October 17, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 18th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.


Mike's Picks:

Scrimshaw #3
Scrimshaw # 3 by Eric Borden and Dave Mims, published by Alterna Comics
If there is a complaint to be made about Alterna Comics, it’s that they tend to cluster their releases together. You can’t go wrong with anything from Alterna this week, though I’m partial to Scrimshaw, a sort of cyberpunk noir with strong art from Dave Mims, whose Sean Murphy-esque style lends itself perfectly to this type of tale.

Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1
Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil by Jeff Lemire and David Rubin, published by Dark Horse
Black Hammer has been a remarkable read since it launched. These new smaller spotlight series will allow Lemire to flesh out his characters in all their weirdness. Black Hammer has been the type of series that knows how to reign in its zaniness. I fully expect Sherlock Frankenstein to break that mold, offering a wholehearted embrace of over the top storytelling.

Kid Lobotomy #1 (Cover B - Quitely)
Kid Lobotomy by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler, published by Black Crown Comics/IDW Publishing
Gerard Way made an interesting comment upon the launch of the Young Animal line at DC. He said that, as a young reader, he didn’t follow writers or artists as much as editors. His particular editor of choice was Shelly Bond, and she launches her new IDW imprint, Black Crown, with this offering from fellow Vertigo veteran writer, Peter Milligan. I’m with Gerard; I’ll follow Shelly.

Now #1
Now by Various, published by Fantagraphics
I pre-ordered this directly from Fantagraphics when I first saw it available. Now is the kind of book that we need, and I highly recommend any mainstream/superhero reader to pick up this anthology if only to realize that you likely love the form of comics as much as the content. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I bet.

Scott's Picks:


Mage: The Hero Denied #3 by Matt Wagner, Published by Image Comics.
I'm not really too sure yet if I'm wrapped up in this series because of nostalgia or if it's actually really good.  It's probably somewhere in between.  But I am enjoying the story that Matt Wagner is telling here, about a husband and a father.  Those aren't character elements that you often see in comics.  It's weird to say that a comic feels like it was made just for me but if that's possible, this is the comic for me here and now.


Now #1 by various, Published by Fantagraphics
I missed Mome, Fantagraphics last 22 volume anthology series, for some reason that I can't really pinpoint.  Somehow it just wasn't on my radar for most of its run.  I"m not going to make that mistake with Now, which contains work by the likes of Eleanor Davis, Noah VanSciver, and Gabrielle Bell, all of whom are some of my favorite working cartoonists right now.  

The Mighty Thor #700 by Jason Aaron and Russel Dauterman, Published by Marvel Comics.
Thor is a character I really don't get because, before Jason Aaron, what was his story?  That very first Thor comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby basically set the character up for a history of very little internal conflict.  Even for as great as the Walt Simonson run is, it's very thin on doing much with the character of Thor.  Aaron has taken both the Odinson and Jane Foster and made them into compelling characters and has quietly made The Mighty Thor one of the best mainstream comics on the stands right now.

Wild Storm Volume 1 by Warren Ellis and Jon Hunt, Published by DC Comics
Warren Ellis and Jon Hunt's revamping of the Wildstorm universe has been an interesting experiment as Ellis' writing is awfully lean in this series.  It's like the distillation of everything that Ellis has been working on since wrapping up his seminal runs on Wildstorm's The Authority and Planetary.  This is one of those series that I'm not really too sure what's going on but there's some weird hook to it that I'm intrigued by.

James' Picks:

Low Vol. 4 by Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini, and Dave McCaig, Published by Image Comics.
Low has been a thoughtful, dark, contemplative story about regrets and consequences, which also happens to be a huge, sweeping undersea science fiction story. I've loved this collaboration between Remender and artist Greg Tocchini, and this story has real consequences and this most recent arc focusing on characters dealing with the aftermath of various characters' decisions. It's a great read, one that I think will particularly satisfying when reading whole arcs at once.


Made Men #2 by Paul Tobin and Arjuna Susini, Published by Oni Press.
This is a totally fun read. It's a crime story crossed with classic monsters. I've read the first 2 issues, and this is a highly engaging story. where the emotions very much feel realistic, even if the characters (e.g., the guy with lion head) do not. If you like monster and/or crime stories, Made Men is worth a look.


The Mighty Thor #700 by Jason Aaron, Walt Simonson, Olivier Coipel, Chris Burnham, James Harren and Russell Dauterman, Published by Marvel Comics.
Jason Aaron has really been on an epic run on Thor.  First, he told the story of Thor: God of Thunder which, when combined with Esad Ribic's art, was one of the most metal books I've ever read. And more recently, in The Mighty Thor, he's been telling the story of Jane Foster Thor, one of the most surprising developments of recent years but a terrific one. Aaron's story (primarily with the fantastic Russell Dauterman on art) has been really engaging in a totally different way. Jane-Thor is a wonderful character, that's been a great addition to Marvel's superheroes.


