Sunday, November 23, 2014

Celebrate New Year's Eve with new Roger Langridge

BOOM! Studios has announced that Roger Langridge's newest creator-owned project, Abigail and the Snowman will debut on December 31, 2014, bringing some pre-party cheer to those of us who are huge fans of Roger's work.

I first became aware of Langridge when he worked on the Muppet Show books for BOOM!, and I've become a huge fan of work, particularly when it's all-ages. This project was teased months ago, and it's exciting to have an actual release date attached to it.

Here's the premise of the series, from the release:
This heartwarming story follows young Abigail, the new girl at school with a habit of talking to imaginary friends. When her newest friend turns out to be a real yeti named Claude who escaped from a top-secret government facility, it’s up to Abigail to keep him safe from the “Shadow Men” chasing him.
I'm already picturing in my head the imaginary friends, the designs of the (probably somewhat clueless along with being mean) government agents, and the fun I'm going to have reading this mini-series. Anyone who's enjoyed Langridge's other work--and thankfully, there's plenty to like, given he's extremely prolific--definitely needs to keep an eye out for this one in a little over a month.

Abigail and the Snowman #1 is scheduled for a December 31st, release, and will be the standard $3.99, available in both print and digital, at your favorite shop or device.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Small Bay Area Comic Conventions

More and more small conventions are popping up in the Bay Area of northern California, possibly to fill the gap left by Wondercon moving down to Anaheim a few years ago. More recently there was an announcement that the Alternative Press Expo will also be leaving San Francisco for San Jose next year. But here are some other great small cons you might consider attending: 



EAST BAY ALTERNATIVE BOOK AND ZINE FEST-

This coming weekend, Saturday December 6th, the Berkeley City College will host the fifth annual EBABZ. The event will run from 10am-5pm at 2050 Center Street, Berkeley, California. More information about the can can be found on their tumblr (ebabzfest.tumblr.com) at their facebook event page (www.facebook.com/events/718387144876330/?ref_notif_type=like&source=1) and at their website  (www.eastbayalternativebookandzinefest.com).


LUMA CON-

The high school librarians of Petaluma are teaming up with the local bookstores and comics people to create a small con specifically aimed at getting high school kids interested in comics, in reading, and careers in the arts. This hopefully annual event will take place on January 17th, 2015, in Petaluma. They want people for an artist alley! Email Nathan Libecap if you are interested at nlibecap@petk12.org. Here is the con's (very new) website:  http://lumacon.weebly.com/



BLACK COMIX ARTS FESTIVAL-

Also in January the NorCal Martin Luther King festival will be hosting the first annual BCAF. They already have a very exciting list of guest artists, speakers, films and panels lined up. Some of the guests include: Erika Alexander, Andrew Aydin, Kevin Grevioux, Keith Knight, Robert Love, Jeremy Love, Tony Puryear, Afua Richardson, Brandon Thomas, LeSean Thomas and David Walker. This con is still accepting exhibitor applications! You can apply for a table and find out more information about this event on their website:  http://bcaf.norcalmlkfoundation.org/


Friday, November 21, 2014

The Wake

The Wake
Written by Scott Snyder
Drawn by Sean Murphy
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by Vertigo Comics

With its underwater industrial complexes, monstrous mer-men and the constant buzz of some impending doom, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake begins as a cross between H.R. Giger and Mike Mignola's nightmares as humanity loses and the forces of nature overtake the earth. Snyder and Murphy take us right up to that moment of inevitability, as a handful of scientists and adventurers watch the death throes of civilization as we know it. They’ve awakened a civilization of mer-men at the bottom of the ocean and those mer-men flood the coasts. Just as we watch the world as we know it end, Snyder and Murphy throw a wrench into the narrative and jump 200 years into the future. Previously in the book, they've shown glimpses of the past and future but now the focus is solely on the future as we see the world after the assumed apocalypse. Humanity struggles on but still hasn’t recovered from the civilization-altering upheaval that flooded the Earth. Within the span of this book, we go from Alien and the Abyss to Waterworld.

