritual support or guidance.  The reverend breaks out into profanity as he reveals his true purpose - - to break their spirit and crush their hope.   In an intentionally ironic outcome, a prisoner is permitted to prove his faith and gain freedom by beating “Darwin at his own game.”   Darwin turns out to be a behemoth mutated gladiator and the game is a bloody fight to the death.

     Yeah, you might say a lot goes down in 16 pages. The full 56-page first issue and the entire 3 issue series should contain a lot more to keep my interest.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Harvey nominations (Part Two): the rest of the categories

Portions of this article were taken from a Baltimore Comics Con press release.

For more information on Harvey Kurtzman, the Harvey Awards, and the list of last year’s nominees and winners , go to

For more information about the Baltimore Comic-Con, go to   Banquet ticket information is also available there.  Mark Waid has recently been added to the list as guest speaker.  Scott Kurtz is Master of Ceremonies.


Continuing the list of nominees from Part One:


Kevin Cannon, ‘FAR ARDEN”, Top Shelf

Rob Guillory, “CHEW”, Image Comics

Reinhard Kleist, “JOHNNY CASH: I SEE A DARKNESS”, Abrams ComicArts

Nathan Schreiber, “ACT-I-VATE:  POWER OUT”,


I’m only familiar with Rob Guillory here but I suspect he’d be getting my vote anyway.  CHEW is just one of the most original and creative titles I have had the pleasure to read. It amuses and entertains on many levels.



“CHEW”,  Image Comics


“SWEET TOOTH”, Vertigo/DC Comics

“UNWRITTEN”, Vertigo/DC Comics

I’ve read all five of the nominated series here (some more than others), which makes me feel a little better about my credentials.  This is another hard choice.  I think UNWRITTEN is by far the most creative and engaging of the bunch.  It demands you pay attention. If you don’t you’ll miss the fun of trying to figure out everything else going on behind the surface storyline.


BEASTS OF BURDEN”, Dark Horse comics

“DIARY OF A WIMPY KID”, Amulet Books

“GANGES”,  Fantagraphics Books

“INVINCIBLE”, Image Comics

“SCALPED”, Vertigo/DC Comics

“THE WALKING DEAD”, Image Comics

I’m at the 50% level here. I haven’t read any of the first three series.  INVINCIBLE is very popular but just hasn’t caught on with me.  SCALPED is a great crime series and can be very complex with psychological undertones.  However, I tip my hat to THE WALKING DEAD   - - many volumes more than SCALPED and in spite of being grouped in with the endless and wearing-thin  zombie genre it continues to surprise.  You worry about these characters, thanks to the skills of Kirkman.




“GROWN-UPS ARE DUMB”, Hyperion Books



“3 –2-3 DETECTIVE AGENCY”, Amulet Books

I’m shamed to admit that I (an advocate for quality books for younger readers) only know of one of these titles.  More homework for me.  But the one I know is a real keeper - - THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK which I suspect would be getting my vote anyway.



“FLIGHT #6”, Villard

“POPGUN #3”,  Image Comics

“STRANGE TALES”,  Marvel Comics


More embarrassment for me as I’ve only seen WEDNESDAY COMICS, which gets my nod.  It was simply a great idea to create a tribute to the late lamented big Sunday comics sections with serialized adventures stories.  Very well done and true to scale.  Art and story were very good, considering the naturally choppy nature of this medium.


“ASTERIOS POLYP”, by David Mazucchelli, Pantheon

“BOOK OF GENESIS”, by Robert Crumb, W.W. Norton

“GEORGE SPROTT (1894-1975)”, by Seth, Drawn and Quarterly

“FOOTNOTES IN GAZA”, by Joe Sacco, Metropolitan Books

“STITCHES”, by David Small, W. W. Norton


ASTERIOS POLYP should get the win.  It is the best work I have seen from Mazucchelli.  There is a scheme to everything on every page - - the dialogue, the art, the inks and colors, the font size used, the panel layout and shapes  - - it all contributes to the story-telling. An amazing accomplishment.  Am I being fair to the other nominees by singling out this work?  I honestly don’t know.  I like Robert Crumb, but I haven’t seen BOOK OF GENESIS.  I’m clueless about the others.