Dept. H #19 by Matt and Sharlene Kindt, Published by Dark Horse Comics.
I recently reread the first 2 arcs of this series and that gave me a greater appreciation for the book. I've been enjoying it the whole time, but it was an adjustment after reading Mind MGMT which is a world-spanning story of huge conspiracies, whereas Dept. H is more of a tense, locked-room murder mystery/disaster story interspersed with a look at the psychology and lives of the people involved in the story. It's a terrific story that very much succeeds at creating the tense atmosphere it's meant to capture, and this is thanks to the terrific art from Matt Kindt with gorgeous, intense watercolor colors from Sharlene Kindt. This is a thoughtful, intense book and I highly recommend it.

October 16, 2017

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Trapped in Mourning- a review of Jeff Lemire's Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin

The Pike family looks like an all-American family, with its aging parents, a son who has written a best-selling book, an ambitious daughter with plans of saving the city even as she transforms it into something unrecognizable, and one son who is the black sheep of the family, willing to steal his father’s stuff to pay off a debt. By no means is it a perfect family but when does Jeff Lemire ever give us one of those. For everything they’ve done with their lives, the death of Tommy, the son who died in an accident in 1993, is all that really defines this family. Every surviving member of the PIkes is followed around by their own personal ghost of Tommy.

Many of Jeff Lemire’s recent books have been about family. Sometimes it’s about a missing family like his recent work on Secret Path, or about the family we find ourselves in as in Black Hammer or even what our responsibilities to family are in Roughneck. Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin continues that fascination with family but this time, it’s about a family that’s been lost in mourning for over twenty years. Royal City gives us a family who is trapped in their loss that is so rooted to their hometown. From his earliest independent comics through to his most recent Marvel and Image work, Lemire’s characters are shaped by family and home even as they’re incredibly damaged by their past. 


This family’s ghost is a pastor to the mother who’s looking for absolution from her own sins. He’s a teen to the author who looks to his brother for authorial inspiration. He’s a child to the sister, who herself remains in a loveless and childless marriage herself. He’s a criminal to the other brother, his own worst instincts made into a guardian “angel.” And to the father, he’s a kid, possibly the most honest image of who Tommy really was. In these ghosts of Tommy, Lemire mirrors back to the family their own faults and sins even as they’re too wrapped up in them to even recognize them.

Lemire’s characteristic line here is thinner than usual, allowing his lightly applied watercolors to give this world a pale semblance of life. But the artwork is very thin, very anemic in a way that reflects this family’s place in this world. While Lemire’s images are bold, his gestural line in Royal City shows that these characters are barely anymore present in this world than their dead son and brother. This allows Lemire to traverse this veil of the afterlife and merge the living and the dead into this purgatorial state.

Royal City itself is a factory town on its last leg. The family has always been rooted there so as the town goes, so goes the family. Tara, the real estate agent sister, is trying to revive the town but it’s through a method that would totally rewrite what the town is, profiting off its past while making it something completely different. And maybe it’s that kind of workover that the Pike family needs as well. In this first volume, Lemire is so focused on showing us who and what the family is the cliffhanger ending totally rewrites who this family has been since Tommy died. For all of their visions of Tommy, it turns out that he probably was something completely different than any of the ghosts that they so tightly cling to.


With so much recent work about family, Royal City feels like Lemire’s finally figured out the ways that family doesn’t work, or at least he’s willing to accept that there are ways that family can’t recover from tragedy without ever accepting them as a lost cause. In Lemire’s cartooning and his writing, you can see him searching for something to hold this family together. While he’s willing to accept that there are ways that family can’t recover from tragedy, he refuses to accept them as a lost cause. On the surface of Royal City, it’s the heart attack that the father suffers that’s the catalyst for this family coming back together in the smallest of ways. Lemire’s writing lately has been about the ways that families come together after some kind of event, whether it’s being trapped in a parallel universe (Black Hammer) or siblings finally bonding after both separately ran away from home (Roughneck.)

So in Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin, a father’s heart attack calls them all back home. This volume provides a catalyst for each of them to face up to their own pain. While today it may be a father that brings them together, it’s still the loss of a son and a brother over twenty years ago that keeps them apart. Tommy may be the ghost that haunts them but each of them moves like a ghost through this world, barely interacting with it or making a true impression on it. A family in disarray, the Pikes themselves may have all but died along with Tommy. Even now, each acts like that was the end of the world and they’re just waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin
Written and Drawn by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics

October 13, 2017

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Harassment in Comics (Weekend Patter for October 13, 2017)

I need to drop the usual link format of this column for a week and just try to get some thoughts down about recent events and news.

With all of the news about Harvey Weinstein's alleged harassment and assaults making the news, it's important to remember that this isn't just a Hollywood or an entertainment story, but it's a story that reveals a lot about all aspects of our lives and culture.  Just because it's much smaller than the cinema, it's important to acknowledge that comics are not any better just because we may want them to be.

Over at The Comics Journal, Katie Skelly writes about an experience she, unfortunately, had to live through a couple of years ago at a comic festival.

