January 16, 2017

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This week is a great time to revisit March and Representative John Lewis' amazing story (Weekend Pattering extra)

As we begin the inauguration week of our 45th President of the United States, it begins as most of the past weeks have with controversy and division.  Last week, Representative John Lewis, a hero of our Civil Rights movement, announced on Meet The Press that he was not going to attend President-Elect Trump's inauguration because the news of the Russian interference in our election has caused him to question the legitimacy of the President.

And you know that once this news broke, it was only a matter of time before the President-Elect responded on Twitter.  Not one to disappoint, Trump tweeted about Lewis, "All talk, talk, talk — no action or results."

Amazingly, there's the wonderful and recently autobiographical March that helps to show Lewis' actions and his results.  Along with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, Lewis recounts his youth in the 1960s as he non-violently fought for the right of black people in Alabama to be able to exercise their right to vote.

Since it's debut in 2013, we've covered all three volumes of March.

Writing about Book One, Rob McMonigal said:
Lewis describes in detail his path to a non-violent protester, starting with being inspired by a speech from Jim Lawson to learning how to resist attackers without attacking back. As the book nears its climax, Lewis is involved in trying to integrate the lunch counters in Nashville. It's slow, painful work, and not everyone within the African American community is solidly behind the methods of Lewis and his fellow protesters. The book ends on a note of hope, as Nashville gives in, and the tide of progress moves one step closer to the shore.
For Book 2, I talked about how Lewis, Aydin and Powell framed the story around President Obama's first inauguration.
That aftermath of the attack in 1961 is woven together with Obama’s 2009 inauguration when Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and Powell fills a double-page spread with images from both time periods and it’s just a stunning moment in a book filled with many breath-taking images. Here’s this powerful woman singing, “Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, protect us by thy might, oh let freedom ring!” and while we’re taking in that glorious moment, Lewis, Aydin and Powell show us just a glimpse of what that “freedom’s holy light” was built on. Aretha sings in 2009 and in 1961 look at the blood on their hands and in the streets, each dealing with their actions in their own ways. Some are proud and others are shocked by what they’ve done. 
Book 3 debuted just last year and in my review, I concluded about it (and really the whole series,

March Book 3 isn’t a history lesson; it’s a lesson of us and who we are. The events of the early 1960s don’t feel that long in the past because of the division between Americans then, unfortunately, is not that different than the division that exists today. We’ve seen black men killed in 2016 and we’ve seen the protests, the violence and the heartfelt pain that follows. The events in March Book 3 may as well have been 50 days ago or 50 months ago as much as they were 50 years ago. Representative John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell’s book shows us the past but is really about the present, reminding us that as a country and a people we still have a long way to go to truly be a nation that understands that all men are created equally and have unalienable rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
If you believe in the President-Elect's tweet that Lewis is "all talk" and has "no results," I urge you to read all three parts of March.  Comixology has all three available digitally relatively inexpensively and you can sample it with a 2016 Free Comic Book Day issue which has excerpts from all three volumes of this fantastic book.

January 13, 2017

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That Gum You Like (Weekend Pattering for January 13th, 2017)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

** It's 2017 and DC is reviving the DC Challenge with a "story" focused around Jack Kirby's Kamandi.  And to commemorate the upcoming new series, DC is reprinting Kamandi #32 by the King.  Welcome to 2017 where everything old is new again.  

And in this case, I welcome Kamandi to our future!

This and That

** The Best Comics of 2016 (According to Some) (The Comics Journal)-- Panel Patter alum Rob Kirby and Whit Taylor contribute to TCJ's roundup of their writer's favorite comics of 2016.  

** Rob’s 6th Annual Top 20 Comics List: The 2016 Edition (Rob Kirby)-- Rob goes deeper into his best comics of 2016.
At times like these it's easy to wonder: "Why bother with stuff like a Best Of Year list?" But moving forward and celebrating art and creative expression, even in the midst of calamitous world events, can never be a bad thing. Right? Plus this is my 6th annual Fave Comics list and old OCD-ish habits do die hard...so I'm forging ahead, shining a light through the surrounding fog of dread & fear onto some real good stuff–the stuff I liked best in what turned to be a pretty good year for comics after all. This time around I broke it down into my ten favorite books and ten favorite minicomics/floppies–with the strict ground rule that everything had to have been published during this terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad-but-still-with-some-bright-spots year. Enjoy, and let's all stay strong and fight back against what’s coming, just around the corner. And good riddance to you, 2016: the very mention of your name should now & forever carry a fucking Trigger Warning.