Murphy's artwork is nearly perfect for the first half of the book. Mostly set in an illegal undersea oil drilling platform, his dark, heavy lines are tailor-made for creating the claustrophobic environment. The characters’ oceanographic expertise doesn't prepare her for the discover of mer-men, the vicious and human-like race that we share this world with. With Matt Hollingsworth's softly luminescent colors, Murphy's artwork becomes oppressive, echoing the pressure of the ocean depths. He pulls you into the horror in that first half. You are there with the characters as they are lost and desperate at the bottom of the ocean.



The first five chapters make you think that you are reading a horror story. With his work on Batman and American Vampire, Snyder has built a pop-horror style that's fun and easy to read. The Wake delivers more of that but finds an artistic partner in Murphy who is able to suck the readers into the shadows. The characters in The Wake are clichés (a divorced mother, a hunter, an academic bookworm) and Snyder never seems to want to make them more than that. He categorizes them more than he gives them personalities and stories.

But those thin characters hardly matter. You're not meant to empathize with them but with their plight. At the halfway point of the book, Snyder and Murphy jump 200 years into the future and pick up the story of Leeward, a woman who lives on a drowned Earth. The first half functions just to get us to the second half where the surviving mankind, as exemplified in Leeward, have to find out what it all means. They're left to live with the aftermath of the first half of the book but they're also responsible for finding the answers to the mysteries of the past. The underwater horror story is needed to lead into a futuristic pirate adventure on the high seas.

From the moody, suppressive horror, Snyder and Murphy begin channelling Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples as the future portion of the book more resembles Saga than anything that came before it. The wildly eccentric characters, the visions of recognizable societies disguised by sci-fi trappings and the whims of fancy Snyder and Murphy follow become a hardened Saga, without any of the family drama. Even the stories main character at this point, Leeward, looks a bit like Saga’s lead Alana, both having colored, short-cropped hair. The sense of fancy and fantastical in the second half of this book clashes with the darkness and confined pressures of the first half.

What links both half of The Wake together is the mer-men, the sea monsters who attack civilization in the first half and then continue to subjugate the world in the second half. These nameless creatures are the horror that Snyder and Murphy create that we're supposed to fear in the dark. For this story to work, they should be the creatures of our nightmares. Or at the least, they should be creatures that we understand the fear of. Instead, the mer-men are an anonymous threat, hardly terrifying or sinister as other horror creatures. There's the shock of them but they're never developed into anything beyond another deep-sea creature that we don't understand. Snyder and Murphy make them a threat in this book without ever making them threatening.


Maybe they are not meant to be the threat, though. In an odd swerve towards the end of the book, Snyder and Murphy try to bring the story full circle and look back to the cataclysms that flooded the world and even further back into time. The Wake isn't a book of us versus them but of them versus us, where maybe we are the invaders. That goes back to the initial pages of the book where Lee and the crew of scientists and adventures travel to the ocean depths to discover the mer-creatures. Mankind is less the victims in this book and more of the invaders. They're (pardon the pun) the fishes out of their water who awaken the mer-men through their intrusion into the corners of the world where man is not meant to be.

While the first half of the book is pure horror, the second half starts out as science fiction and uses that to begin exploring the ideas of what mankind may be doing to this world. The Wake is a gorgeous looking book that tries to be many things. It’s horror. It’s science fiction. It’s exploring. It’s adventurous. Unfortunately it never fully commits to any of these things so it becomes a patchwork story. Snyder and Murphy ambitiously try to tackle questions about the very nature of humanity but the book never tries to get us to ask those questions before it asks them for us.

Comfy Con Returns for 2014 from November 21-23

Possibly the all-time best con tag line.
Not everyone can make the trip to a convention, even if they'd love to participate in discussions, panels, and interaction that is usually reserved for gatherings of people with like-minded interests. To solve that problem, Danielle Corsetto and Randy Milholland created Comfy Con, a web-based convention. It returns again, starting today, November 21st, around 4pm Eastern (1pm Pacific) and continuing even past its closing ceremonies, for a final panel at 7pm Eastern on Sunday the 23rd.