Sleep-deprived and ropey, I did what I was supposed to do before I could talk myself out of it. That morning, I told. It was my first time ever reporting harassment beyond a frenzied phone call to a friend or spilling it out in a session with my sainted therapist. And for as ugly as the entire experience had been, a light did shine back at me: I was believed. The festival did everything they could and should have done to right the situation as per their harassment policy. I would file a complaint against my harasser, in which I would be asked over the course of several different essay questions what I may have done to provoke the situation.
In comics, some of comics' most infamous alleged harassers are DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza, freelance editor and writer Scott Allie (recently of Dark Horse,) CBLDF's Charles Brownstein, creator Brian Wood, and even comics legend Julius Schwartz but there are so many others.  Dark Horse and DC Comics both released statements last year about the accusations against their employees even as Allie and Berganza remained employed by the publishers (DC's statement, Dark Horse's statement.)  The accusations against Berganza go back to 2010 but came to light again last year after Shelly Bond was let go by DC while Berganza was the head of DC's Superman office.  Heidi MacDonald has covered this many times at The Beat, including a piece in October 2015 where she wrote about the long history of abuse in the comic industry:

So it is that I find some of the harassers more pitiful than anything else. I pity their victims more, but all of them are part of a system where an old man who gropes a teenager in a car is made an Ambassador of Comics without anyone questioning if this is a good idea [emphasis are MacDonalds.] As one of my friends says, “It’s in the DNA.” DC and Marvel go back to the pulps, an industry of backroom pornographers who were little more than lowlife cheats and grifters themselves. It was no more sensitive to individual dignity than that fishing boat. Aside from a few places like individual art shops, that attitude has been passed down through the ages. It chewed up and spit out lots of men and women 
But mostly women.
Reading MacDonald's piece from two years shows just how little progress we've made since then.  And this isn't just a comic book issue or a movie issue, it's a society issue.  But we're a comic book site and we have to address this as it pertains to comics.

Google "harassment in comics" and it gives you a long list of articles and posts to scroll through.  Go look at Twitter and see the abuse that female creators and critics have to live with, whether it's about having a character wear a shirt with the saying "Ask me about my feminist agenda?" or a critic calling out a comic festival for being too white in its guest list three years ago (original piece here and apology for harassment here.) Harassment takes all kinds of shapes and forms and it's important to see and call them out.

As we see almost daily on Twitter and other social media, harassment comes in all shapes, forms, delivery mechanisms and languages.  Sexual predatory harassment is up there but there's also racial harassment, social harassment, and bullying (which might just be ultimately a catch-all word for what's happening here.)

Weinstein is the biggest example of a serial harasser and predator in pop culture but we need to make sure that we stay vigilant and examine all aspects of our culture and entertainment to stop these hurtful actions.  Harassment and these predatory acts exist in comics, both at the professional level and at the fandom levels.

October 11, 2017

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Working Class Criminals-
a review of Declan Shalvey and Phillip Barrett's Savage Town


Jimmy Savage believes that he’s in control and that he’s in charge but Declan Shalvey and Phillip Barrett undercut their character’s self-image at every chance they get. A third-rate crime boss in Limerick, Ireland, Jimmy wants everyone else to believe in his elevated status. The esteem of his wife, his friends, the kids of his gang and even the other crime bosses means a lot to him but on some level, he has to know that they all look down on him one way or another. He’s not a crime boss; he’s another street thug who has dreams of being more. Savage Town, Shalvey and Barrett’s first book about crime and class, delivers a story about a guy who ends up being more lucky than tough.

Caught between two larger, warring gangs in Limerick, Savage is trying to carve out space where he can exist. As the book opens, that space is slightly more than being an errand boy for both sides; at best, Jimmy is a go-between between the Hogans and the Dawsons, the real muscles in this Irish city. But it’s enough for Jimmy to portray himself as something more than just a wannabe gangster. Whether it’s the wife who run the house, the old friend who has been callously used one too many times, or the friends who are his wingman in crime who wants more, Jimmy thinks he’s in charge of every situation that’s happening around him but blind to the nascent backstabbing.


In telling this story, Barrett’s artwork and Jordie Bellaire’s colors paint this picture of working-class crime, of people just trying to be noticed by those above them. Barrett’s cartoony naturalism shows a city and its population on the wrong side of prosperity. While there are police in this town, they hardly have a handle on the crime that’s running rampant so gangs like the Hogans, the Dawsons, and to a much smaller level the Savages really run everything. Barrett’s artwork depicts this lawless town with a matter-of-factness that weighs down people like Savage who are looking to make something out of themselves.

Shalvey’s writing and Barrett’s artwork have a natural a natural flow in this comic. There’s not a lot of moral questioning here; Jimmy is a villain but he’s just not a major villain. At least as this story begins, he isn’t. His life is about conflict and violence except for one odd character in his life. If there’s anything that Jimmy shows true love and affection toward, it’s a horse that he keeps in his backyard. More than friends and family, the horse may be the only creature on this earth that truly loves Jimmy and that he loves back. Among the rest of the book, there are incongruous moments of contentment when Jimmy is able to be with his horse. Those moments are important because otherwise, Jimmy would either be a complete fool or a complete monster.