A.D.: NEW ORLEANS AFTER THE DELUGE, “ by Josh Neufeld, Pantheon

“COLLECTED ESSEX COUNTY”, by Jeff Lemire, Top Shelf

“GRAVESLINGER”, by Shannon Denton, Jeff Mariotte, John Cboins & Nina Sorat, IDW

“MASTERPIECE COMICS”, by R. Sikoryak, Drawn and Quarterly

“MICE TEMPLAR VOLUME 1”, by Bryan J. L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming,  Image Comics

I regret that I was unaware of the NEW ORLEANS book.  I’m sure that the comics medium is a great medium to depict and express the anguish, sorrow and devastation that rained down on New Orleans.  Sorry I missed that one. MASTERPIECE COMICS  is a great idea, and I greatly admired the package.  The price tag and my budget were the only things that prevented me from picking this up.  But I wholeheartedly recommend COLLECTED ESSEX COUNTY to all.  This is a great example of the skills of Jeff Lemire, his ability to tell so much with so little in both story and art.  He’s exceptionally good maximizing the potential in his style.


“CUL-DE-SAC”, by Richard Thompson, Universal Press Syndicate

“FOXTROT” by Bill Amend, Universal Press Syndicate

“GET FUZZY”, by Darby Conley, United Feature Syndicate

“MUTTS’ by Patrick McDonnell, King Features Syndicate

“PEARLS BEFORE SWINE’, by Stephan Pastis, United Feature Syndicate

If newspaper comics were more like WEDNESDAY COMICS I would read them every day.  I stopped checking the comics section of the newspaper years ago - - mainly from boredom.  I do admit to having a soft spot for MUTTS.  Whenever I’ve bothered to check it out it didn’t disappoint.



“THE BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY”, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, edited by Steve Saffel, Titan Books

“HUMBUG”, conceived and edited by Harvey Kurtzman and created by Harvey Kurtz man, Jack Davis, Will Elder, Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth; edited by Gary Groth, Fantagraphics Books

“RIP KIRBY”, by Alex Raymond; edited by Dean Mullaney, IDW

“THE ROCKETEER: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES”, by Dave Stevens; edited by Scott Dunbier, IDW

“THE TOON TREASURY OF CLASSIC CHILDREN’S COMICS”, edited by Art Spiegel man and Francoise Mouly, Abrams ComicArt

I’d probably be voting for Simon and Kirby, Dave Stevens or Alex Raymond if there wasn’t any Kurtzman work among the nominees.  But there is.  Give a Harvey to Harvey.  Just look at the company he is keeping - - a list of early MAD magazine greats.  This is a no-brainer.


“THE ART OF OSAMU TEZUKA: GOD OF MANGA”, by Helen McCarthy, Abrams ComicArts

“MANGA KAMISHIBAI”, by Eric P. Nash, Abrams ComicArts

“THE PHOTOGRAPHER”, by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier LeFevre and Frederic Lemercier, First Second

“PLUTO: URAWAWA X TEZUKA”, by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, Viz Media

”20TH CENTURY BOYS”, by Naoki Urasawa, Viz Media

I better sit this one out.  I just don’t know. I must admit that the title GOD OF MANGA is a bit intimidating.  Makes you want to vote for that out of fear of incurring some wrath.


“HARK! A VAGRANT”, by Kate Beaton,

“HIGH MOON”, by Steve Ellis, David Gallaher and Scott O. Brown,

“POWER OUT”, by Nathan Schreiber,

“PVP”, by Scott Kurtz,

“SIN TITULO”, by Cameron Stewart,

I prefer my comics in-hand versus on-line.  But I’m making notes here and will most likely check out all of these at some point.  HIGH MOON gets a lot of favorable comments in the fan press and PVP is consistently popular as well.


Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, “BEASTS OF BURDEN”, Dark Horse Books

Jeff Kinney, “DIARY OF A WIMPY KID #3: THE LAST STRAW”, Amulet Books

Roger Landridge, “THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK”, BOOM! Studios

Bryan Lee O’Malley, “SCOTT PILGRIM #5’, Oni Press


I recently read a SCOTT PILGRIM book for the first time and was somewhat impressed, but it didn’t do for me all the things that THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK does.  Such a delightful read for any age group.


“ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN: THE MAD GENIUS OF COMICS”, by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, Abrams ComicArts

“THE BRINKLEY GIRLS: THE BEST OF NELL BRINKLEY’S CARTOONS FROM 1913 –1940”, edited by Trina Robbins, Fantagraphic Books

“GEORGE SPROTT (1894-1975)”, by Seth, Drawn and Quarterly

“THE ROCKETEER: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES” by Dave Stevens, edited by Scott Dunbier, IDW


“WEDNESDAY COMICS”, edited by Mark Chiarello, DC Comics

Good choices all, but another no-brainer for me.  I’m MAD for the KURTZMAN book!”