Combining the best elements of a brick and mortar convention with the "anyone can participate" spirit of the internet that drives the embarrassment of riches known as web comics, Comfy Con is a very open, loose gathering. There's no admission fee, no pay wall, and the site even mentions that others can run their own panels using the #comfycon hashtag on Twitter.

Things are very chill, based on the website, with links to the events going up as they happen. (It's probably impossible to do that in advance, since they are live.) Some events are recorded for those who can't watch them at the time, based on the tech of the panel's host. There are links for a vendor's "room" along with extras, contact info, and of course, twitter links.

For various reasons, I have not participated in the past, but I am hoping to do so this time, at least for the panels on anthologies (featuring some people I talk to on Twitter, like Spike Trotman and Sfe Monster) and managing creativity and a day job (hosted by Panel Pal Monica Gallagher).

If you have some time this weekend and either haven't been able to go to a con or just are interested in topics ranging from self-publishing vs trad pub to being a lifer in webcomics, definitely check it out. I hope to "see" you there!

The Comfy Con website!

Monday, November 17, 2014

James' Single Minded for 11/12: Sci-Fi First Issues (Bigger Bang, Deep State, & Drifter)

This week I read several #1 issues released on 11/12/14.  The common theme here is fun science fiction stories with space travel and mysteries to unravel. Here are my thoughts:


The Bigger Bang #1

Written by D.J. Kirkbride
Illustrated by Vassilis Gogtzilas
Letters by Frank Cvetkovic
Edited by Justin Eisinger
IDW Publishing

The Bigger Bang is a fun and visually distinctive read, which asks the question "who would Superman be if he didn't have Earth?"  It's actually more interesting than that. The story concerns Cosmos, the Superman-like being who was created by the destruction of Earth and our entire solar system. He now seems to travel around space, helping beings and solving problems (you know, like Caine in Kung Fu).

In this first issue, Cosmos rescues a world about to meet an unnatural end, dislodges a space whale from being trapped, and gains the curiosity and respect of a military commander tasked with destroying him. Cosmos is an interesting character - he's sort of like Superman (heroic, super-powered, flies around wearing a cape) meets Galactus (immensely powerful, travels around space, last survivor of an old universe) but with saving planets instead of eating them. He's motivated to be heroic; does this come from his innate nature, or from some sense of responsibility? These questions are not yet addressed.

The illustrations in this book are highly distinctive, unlike most anything in superhero comics. Vassilis Gogtzilas uses something of an abstract style with rough, exaggerated lines and incredibly bright, vivid colors. This helps to illustrate the action and motion which mostly takes place in the darkness of space. Cosmos is seen as a larger than life presence, with huge exaggerated muscles and expressions as he goes about the business of saving lives. The aliens are depicted with a wide, creative variety of designs, particularly the amusingly (and aptly) named King Thulu, who comes across as a comical tyrannical Cthulhu beast wearing a huge crown. 

King Thulu is an example of another takeaway from the story which is, that it's quite funny. There's some very "silver age" style narration throughout the story which provides background, but also moments of humor and insight. The humor here is not what you expect in a story like this; it feels like a refreshing, non-obvious choice. You could imagine a more tortured, angst-filled version of this story being told by another author (In fact, working with Adam P. Knave, Kirkbride did do a Superman-like character with angst in Never Ending).  The combination of the moments of visual and descriptive humor here, contrasted with the rough, foreboding tone in the art, creates an interesting dissonance. This issue is mostly setup, but it does so very effectively. I want to know more about the current universe in which Cosmos finds himself, and what led him there.