In some odd ways, Savage Town feels like an Irish Love and Rockets but leaning more into the crime elements without any evidence of the romance. That’s an odd statement but the way that Shalvey and Barrett create this sense of time and space is similar to how both Hernandez brothers create a community in their comics, whether that’s Palomar or Hoppers. Savage Town hangs together because of emotional and locational geography that it builds. While some of the power-grab maneuvers that Savage and his rival gangs make get unnecessarily convoluted in the storytelling, the creators make up for any confusion by making the story more about Jimmy’s emotional turmoil at trying to be the man he wants to be than about the actual acts of crime and violence that he perpetuates.

Savage Town wraps up one episode of Jimmy’s climb up the criminal ladder but Shalvey and Barrett leave the story open for more. In fact, the ending demands more as last-minute unresolved elements are introduced mere pages before the end of the book. The ending doesn’t leave you so much wanting more as it leaves the story feeling incomplete. Exploring crime as a way of life, Declan Shalvey, and Phillip Barrett show how love and friendship in this world are always tempered by violence and betrayal.

Savage Town
Written by Declan Shalvey
Drawn by Phillip Barrett
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics


October 10, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 11th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

James' picks:



Retcon #2 by Matt Nixon and Toby Cypress, published by Image Comics.
Real-life genies and mystical creatures?  Military forces working to capture and/or use magic and monsters? Possible rewriting of reality?  I'm here for all of this. Issue 1 was a great read, with incredible art from Toby Cypress, whose psychedelic style really works well with the subject matter. I'm excited for this one.


Dark Nights: Metal #3 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics.
This is a bonkers, weird book and it's been a lot of fun to see Scott Snyder channel Grant Morrison. I love Capullo's art here, and I love that this series has this sort of crazy feel where anything can happen. That's a little rare in comics these days. It's a very fun book.


Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #4 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K. Woodward, published by IDW Publishing.
I just love the "evil mirror versions of people" stories in Star Trek It's just so much fun to see evil versions of your favorite characters running around and doing terrible things; the best of these stories still retain some core quality of those characters even when it's the dark mirror version of them. This has been a really enjoyable read so far and I'm curious to see where it goes.






The Dying and he Dead #6 by Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim and Michael Garland, published by Image Comics.
Full disclosure, I'll read anything Jonathan Hickman writes. He's got stories that are big and intricate and reward repeat readings. Here he's working with one of my favorite artists in Ryan Bodenheim, who's detailed art style works great with the action and military violence and the totally out-there sci-fi elements in the story.  Michael Garland provides atmospheric colors with a limited color palate, that sets the mood perfectly. This is a big, exciting, heroic read.
  
Rob's Picks


Adventure Time Spooktacular 2017 by Various Writers and Authors. Published by Boom! Studios.
I don't know any of the members of the creative teams this year, but it's always fun to see different people play in the Adventure Time sandbox, and when you add Halloween into the mix, it makes it just that much more fun. I don't keep up with the comic adventures the way I did when Ryan North was at the helm, but I still like the comics I've read a lot, and I expect this one to be another treat.




Crime Destroyer #2, by Josh Bayer, Benjamin Marra, and others, Published by Fantagraphics.
The superheroes via Josh Bayer's thoroughly raw comics brain continues with this second issue of Crime Destroyer. Fearlessly taking on tropes from the comics Josh (and may of us around his age) grew up with, Bayer shows you can make comics in the Mighty Marvel Manner that are interesting, take chances, and aren't funding fascists.



Jack Kirby's Demon TP, published by DC Comics.

I don't know quite how anyone
Wouldn't have this book of fun
Filled with art only a King could provide.
If you don't have this yet
I think it's a safe bet
On its purchase you should decide!

[You can't fire me Scott, I created the site!]

Mike's Picks:



Mech Cadet Yu # 3 by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa, published by Boom! Studios.
This series toes that infinitely fine line between originality and homage. Pak and Miyazama are crafting their own original tale as much as they are writing a love letter to 80s mecha manga and anime – Gundam, Transformers, Voltron, and of course Robotech/Macross. It’s the undertone of reverence that allows the storytelling to flourish.


Mister Miracle # 3 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics.
It’s hard to tell with this series if the narrative is grand or minute. King seems to be out Morrisoning Morrison on this series, providing a trippy take that makes you wonder about long term continuity impacts. The tone and style of this book are reminiscent of 80s/90s Vertigo and proto-Vertigo superhero deconstructions.



Dan Dare # 1 by Peter Milligan, Alberto Fouche, and Christian Ward, published by Titan Publishing Group.
Titan is an interesting publisher. This week, they launch series for Dan Dare and The Fighting American, publish graphic novels starring Mike Hammer and Shelock Holmes, and continue series for Penny Dreadful and Wolfenstein. Not to mention, they also publish NCIS and Blacklist paperback novels. Dan Dare is an iconic, if somewhat dated British comics icon. I’d like to see what Milligan and company can do with him.


Terminator: The Original Comics Series – Tempest and One Shot by John Arcudi, James Robinson, Paul Guin, Chris Warner, Matt Wagner, Chris Chalenor, and Rachell Meshe, published by Dark Horse Comics.