** kuš! winter season 2017 (kuš! blog) -- We don't give kuš! enough love around here but here's their upcoming winter comics.

Why do I have this strange feeling that my subscription to kuš! has expired.  I really hope is hasn't yet because I don't want to miss these comics.

Current Mood

January 9, 2017

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2016 Comics that Scott Will Still Be Thinking About in 2017

For the past few weeks, I've been staring at this list of comics.  I don't know if these are the best comics of 2016 or even my favorite comics of the year but these are all of the books that really struck me and that I've kept on coming back to as I've tried to figure out what 2016 meant to me when it comes to comics.

I've written about quite a few of these comics over the past year but not all of them either here or over at Newsarama.  For the books that I have written about, I've included a link to the review.

And in no particular order, here are the books of the past year that made a huge impression on me.

January 6, 2017

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Previously On Panel Patter 2016 (Weekend Pattering for January 6th, 2017)

Welcome to 2017.  Hopefully next week I'll emerge from my link blogging holiday coma and be back in normal mode.  Until then, I still have to put some kind of list together of my favorite comics of 2016.  But until then, here's a quick look at some of the stuff that's happened here at Panel Patter over the past year.

Top 10 Posts of 2016

Here's the list of the most popular posts of the year.  And of course, nothing was more popular this year than Bernie Sanders as Snow White.

#1:  Graphic Nonfiction: Birdie Sanders and a Brief History of the Finch (Rob M.)
Lastly, Panel Patter doesn't endorse presidential candidates (though we might have gone for Captain America, way back when) but we will use any excuse possible to show this:
Princess Sanders by Kipp Creations

#2:  SPX Spotlight 2016: Dan Clowes' Patience (Scott C.)
Don’t get too comfortable reading Daniel Clowes’ Patience. Don’t allow yourself to get 5 or 10 page into the book thinking you know what this story is. The book is a story about a young couple, expecting their first child and trying to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet. To keep his wife Patience calm and assured that everything is going to be o.k., Jack lies to her about his job, saying he’s on the fast track to a promotion while he’s really standing on a street corner, handing out flyers for some business or another. These first few pages almost seem like something more out of a recent Adrian Tomine book than a Clowes book. Then again, Clowes is the guy who did Ghost World, a book that has served as a template for so many of Tomine’s works.

January 5, 2017

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Love and Archie and Rockets-- a look at Archie Volume Two

There are ways of looking at Mark Waid’s career and see a large chunk of it as almost being a dress rehearsal for his work on Archie. His Flash, the red-headed Wally West, explored a lot of Wally’s childhood and the way it impacted his role of being a speedster and a hero. The post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes was the “Archie Legion,” rebooting those characters with a 31st-century optimism and wide-eyed sensibility that seemed right out of the Silver Age and even more specifically, out of Archie’s own Riverdale. Even his current trademark-ensuring work on Marvel’s The Champions is trying to mine that gee-whiz-isn’t-it-great-we’re-heroes sentiment even as he horribly fails to capture what makes Kamala Khan, Sam Alexander and Miles Morales great new Marvel characters. But for as far off the mark as his well-intentioned but misguided Champions is, Archie Volume Two is the perfect comic to express his own Silver Age longings applied to 21st Century teenagers.

December 29, 2016

December 28, 2016

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Sacrificing Story for Nostalgia in Howard Chaykin's Midnight of the Soul

There are times when a murder mystery isn’t about either the murder or the mystery. The first chapter of Howard Chaykin’s Midnight of the Soul ends with a murder but Chaykin’s interest lies more in the betrayal that frames the killing of a jazz musician. He’s only slightly more interested in the betrayal so that by the time the book ends, you practically forget that there’s even a mystery about who killed the musician. Joel Breakstone, a man more damaged by his time fighting in WWII than he even realizes, discovers that his wife has been leading a whole life away from their home, a more lurid and salacious life. This is a Chaykin comic so of course it also involves blowjobs but in this case, it’s not that many of them. So maybe that’s actually evidence of some personal growth for Chaykin. But maybe more frustrating is that Chaykin, once one of the most vicious and biting cartoonists of his generation, has become an elder statesman exploring nostalgia more than character.