Deep State #1
Written by Justin Jordan
Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina
Colors by Ben Wilsonham
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Boom! Studios

All those conspiracies you hear about from time to time? Aliens, Freemasons, JFK? Deep State is here to tell you that they're all true, and the government is working hard to cover them up. "Secret history" and conspiracy stories are a fertile ground for storytelling (as exemplified by current comics Manhattan Projects and Manifest Destiny) and some of the most fun parts of this issue (and hopefully going forward) are the looks into hidden history. As a debut issue, this is a nice introduction to what will hopefully be a rich, weird world and a fun first issue which sets a clear tone. In spirit this is a successor to X-Files (as evoked by two agents in the cover art) and Men In Black, as well as the (underrated) movie Conspiracy Theory.  

FBI agent Branch (we don't get a first name) is committed to getting to the truth of some closed investigations, and this gets the attention of John Harrow, who's part of a secret government organization committed to keeping secrets secret. He offers her the chance to join because he's impressed with her commitment to getting to the truth (shades of the way J (Will Smith's character) joins the Men In Black) and, she can't resist. Agent Branch is our "point of view" hook into the story-- we get to see her reaction as we learn all sorts of hidden truths. This issue concerns humanity's trips to the moon. It turns out that there's more than we've been aware of, and our prior trips haven't gone well. 

This was an effective first issue. It establishes the thesis of the story, and the art works well here. Kristiantina has an appealing style here; slightly rough lines but with clean portrayals of action and emotion. Kristiantina's design nicely complements Wilsonham's colors, particularly in scenes of darkness, of which there are many in this issue (as conspiracies are rarely hidden in broad daylight). Despite the fact that the story mostly takes places in the shadows, the art isn't obscured and the shading is very effective. Agent Branch's sense of skepticism and determination comes across well in the facial acting, as does the genuine sense of foreboding and danger when Branch and Harrow go out into the field to investigate mysterious goings on. The flashback/historical scenes depicting our race to the moon convey both a historical context and a sense of fear and horror as we see the real, hidden history. 

As this is an introductory issue, we don't learn much about the main characters, and it remains to be seen whether this is a story that will delve significantly into their lives or whether it will be more like something like the X-Files or CSI where the focus is much more on the case/conspiracy. Either way, it's off to a good start.


Drifter #1
Written by Ivan Brandon
Illustrated by Nic Klein
Letters by Clem Robins
Logo and Design by Tom Muller
Edited by Sebastian Girner
Image Comics

Drifter is an intriguing first issue in what's becoming a more popular setting, the scifi western (in comics, East of West and Copperhead are two examples, along with Firefly on TV). The western themes of frontier wilderness and a stranger in a strange land lend themselves well to mashups with aliens and starships. This goes back at least as far as Star Trek, which even used actors from Westerns to make up the cast.

The story begins with dramatic scenes of Captain Abram Pollux's starship crashing on this world. From the very beginning, Pollux is clearly a man full of regrets; he's done things he's not proud of. He survives only to be shot by a mysterious figure. Eventually he awakens in a desolate settlement called Ghost Town where he's received both medical care and restraints from the Marshal, Carter (who also doubles as the medic). He makes his way into a bar, ruffles a few feathers, and heads back into the wilderness followed by Marshal, where he finds a most unsettling discovery. 

The art from Nic Klein is gorgeous and detailed in an almost painterly style (certain scenes and characters bring to mind shades of Alex Ross, Steve Epting and Clayton Crain), and effectively tells the story of a man lost on a strange, desolate, alien world. From the very beginning of the story, the art shows the vastness of space and the violence and bulk of Pollux's ship crash landing on this world. Klein's character design is highly detailed, vivid and visceral. The reader can see the sweat, the strain and confusion on Captain Pollux and all of the weathered inhabitants of Ghost Town, and the aliens he encounters are similarly designed with a great deal of detail and care (while quite alien, their emotion comes clearly across). Ghost Town is shown as a sad, lonely place (though the name of the town is either cleverly ironic or a little on-the-nose, or both), as is its overall alien, frontier nature. 

As with the other first issues being reviewed this week, Drifter raises more questions than answers. These are intriguing mysteries though, regarding who Pollux is, where he's landed, and the nature of the other big mystery revealed on the last page. For fans of the burgeoning scifi/western mashup genre, this is a definite pickup.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Should Go to Short Run in Seattle on Saturday, November 15th!