Harken back to the glory days of Dark Horse’s licensed properties with the original Terminator series. I’m a mark for all things Terminator, and the franchise has waxed and waned with its commitment to an expanded universe, though the early work found in this collection provides some of the best examples.  

October 6, 2017

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Business As Usual (Weekend Pattering for 10/5/2017)

Panel

Will Elder (Mad #5, 1952)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Jeffrey Brown's variant cover to Royal City #6 is an homage to Sonic Youth's Goo, which was originally created by Raymond Pettibon.  I know Brown has made a nice career for himself doing kid's books (my son and I enjoyed his Jedi Academy series) but I would like to see Brown do something in alt-comics again.  Maybe not the autobio books that he was doing but this cover makes me want to see what he could do with a slice-o-life comic.

Interviews

from "Perfect Hair" by Tommi Parrish

*** What Does It Mean to Support Diversity in Comics? (Medium)-- Shea Fitzpatrick interviews new 2D Cloud co-publisher Kim Jooha.
KJ: That’s the thing, I wanted to help, but I also don’t want to just publish “good enough” stuff. I’m really snobbish, I’m really elitist [laughs], I hate good enough or bad books because I think it’s a waste of paper. I hate seeing wastes of paper, I want to recycle them [laughs]. Why would you publish mediocre books? It’s a waste of time, money, and energy. I want to publish the greatest in the comics scene, but at the same time, if someone has talent that I think could make really great work, when should I start asking about more practical stuff, like contracts? When should we start collecting for the book, or should we just publish a zine for now? At the same time, I think there are those philosophical thoughts about how to support. That’s why I wrote [about this issue] in an Instagram post and not on the blog. It’s everywhere, and it’s very complex, and I don’t have an answer.

*** Sex Criminals Creators Fraction & Zdarsky Invite Readers to ‘Fourgy’ (CBR)-- I appreciated the honesty from Fraction and Zdarsky about 10-month publishing hiatus they took between the last two arcs of the series.
Fraction: Difficult because the direct market is predicated on seven-day sales cycles. And we want to find a sweet spot between servicing our direct market partners, and keeping them healthy and fed and satisfied, and at the same time creating a product that can compete with titles that have been around for 80 years, because, I would think, of quality. But whatever it is about the book, it’s not going to get better if we do it faster. [Laughs] Unlike the Ramones, “do it faster” was not our solution.

This and That

*** Estate of Comic Pioneer Sues Over Milestone Media Revival (Variety)-- Just as a reminder as DC is announcing that the return of Milestone, that line's co-creator Dwayne McDuffie's widow is actually suing Reginald Hudlin and Milestone Media for McDuffie's share of the Milestone property.
Charlotte McDuffie alleges that her inquiries about the new company have been met with “stalling and stonewalling tactics.” According to the suit, the new company is seeking to expand Milestone’s relationship with DC Comics, and is talking to other publishers about new projects, “all the while utilizing the intellectual property rightfully owned by Milestone, without compensation to Milestone or McDuffie’s estate, and without the consent of the Plaintiff or McDuffie’s heirs.”
DC announced the 2018 return of the Milestone properties at NYCC, helmed by Hudlin and McDuffie's Milestone co-creator Denys Cowan.


*** Solanin Manga Gets Epilogue Chapter 11 Years Later (Anime News Network)-- I love projects like this (T2 Trainspotting may be my favorite film of the year so far) so if Viz ends up reprinting this, I may have to check out Asano's Solanin again.  I wrote about Solanin years ago and wonder if it holds up.
Shogakukan revealed on Friday that its new edition release of Inio Asano's Solanin manga will contain a new epilogue chapter labeled "chapter 29," 11 years after the manga concluded in 2006. The new chapter will be set in 2017, and will show the lives of Meiko, Kato, Billy, and Ai.
*** Whatever Happened to the Superhero Writers of Tomorrow? (Paste Magazine)-- Jakob Free poses an interesting question?  Back around 2007/2008, it seemed like there were a lot of creative voices ready to take Marvel and DC in new directions.  It's 2017 and the only one still around may be Brian Michael Bendis and I think he may have worn out his welcome with a lot of fans.  Now, I don't know if I really agree that there is a lack of ambition being seen right now.  I think it's there but the fanbase is far more diluted now and doesn't rally around it like a hivemind as we may once have done.
To attempt to answer why the current comics ecosystem hasn’t witnessed the ambition of decades previous, we should look at some of the factors that contribute to a writer’s ascendancy from obscurity to marquee billing on a cape comic. What do the most successful scribes have in common with one another? Is it simply sheer talent? Is it the business acumen and social media sway that comic writers are expected to have when marketing themselves and their work? Is it just cold, hard sales data? All of these components do indeed play a role. But after that new wave of writers arrived (Bendis, Millar and company), these factors alone were not enough to situate the next crop of scribes.