“ALTER-EGO”, edited by Roy Thomas, TwoMorrows

“ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN: THE MAD GENIUS OF COMICS’, by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, Abrams ComicArts

“THE BEST OF SIMON AND KIRBY”, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; edited by Steve Saffel, Titan Books

“THE COMICS JOURNAL”, edited by Gary Groth, Michael Dean and Kristy Valenti, Fantagraphic Books

“UNDERGROUND CLASSICS”, by James Danky and Denis Kitchen, Abrams ComicArts

C’mon now.  They’re called the HARVEY awards.  Give it to the KURTZMAN book.


“ALEC: THE YEARS HAVE PANTS”, by Eddie Campbell, Top Shelf

“ASTERIOS POLYP”, by David Mazucchelli, Pantheon

“GANGES #3”, by Kevin Huizenga, Fantagraphic Books

“GEORGE SPROTT (1894-1975)”, by Seth, Drawn and Quarterly

“JONAH HEX #50”, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, artwork by Darwyn Cooke, DC Comics



I’m sure there’s some great reading here which I’ll need to pursue.  The only work I read is ASTERIOS POLYP and I feel it will win.  It’s that good!

That completes the list of nominees.  Whew, are my hands tired!  Best of luck to all the nominees. May the best of the best be the winners.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Harvey nominations (Part One): A reviewer is humbled

Portions of this article were taken from an official Baltimore Comic-Con press release.

The 2009 Harvey winners will be announced at a special awards presentation to take place at the Baltimore Comic Con on August 28th.   This is the fifth year that Baltimore Comic Con has hosted the awards banquet and ceremony.  Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry’s most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art. 


           What makes them special and significant is that nominations for Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators - - those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field.  Also, only those professionally involved in a creative capacity within the comics field can vote.  This makes them the only industry award that is both nominated and selected by 100% comics professionals.  Creators vote for their peers. 

          Now it’s going to seem like I’m changing the subject, but the reason will become clear shortly: 

         I’m proud to write for the BC Refugees Blog and was honored by the invitation to participate - - and I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here.  I feel that the quality of review and writing on this site is a step above the average comics blog.  Some of those just seem to be outlets for negative criticism and rants.   The writers here seem to put a lot of thought into their statements and make a conscious effort to alert fellow readers to those books, writers, and artists deserving of more attention.   By association,  I feel my writing has been improved and upgraded by taking a cue from others and doing my best to uphold what I feel is the  unstated and subconscious “mission”  of this comics blog site - - - to draw a little attention to quality work that could potentially be overlooked on the huge menu of monthly books and trade editions.

          Since I’ve become associated with this site, I’ve been reading less but enjoying it more.  Also, I’m reading a wider variety of work scattered across the broad genres of modern day comic books.  My responsibility as a reviewer has also caused me to scrutinize works just a little bit closer and a little bit longer (including second and third readings) . That has resulted in increasing my levels of appreciation for current comics creators.  Comics are better than ever - - and we are enjoying a renaissance of high-quality writing.  I also feel that my knowledge of the field has been enhanced well beyond that of the casual comics reader.

          However, after reviewing the list of nominees for Harvey Awards  I begin to realize how much great work is truly out there - - so much more than I have had an opportunity to explore.  I also realize that I am not as well-informed as previously thought - -  because I don’t recognize the majority of works and creators nominated here.  It’s a humbling experience as I realize that I have so much study ahead of me to even deserve to consider myself well-rounded or knowledgeable of these fine artistic endeavors. 

I humbly present to you the Harvey nominees (with assorted comments by me in italics):


Jason Aaron, “SCALPED”,  Vertigo/DC Comics

Geoff Johns, “BLACKEST NIGHT”, DC Comics

Robert Kirkman,  “THE WALKING DEAD”, Image Comics

Jeff Kinney,  “DIARY OF A WIMPY KID #3:  THE LAST STRAW”, Amulet Books

Mark Waid, “IRREDEEMABLE”,  BOOM! Studios

The only work I am not familiar with here is Kinney’s DIARY OF A WIMPY KID  (also made into a movie).  I hope to remedy that situation by making a list and checking out the local library offerings before hitting the bookstore. (I’m budget-minded by necessity).  Of the other four they are all deserving.  This is a tough choice.  The only work here I’ve read at length is BLACKEST NIGHT.  While I enjoyed it and acknowledge that  it was a monumental task to pull off – it felt like a group effort rather than the sole work of Geoff Johns.  Robert Kirkman is going to get plenty of recognition later this year when THE WALKING DEAD television series debuts on AMC.   I believe Mark Waid has previously been honored. So,   I’m rooting for Jason Aaron here.  His work on SCALPED has been consistently high-caliber.