When I started letting people know I was moving to the West Coast, one of the questions I was asked is, "Will you be coming to Short Run?" I knew about the show, because of comics friends who have tabled there, and I had the pleasure of reviewing the Short Run anthology from last year. This year, assuming the weather holds, I intend to be at the show, my third indie-themed show (Linework NW and the Portland Zine Symposium being the other two), since I moved out this way. I hope you'll join me there.

Held on Saturday, November 15th from 11am to 6pm in Washington Hall, in Seattle, Washington, Short Run is a curated indie comics show with a strong focus on creators from the Pacific Northwest, particularly Seattle (of course). They actually have events going on all week, but the big shebang is on Saturday when everyone will be tabling and it ends with a party (that I will sadly miss, as I need to take the Bolt home to Portland).

The guest of honor is none other than zine/mini legend, John Porcellino, who, if you weren't aware, has a new documentary about him out, "Root Hog or Die," a graphic novel due from his King-Cat publisher Drawn and Quarterly, and of course, his periodic single issues. It's great to see John getting the recognition he deserves, and he anchors a stellar line-up of creators.

I wanted to do more on the people coming to the show, but I picked up some additional work so that means I didn't have much time this week to do individual profiles.* (I may still try, we'll see.) Here are a few of the highlights, however. Links will take you to their websites:

  • 2D Cloud, one of our favorite publishers, with work by Noah Van Sciver and others.
  • Colleen Frakes is a long-time friend of Panel Patter, working on her own minis and in collaboration. She has a new collection out of some of her various short pieces, reviewed here.
  • Ed Piskor lives near Pittsburgh, PA, my old stomping grounds. He's the guy behind Hip Hop Family Tree, which is an awesome, scholarly look at the history of the genre.
  • Fantagraphics  is some book publisher out of Seattle. Perhaps you've heard of them? We talk about them a lot.
  • Josh Simmons draws a lot of creepy shit. He's got a new sketchbook, published by Oily, which should be available at the show.
  • Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg  was an early favorite of mine from when I started getting into mini-comics. Her most recent comic is on turning 30, which is a great year to reflect on.
  • Liz Prince is another great creator we've talked a lot about over the years. She should have Tomboy, her memoir about growing up as a non-trad girl, and you should buy it. Our review.
  • Mari Naomi also has a new memoir out, covering various parts of her life she's chronicled elsewhere and collected in Dragon's Breath and Other Stories. Go buy this one too. Our review.
  • Nobrow Press is still very new to me, but they put out some amazingly high quality niche books, including a new one that's a graphic biography of Robert Moses, the brains behind the UN Building, She Stadium and other landmarks in New York. I hope to review that one soon.
  • Sparkplug Books, run now by Portland's Virginia Paine, will have two new books at show, Reich 12 (the final issue of this long-running mini-comic biography by Elijah Brubaker) and Vortex, a comic that I can't wait to see in person, along with their other books, which include The Anthropologist by our Whit Taylor.
  • Yeti Press will combine the profane and the pretty, depending on the book. This small press has a very unique set of titles, and you should definitely see if they might be for you.

In addition, our very own Rob Kirby will be tabling (I finally get to meet him since we started working together this year) with his own work, and the Ignatz-winning anthology Queer, which he edited.

I wish I had more time to talk about this show, but basically, if you love mini-comics and indie presses OR you want to see what comics has to offer that's not found in your local comics shop (a decision that changed my comics-reading life forever with SPX in 2008), and you live in the Seattle area, come to Short Run this Saturday. I just about guarantee you'll have a good time. Hope to see you there!

*We're all volunteers here at Panel Patter. We work as we can to talk about the things that we love about comics.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day Special: An Interview with Three Creators from Above the Dreamless Dead

A few months ago, I wrote about Above the Dreamless Dead, an anthology of adaptations of World War One stories and poems from the group known as the trench poets--writers who served and survived that terrible conflict that solved just about nothing.