Your Moment of resignation

*** Former Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie Exits Publisher (CBR)-- CBR reports that late last Friday night, Scott Allie stepped down as Dark Horse's Executive Senior Editor to become a freelance editor & writer.  This comes almost 2 years after reports of Allie's harassment of Dark Horse employees and comics creators came to light in a piece at Graphic Policy by Janelle Asselin.
Allie, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics until September 11th, assaulted two people at a party during the convention. We’ll get to the SDCC incident in a moment, but before that, we should discuss the fact that Allie’s behavior there is not a one-time thing. Certainly there are people who make mistakes while drunk and do not deserve to be penalized for a momentary—and singular—lapse in judgment. Allie, however, has allegedly made such a habit of this behavior that there have been jokes about it internally at Dark Horse for years, although no whisper of it traveled much further than that. He was particularly known for two things: out of control behavior while drunk and biting.
At the time, Mike Richardson's response to these reports was mild, to say the least, without ever really mentioning Allie or his position in the company.  
I also want to make one thing very clear: Dark Horse as a company, and myself as an individual, take the kinds of inexcusable incidents reported by Ms. Asselin very seriously—doubly so when it involves one of our employees. In cases such as these, we have been proactive in our response, with a variety of professional services involved, all with the goal of changing behavior. Additionally, a number of internal responses are acted upon, including termination if such behavior continues. Under no circumstance is any individual “harbored.” In this particular case, action was taken immediately, though we did not, and cannot, perform a public flogging, as some might wish.
Allie continued to work at Dark Horse for two years after the allegations came to light and even more years after Allie's harassment allegedly began. Since then, Allie has continued to write BPRD and Abe Sapien comics for Mike Mignola and Dark Horse, including the current BPRD series.

And just for the record, Eddie Berganza continues to be employed by DC Comics.

Current Mood


October 5, 2017

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MICE Preview

One of my favorite things about the Fall is that it means that it's time for the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE).  MICE is going into its eighth year, and it's a wonderful (and completely free!) showcase of small press and self-published comics (think Small Press Expo, but smaller).



This past weekend I had a chance to attend a Preview Night event, and it's got me even more excited for MICE in a few weeks.  The Preview Night took place at a nice venue called Alley in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where guests had a chance to mingle and chat with comics creators.  The more formal part of the event consisted of four different artists (who will all be appearing at MICE) presenting their work and speaking about their creative process. 

Patt Kelley
Patt Kelley spoke about his funny horror comic Scout, and also brought a fantastic sculpture of one of the horrific creatures featured in the comic and used in a sculpture cover. He showed the process of turning that sculpture into the cover for one of the issues of Scout.

Ansis Purins
Ansis Purins showed examples of his comic Zombre which is part of a larger world called Magic Forest, and walked the audience through his drawing and creative process.

Ezra Rose
Ezra Rose spoke about Rose's new comic Six Songs, which is based on Rose's extensive research into Jewish conceptions of angels and other ideas and texts from Jewish Mysticism that we definitely didn't cover in Hebrew School.

Line Olsson
Line Olsson spoke about her new comic Happy Hour in the Temple of Love, which is a collection of short comics, all dealing with love in a critical, funny and sardonic way.

This year's special guests at MICE include the terrific lineup of Michael Deforge, Liz Prince, Jason Shiga, Kazu Kibuishi, Isabel Greenberg and Mark Siegel. These creators make up only a small amount of the talented creators that will be at MICE, along with panel discussions and a number of events for kids.

I think this will be my fifth or sixth time attending MICE, and each time I go I pick up something new and interesting and unexpected (and a few years ago had the opportunity at MICE to participate in a panel discussion on writing about comics). As I said, it's a completely free event, and a great chance to meet some wonderful comics creators. 

Details:

October 21-22

Saturday 10-6
Sunday 11-5

University Hall at Lesley University
1815 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

October 4, 2017

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Interview with Deniz Camp (Maxwell's Demons by Deniz Camp, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar)

You might know Deniz Camp as one of the winners of the 2015 Millarworld competition, and his subsequent piece "Duke McQueen's Greatest Adventure" in the 2016 Millarworld Annual. You might know Deniz Camp as the only regular contributor to the highly lauded critical analysis magazine PanelxPanel

What you will soon know Deniz Camp for is his upcoming series Maxwell's Demons from Vault Comics, featuring gorgeous artwork from Vittorio Astone and letters from Aditya Bidikar. Putting a darker twist on the unassuming story of a young boy and his toys, Maxwell's Demons is a series that already elicits parallels to the likes of Sandman, Calvin and Hobbes and the works of Gene Wolfe.

Deniz Camp chatted to me about his aims for the future of the series, the crucial contributions of mythology to the world of comics and series artist Vittorio Astone even dropped in to discuss his views on the importance of semiotics.
Panel Patter: The story begins in medias res as the confrontation with The Big Bad pends on the horizon. What do readers need to know about what happened before the story begins?

Deniz Camp: Nothing! That’s why we started it when we did! Life doesn’t really start - it is always happening in a never-ending-now. We’ll fill you in as you go, but I want the readership to be in a constant state of anticipation, and to engage in a process of revaluation. What Max, and his world, appear to be at the beginning of issue #1 may look different after you’ve read issue #2, #3, #4, and #5. 