Robert Crumb, “BOOK OF GENESIS'”, W. W. Norton

Guy Davis, “BRPD; BLACK GODDESS”, Dark Horse Comics


David Petersen, “MOUSE GUARD; WINTER 1152”,  Archaia Studios Press

Frank Quitely, “BATMAN AND ROBIN”,  DC Comics

J. H. Williams III, “DETECTIVE COMICS”,  DC Comics

This appears to be another deserving list.  The choice won’t be easy  for the voters.  However, it’s easy for me simply because I’ve only seen more of the work of the last two nominees, although I’m familiar with the others.   Frank Quitely is consistently good and everything he does is worth checking. But it’s a hands down vote where I’m concerned - - - give it to J H Williams III - - a very innovative and creative artist whose best work is right here, in the transitional issues of DETECTIVE COMICS featuring Batwoman.  That deserves an Absolute Edition.



Jeff Kinney, “DIARY OF A WIMPY KID #3: THE LAST STRAW,”  Amulet Books

Roger Langridge, “THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK”, BOOM! Studios

David Mazzucchelli, “ASTERIOS POLYP”,  Pantheon

Seth, ‘GEORGE SPROTT (1894-1975)”, Drawn and Quarterly

Now comes the time when I feel humbled because of my unfamiliarity with so many of the nominees.  I only know of the Langridge and Mazzucchelli works.  ASTERIOS POLYP goes well beyond “cartoonist” and should get the nod for best graphic novel.  I’m holding my vote back.  Please give it to Roger Langridge for his remarkable THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK.  Not only does he create interest in comic story-telling among younger readers (while still entertaining the adults)  - - his amazing art is going to help get younger people interested in comics art as well.


Chris Eliopoulos, “FRANKLIN RICHARDS: SON OF A GENIUS” stories, Marvel Comics


Thomas Mauer, “RAPTURE”,  Dark Horse Comics

David Mazzucchelli, “ASTERIOS POLYP”, Pantheon

Richard Starkings, “ELEPHANTMEN”, Image Comics

It’s time to confess that I rarely pay attention to the lettering on books, and have a hard time recalling their names.  (Something else I need to work on if I aspire to a higher knowledge level).   However,  David Mazzucchelli’s imaginative ASTERIOS POLYP made me pay attention to what he was doing with the lettering - - - so that’s who I would vote for.


Oclair Albert, “BLACKEST NIGHT”, DC Comics

Steve Ellis,  “HIGH MOON”,  Zuda/ DC Comics

Klaus Janson, “AMAZING SPIDER-MAN”,  Marvel Comics

Jeff Kinney, “DIARY OF A WIMPY KID #3: THE LAST STRAW”, Amulet Books

Mark Morales,  “THOR”,  Marvel Comics

I regret that I haven’t paid attention to the on-line comic debut site Zuda, even though I’m registered and can vote for my favorites. I’ve heard a lot of good things about HIGH MOON, but have yet to check that out.   BLACKEST NIGHT is a real beauty to look at, in many aspects.  But the work on THOR has been so outstanding I’m giving my vote to Mark Morales.



Steve Hamaker, “BONE: CROWN OF HORNS”,  Graphix


David Mazzucchelli, “ASTERIOS POLYP”  Pantheon

Dave Stewart, “BRPD: BLACK GODDESS”,  Dark Horse Comics

Again, I am ignorant of much that is here.  Seems like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE WORLD OF TOMORROW? will be grabbing some awards, based on the number of categories it has been nominated in.  I give a nod to ASTERIOS POLYP again.  Just as he did with his lettering, Mazzucchelli forced me to pay attention to how he was using color as well.


Jenny Frison, ‘THE DREAMER”,  IDW

Mike Mignola, “HELLBOY: THE BRIDE OF HELL”, Dark Horse Comics

Michael Avon Oeming, “MICE TEMPLAR: DESTINY, PART 1”  Image Comics

Frank Quitely, “BATMAN AND ROBIN”, DC Comics

J. H. Williams III, “DETECTIVE COMICS”, DC Comics

Now here’s a category most of us can relate to, even though we may not have read the actual contents of the books.  As long as you’re visiting your neighborhood comics store on a regular basis you will have seen most of these.   I just love those BATMAN AND ROBIN covers - -  makes you want to pick the issue right up (even though I opted to collect these in trade editions).

NEXT IN PART TWO:  The rest of the nominees.  I also wonder how a comics industry creator who will be voting  for the Harveys could possibly be familiar with all the nominated works.