It's a great collection with some amazing creators. I had the pleasure of being able to e-mail interview three of them: Hannah Berry, Kevin Huizenga, and James Lloyd. We spoke about their experiences on the project and why they got involved.

I'd been holding these for a bit, waiting for the right moment. Given that Veteran's Day was originally designed to honor those who served in World War One only (then called THE World War, as if there'd be no more of them), I figured this was a perfect time to share. Enjoy!

Rob McMonigal: What interested you in being a part of this anthology?

Hannah Berry: The anthology appealed to me as a great way to commemorate the Trench Poets, and illustrating their work in comic format struck me as a pretty unique challenge. When I first sat down to plan the artwork I created a series of careful illustrations, reverentially echoing the words. Then I threw them out and started again: the point of a comic is that the images add an extra dimension to the writing, and the polite illustrations were bringing nothing to the table. The wish to be respectful had to balance with the translation of the poems into comic format - like telling a story within another story. As I say, a unique challenge!

James Lloyd: I had become horrified by modern warfare by the end of the nineties and subsequently participated in the Vancouver anti-war movement that developed in the wake of the Iraq invasion. This led to me want to tell the story of a US veteran staying in refuge here in Canada, which never came to fruition. However, Chris Duffy knew I had been making this the focus of my personal work and invited me to participate in the book. Above The Dreamless Dead marks the first time I've been able to make a statement in comics regarding these concerns professionally.

Kevin Huizenga: It's interesting to mix WW1 poetry with comics. It's challenging to try and adapt the formal qualities of poetry to the formal possibilities of comics.

McMonigal: How did you approach your adaptation? Can you talk a bit about what went into creating your section/sections of the book and the art process you used?

Huizenga: I tried to use the form of the poem to guide the design of the pages.

The poem was filled with ironies, so I tried to preserve those in my comics version by not ruining the ambiguities by coming down too hard on one side or the other in my interpretation of the meanings of various lines, and I tried to build ironies into my layouts and choices. For instance, the poem is itself a song, about soldiers who are themselves singing a song, and the poem is about what kind of song they should sing. So I left it ambiguous as to who was singing. Also, the poem increases in intensity by increasing the number of lines in each stanza.

I let this guide how I distributed the words on the pages. I felt it was more intense in comics form to decrease the number of words per page instead of increasing them.

Berry: It was important to get the period details right, and I spent a lot of time looking up visual references on some of the vast picture libraries online. (The biggest obstacle was being distracted by ‘research tangents’ - I learnt a lot more about despatch riders, the Royal Engineers and pigeons than I probably needed...)

I went for a fairly realistic approach to the artwork, but with enough left to suggestion in ‘A Private’ that (I hope) it didn’t undermine the weight of the piece. I used acrylic ink, as I often do, because you can throw it around like watercolour when wet but then layer it up until it’s nice and murky. 

Lloyd: The process of adapting the "Repression" poem to comic form was the longest I've endured on any one story. Both editor Chris Duffy and I wanted to bring the concept of soldiers suffering "shell-shock" (the subject matter of 'Repression of War Experience') up to the present day, and many conversations ensued regarding how best to see that through. Originally I wrote a much longer piece involving PTSD and the modern veteran that comprised the majority of my allotted pages, but Chris wisely decided the original poem should be the focus of the story and we would keep any commentary on current times a concise post-script.

Once ready to start the drawing, I determined that the art approach would have to be a conscious step away for the slicker form of cartooning I grew up with, such as in the EC Comics war stories from the '50s. I wanted a more granular, textured look, so I chose a mixture of hatching, dry brush, and Prismacolour pencil on rag paper to make sure nothing got too clean. I tried for a play on light and dark (the interiors of the house in which the protagonist resides were kept black in contrast to the stark white of the outside) with the text winding its way through both. I hope I created some interesting combinations. The text was hand lettered separately on a finished paper and layered in digitally.

I also contacted a cousin in Wales for any old family photos regarding the first war (my grandfather served in the horse cavalry) or the immediate post war years, in which my story takes place. The pictures I got back informed the family photos in the story and the look of the summer house and yard.