Having said that, Maxwell Maas is the greatest mind of his generation, one of those towering figures who is destined to mold and define the age in which he lives. As most children do, he builds whole new worlds in which to play and escape. Unlike most children, his worlds are real, accessed through his closet-turned-interdimensional portal. He adventures in weird worlds with his best (and only) friends: sentient stuffed animal (also built by his own hands).

Max’s glasses are, for a lack of a better word, impractical in their shape and size and The Big Bad is similarly frighteningly imposing. Where did the design of the world originate and what aspects of the storytelling designs went into it?

Deniz Camp: For my part, I’ll just say that the best and clearest advice I ever got about working in comics was that making your characters look distinct -- making them recognizable even from their silhouette -- is one of the most important things you can do. All the best characters have some identifying mark. Max’s glasses are, hopefully, some part of that. 

I’m going to pass that one on to Vittorio, my collaborator and master of design, for a better answer. 

Vittorio Astone: I think Max's rectangular glasses are what I love the most of him! They were Deniz's idea and, I must say, a very good one from a design perspective. 

The rectangle will become the symbol of Max's portals to other dimensions and Max's glasses share the same shape; they are, in a sense, portals to his mind. Unfortunately, the mind of a genius is rarely fully understandable by others, so I often like to draw them opaque, as if the portals to his mind were inaccessible.

In general, I feel that the worlds behind Max's portals should have more alien designs, that really defy logic and contrast with  Max's 'normal' homeworld.


There’s an importance placed on Max’s relationship with his father and the subsequent lack of innocence. How do you imagine that evolving over the course of the series?

Deniz Camp: Well, if I told you that would give away the story! What I can say is that it DOES evolve, sometimes dramatically. We worked hard to make that a complicated relationship, one that looks different depending on the relative position of the viewer. Max, a young boy, even a very brilliant young boy, sees his father in one dimension. As we all did, as children. But I, as the writer, have grown up, and so my understanding of Max’s father maybe quite different.

How do you imagine the shape of the narrative evolving over time? Is it an ongoing or a miniseries?

Deniz Camp: It’s both. It’s neither. It’s a series of stories that are add up to more than the sum of their parts. We’ll start with five issues but, if the response allows, I’d love to get to 30-35; I certainly have it tightly plotted out to 35. 

But if we stop at five - or if the world ends in nuclear war just after issue 4, or 3, or 2 or 1 - you’ll have gotten a complete story. Every issue is self contained; you, as a reader, are rewarded for reading more, not punished for reading less. Every issue clarifies a complex story, but like a hologram, every piece contains the whole. 

We’re all pretty excited about the structure, and how it plays out for the reader. There aren’t a lot of comics that do this.


There’s a juxtaposition between the detailed sci-fi inflected armour worn by our protagonist and the round, brightly coloured characters that make up his crew. What was the process and thought behind this?

Deniz Camp: A lot of that was playing with who we are when we’re by ourselves and who we are when we’re free to BE ourselves, if you get my meaning. I don’t think any is necessarily a more privileged, or truer, identity, but the contexts necessarily transform you. Max is brilliant 100% of the day. But how that manifests changes according to the environment, his own age, and the events that surround him.

When we open, he is a boy. And when he’s with his father, that is felt acutely. Surely we’ve all had that experience, even as an adult? Going back home and somehow feeling - even acting - more childish. You slip into these roles, you can’t help it.

Or maybe you can. You’ll have to read to see.

Vittorio Astone: Max is a genius, but he's also still a kid. I think that the core of Max's personality has to be this duality (and often conflict) between his gifted mind and his humanity. This is why I like to use hard contrasts in my designs, because conflict is primarily inside our protagonist's soul. 

Max himself has a very round shape for his head, but his glasses are two, almost flat, rectangles. When I want to underline this conflict even more, I help myself with colors. For example I use saturated colors for the different worlds he visits in his journeys, while the atmosphere becomes really heavy and desaturated during the scenes with his father.

What are your plans surrounding the ambiguity about Max’s state of mind on his adventures - do we find out if he’s in Wonderland?

Deniz Camp: I’d prefer to leave that to the reader. There’s a careful balance, as a writer, between saying enough and saying too much. Myth tends to say less than does, say, drama. Myth tends to clear space in the receiver’s mind, lay down some foundations, and let the receiver build a lot of the structure themselves. 

This isn’t myth, but comics take a lot of cues from mythology: creating characters that outlive the complicated series of events envisioned by their single creator, characters that exist and act without being consumed by that action. We’re trying to do a little bit of that here, to create drama that nevertheless towers as myth. I want readers to see in it the Big Questions and venture to answer them in their own way. 

Asking good questions is all we’re really doing.


The scope of the book doesn’t focus on the specifics of Max's adventures and instead of their impact. What was the decision behind this?

Deniz Camp: Plot is so heavily focused upon in comics, and in writing, and I guess I don’t see why. Plot is an instrument to talk about characters, and to talk about ideas. That’s ALL it is. 