I should note that there wasn't a time during the writing or drawing that I wasn't incredibly intimidated by the task in front of me-- and as such, Chris Duffy's guiding hand was invaluable. I'm deeply indebted to his feedback and encouragement.

McMonigal: What was the biggest challenge in working on your adaptation?

Lloyd: Doing justice to the words and subject matter. Comics have a long history of looking awfully quaint when they step into the realms of complex and/or tragic events. The approach on this book required some sophistication and a lot of awareness. Or you just don't go there. 

Berry: I think it was finding the right tone for ‘The Question’, a poem about a soldier wondering if his cow back home was still alive. The humour was…unexpected. In the end I decided to play it very dry and leave the humour to the poem itself, but I couldn’t resist hiding a few unexpected cows in the background as the beast played on his mind. 

Huizenga: Doing research. Looking at WW1 history books was fascinating, but it was also very moving and emotionally exhausting.

McMonigal: Why is World War One important for people to remember? It's nearly a forgotten war over in the United States.

Lloyd: The loss of humanity was appalling-- near inconceivable by today's terms. The figures are overwhelming, as is the blithe disregard for the millions of lives which were carelessly tossed aside by the men running the war on both sides. Most tragic (given that few seem to be able to understand or explain how a dispute between Hungary and Serbia could engulf the entire world) it could have-- and should have-- all been avoided. The lessons of the first World War have to be learned and re-learned as we head into the 21st century with humanity clearly willing to repeat mistakes.

Huizenga: It's important to remember because it was so stupid. It was so clearly stupid and monstrous, but human beings just like us went through with it anyways, everybody did their part. The possibility of such a thing happening is a terrible thing everyone has to face and try to imagine. Especially those in power.

Berry: Why are any wars important for people to remember? “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. More than 16 million people died as a result of a war brought about by nationalism and neo-imperialism - looking at the state of the world around us, I think we could all do with remembering a little harder.

McMonigal: If readers of Above the Dreamless Dead enjoyed your contribution, where else can they find you?

Berry: I have two graphic novels out - Britten & Brülightly and Adamtine (you can read a preview of Adamtine for free on my website, if you’re in the mood for a little spot of horror - hannahberry.co.uk)

Huizenga: My website.

Lloyd: My website.

Thanks so much to Hannah, Kevin, and James for their insight!

Oily Comics Has a 25% Off Sale Ending Today (11/11)

The Wavy "O" suggests you buy comics from
Chuck right away!
Fresh off an invigorating appearance at Comic Arts Brooklyn, Oily Comics is holding a 25% off sale that ends today, November 11th.

There's a ton of good stuff available, including the summer bundle (if you missed it), a new sketchbook from Josh Simmons, and singles of some of the more recent Oily releases, including publisher Chuck Forsman's own new serial, Luv Sucker, which is currently on issue two.

You have to buy at least five dollars worth of stuff, and if you are interested, don't delay, because basically by the time you read this, you will only have the rest of today to make your order.

The code is POSTCAB, and again, it gets you 25% off whatever you order.

You can find the Oily website here. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Judge Dredd Vol 2 from IDW

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Line Art by Nelson Daniel with David Williams, Gary Martin, Andrew Currie, Jimbo Salgado, and Antonio Fuso
Color Art by Nelson Daniel with Ronda Pattison, Owen Gieni, and Tom B. Long
Published by IDW

Dredd investigates what's going wrong with the robots of Mega-City 1 and finds a deep conspiracy that links back to events of the first trade and turns his own allies against him as Duane Swierczynski continues his solid, but safe, run doing an American version of the classic 2000 AD character.

I said this in summary of volume one, and I'm quoting it here because I think it continues to be true:

"While I enjoyed this new series a lot here in its new form, I will admit that I do prefer the original. There's a sense here that I just couldn't shake of being, well, safe isn't quite the right word, but it's the best I can think of as of this writing. At least so far, there's nothing in this version of Dredd that's really transgressive. It's still very good, but I don't think Duane is pushing the envelope in the way that the British version does. It's still early yet, so we'll see if that changes."

It looks like that's not going to change, and I bring this up before talking about the content because I think it really is the make or break point for anyone who's a fan of the anthology version of the character. If you want/need your Dredd to be pushing the envelope, then you're probably better off just reading him in 2000 AD. If you like Dredd as a character and are open to seeing him in acidly-sarcastic, explosive action, with more than a touch of humor, then this will work well for you.

Because as we move here into the second arc, with Dredd fighting off a drunken writer-robot and ordering the scientists to keep resurrecting a mad scientist who kills himself repeatedly panel after panel (complete with X over his eyes), it's clear that this version of Dredd is going to have high stakes and high body counts, but it's going more for satire than social comedy.

Nelson Daniel art.
That's perfectly fine with me, as I believe that Dredd--and most other characters with decades of history--can be written many many ways and still be enjoyable, as long as the core concepts are retained. Given that Swierczynski's Dredd is no-nonsense, obsessed with the law, and unwilling to bend one iota, while being a seemingly unstoppable fighting machine, I think he's maintaining the essence of Dredd, even if we aren't getting, say, a biting, scathing look at the rich/poor divide such as the storyline that began in Prog 1900.

Over the course of this trade, Dredd is stuck outside, in a world that's turned against anything with flesh, right down to some amazingly creepy ideas, like sensors that strip flesh right off the bone. Artist Nelson Daniel perfectly captures the horror of the concept, showing people mid-dissolve, complete with their reaction shots. Daniel also excels in showing not only the way the deck is stacked against Dredd in sheer numbers but in the level of hyper-violence that's expected from the judge when he's fighting criminals. He may not have his gun functioning, but Dredd can stop crime in its tracks.

It just misses being comedic violence, which Daniel saves mostly for when Dredd is attacking robots. The drunken robot writer is a perfect example of this, showing up as a running gag once he turns on the human he's supposed to protect. It's a nice play on the idea of 2000 AD's writers all being droids, and the over-the-top dialogue from the robot is a highlight. I kinda hope we get to see him one more time before the overarching story is finished.

The overall plot of this second arc is strong, which is no surprise, given Duane's skills and background doing crime writing. He's very good at pushing the goal post a bit further every time it seems like Dredd will reach a solution while still resetting things just enough to start a new storyline with the next arc. I do think that the Judges themselves have to be a bit credulous in order for the last series of plot twists to work, but overall, there's enough suspension of disbelief for me to give him the benefit of the doubt. He works the overall cast pretty well, weaving Anderson in and out, along with a few of the folks we've been introduced to so far. My experience is limited, but they also feel in-character.

I don't have much new to add about the art for this trade. I really like Daniel's style, and I think it fits Dredd perfectly. He's especially good at making things feel dark and dire without obscuring the line work, which may be partially due to acting as the colorist in addition to the drawings. He's easily able to go from blowing things up and ripping out eyeballs to having Dredd's small party comically marching in near-silhouette across the top of a page. The world of Mega-City 1 continues to be fleshed out in all its varied strangeness, from punk-people to the many, many angry robots. Little adjustments to clothing, hair styles, and even the surrounding architecture do a ton to make the story work.

As in the first trade, there are side-stories that flesh out the world, as people react to the changes going on thanks to the robot revolution. A virtual reality game turns deadly real, for example, as two people cosplaying Judges end up actually killing another player. We get a robot resisting the uprising only to die at the hands of a scared human. The final short previews what Dredd may be up against as he moves out to the Cursed Earth. I like them as a nod to the idea that Dredd came from an anthology, and it gives others a chance to play in the world artistically.

Overall, this continues to be a very solid use of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra's creation, even if it's not the same as the one that we find across the pond. It won't be for everyone, but if you aren't locked into just one way of viewing Dredd, you'll have a lot of fun reading Swierczynski's version, with amazing art by Daniel and others. I'm in for a third volume, as long as it maintains this pace.