An event - and that’s all plot is, a series of events strung together by causality, a causal chain spreading it’s tailfeathers and presenting its genitals - is just a second, just a single moment, but the impact it has on you, the wake that it leaves, can last years. The wake that it leaves in the world can last centuries. 

Chernobyl wasn’t much more than an instant, or a short series of mistakes. It won’t be habitable for 20,000 years. 

It’s all in the wake.  

The first time I saw someone curse, I knew that this wasn’t an all-ages book. Was this a conscious decision? What aspects of this story prevented you from being able to do that?

Deniz Camp: Because the first issue opens with a young Max, there may be the tendency to believe it’s all-ages. While we’re making this a mature readers book, this is not Preacher or Sex Criminals or even a hard boiled Brubaker/Phillips joint -- we’re discussing mature themes. That doesn’t mean violence, language or sex -- although all those things will be peppered about the series -- it means wrestling with death, and love, and grief and existential darkness. 

I always wanted to talk about those things. I always do want to talk about those things. 

I do think that there’s a way to do some of that in an all-ages sort of way, and I’ve got something like that coming up, but I didn’t want to be hobbled by tight restrictions. And, frankly, I think kids can handle a lot, so long as the good guys make it out okay in the end. I just can’t guarantee that they will, in Maxwell’s Demons.


If you had to pin this book down to a single genre and a mission statement, what would you choose?

I’d say it’s a Science Fiction, and that we’re saying that people are much bigger on the inside than they are on the outside and that not only do people change over time, but how the world sees them does, too.

Everyone has the story of the comic that got them hooked on the medium. What’s yours?

The first thing I loved about comics was, probably, Superman. I had pyjamas and cakes and coloring books and all of that, and I loved all of them.

The first comic I can remember buying was an old, black and white New Gods reprint by Jack Kirby. I’d get on my parents infinite king-sized bed and read there, lost in sci-fi Shakespearean drama. It was the sort of thing you couldn’t, and can’t, experience in any other medium, even today. The scale and literacy and imagination of it.  Even uncolored, I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever read. 

I’ve not looked back.

Maxwell's Demons will be released on Dec 27th, 2017 through Vault Comics and, with its combination of melancholic optimism and fantastical artistic spreads, is destined to take the comics world by storm.

October 3, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 4th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

James' Picks:
The Flintstones vol. 2 by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry, Published by DC Comics.
This is one of the most surprising and wonderful comics of the past few years. This isn't what you might think a comic about the Flintstones is. This is hilarious and moving and some of the sharpest satire I've read in a comic. Pick up vol. 1 and then pick this one up too. It's a special book.

September 29, 2017

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Won't You Take Me Down (Weekend Pattering for September 29th, 2017)

Panel

Al Williamson (Secret Agent Corrigan)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Honestly, this cover has two things going for it.
  1. Mike Allred
  2. It's a homage to this classic cover, one of my all-time favorite Avenger covers.

Interviews


*** INTERVIEW: BLACK co-creator Kwanza Osayjefo talks the comic’s creative past, spin-off present, and movie future (The Beat)
Osayjefo:Though a majority of the creative team is black, we experience this in different ways, and that influenced the content–from Khary [Randolph]’s approach to covers to Derwin [Roberson]’s tones. Our editor Sarah [Litt] was a great sounding board and provided perspective on aspects of the story where we had blinders on. All of these people collectively made BLACK a much richer story than if it were singularly my voice, top to bottom.


SH: I’m just wondering where the line is. Have you found, when you’ve tried more experimental stuff, that you really couldn’t do that?

JM: No, you’re sort of aware of your limitations and what’s going to work.
KG: Nothing that we do is outside of our aesthetic. Even at WicDiv’s weirdest, there’s still a beat to it.
There was this line about the Pet Shop Boys – “They’re the Smiths you can dance to” – and we’re a bit like that: the Watchmen you can dance to.

*** Gods Among Us: Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie Talk The Wicked + The Divine (B&N Sci Fi & Fantasy)
Gillen: We love the Marvel and DC stuff, but there’s a problem there—one has roots in the 1930s and the other one, the 1960s. Social mores have changed since then, but the problem with these characters is they’re already filling niches. You can’t create a queer PoC character in the DC universe and have them be the most powerful person everyone looks up to, because that job is already taken by Superman. You have to look for spaces that aren’t filled, which almost always marginalizes newly created, already marginalized characters. I tend to describe the major superheroes like Baby Boomers—they’ve got all the cultural power, and they’re never going to retire.
 

This and That


*** Banned Books Week: Why are illustrated books being challenged more than ever? (Comic Riffs)
“Of the top 10 books challenged in libraries, the top five were challenged for having LGBTQ content, which seems pretty significant,” Mariko Tamaki told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “In the case of ‘This One Summer,’ it means the existence of queer characters is enough to label a book ‘inappropriate’ for young people, which further labels the feelings and lives of young queer people ‘inappropriate.’ And they are not. 
“I stand by my assertion that any person who wants a book removed from a library for having queer content should have to make their case to a panel of LGBTQ readers as to why their lives shouldn’t be represented in the library.”

Current Mood