Joel Breakstone is one of Chaykin’s typical leading-man-with-feet-of-clay. Fighting his memories of liberating the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald, Breakstone has spent the five years after the war self-imprisoned in his own home, trying to write a science fiction story about the Nazis winning the war and taking over New York City. Spending all of that time as well looking at the bottom of a bottle, he hasn’t noticed how his life has slipped away from him; he signed his house over to his brother-in-law and his wife has been leading a double life in NYC. One night as his whole life breaks apart around him, the memories of Buchenwald come flooding back as the truth about his life, his drinking, and his marriage takes him on a whirlwind tour through New York trying to find some truth that he can hold onto.

The murder of one of his wife’s lovers means that all kinds of colorful characters cross Joel’s path on that night as he tries to find his wife. It allows Chaykin to write the kind of pulpy story that he loves to do. After the more-Chaykin-than-Chaykin cover-band version of Chaykin in Satellite Sam that he was actually one-half of the creative team of, Midnight of the Soul feels like Chaykin settling back into his comfort zone. There are elements of everything from Time2 to Marked Man in this story. This lost man narrative that he’s exploring here is something that Chaykin does so well but in Midnight of the Soul, it’s barely more than an excuse to be able to visit a New York City that last existed only when he was born.

But by not getting so lost in the vulgarities and carnalities that he clearly loves so much (just see any iteration of Black Kiss for those,) Midnight of the Soul carries a certain charm to it. All of the betrayals, murders and genocide are background noise to a man’s quest. And as those usual elements are more silent than normal, Chaykin spends his time trying to construct an NYC of seedy bars, where you could find Charlie Parker blowing his horn. Jesus Aburtov gives Chaykin’s NYC a lovely luminous glow. So ultimately the book becomes a tour of a city as it may or may not have existed. Midnight of the Soul may be a love letter to the New York City of Chaykin’s own youth, as imagined through the nostalgia-tinged eyes of a 66-year-old cartoonist.

Chaykin never commits to his plot but he’s totally engaged with the tone of the book that he wants. He hasn’t done anything this influenced by its setting since the first Time2 comic (not even the western book he did for Disney Italia, Century West) but over the years, Chaykin’s once sharp, satirical bite has dulled. By not really caring about murder or cuckoldry, Chaykin betrays his story to his nostalgia. The story about Joel Breakstone’s journey to some kind of self-discovery ends up being about the bright lights of the big city. Visually, Chaykin’s vision of a city has never been stronger but that strength robs the comic of any characters who have anything to really contribute to the plot that they stumble through.

Midnight of the Soul
Written and drawn by Howard Chaykin
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by Ken Bruzenak
Published by Image Comics

December 23, 2016

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James' 2016 Favorites Part 1: Favorite Books and Writers

There were some excellent comics this year. In this first column I look at some of the favorite books I read this year, I talk about favorite writers, series and issues.  I hope to have a Part 2 up soon, in which I highlight certain favorite artists (beyond the discussion below). 

Favorite Writer - Tom King

December 20, 2016

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Review: 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art and Design by Tyler Boss
Color Flatting from Claire Dezutti
Wallpaper Design by Courtney Menard
Lettered by Thomas Mauer
Published by Black Mask Studios

4 Kids Walk Into a Bank is returning this week and I couldn't be happier. I was a huge fan of issue 1 (and issue 2) and I'm happy to say that issue 3 picks up right where the story left off.  This is the 80's set comic about nascent preteen criminals that you need in your life.

What you need to know to catch up is that the story concerns 4 kids (not surprisingly). One of those kids is a girl named Paige, and it appears that her dad is mixed up with some terrible guys who are planning on robbing a bank. The kids are convinced that these guys are idiots and they'll screw it up (and Paige's dad will end up in jail) and so they decide the only reasonable thing to do is to, of course, rob the bank themselves first.  

Like issue 1, issue 3 of 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank opens with a dramatic action sequence. In this case, it's a chase sequence as seen above, and it's a great opportunity for artist Tyler Boss to display his artistic chops in a dynamic action setting. Similarly to issue 1, something happens which makes you realize that what we're actually seeing is the kids' imagination dramatically brought to life. I love these sequences not only because they're an exciting, entertaining way to begin a comic, but also because they illuminate the fact that for kids, the line between fantasy/play and reality is thinner than it is for grownups. They also represent a great contrast to the far more mundane reality of the kids' lives.  I think Rosenberg and Boss really appreciate this and illustrate it effectively.

The story continues as the kids prepare to rob the bank and Paige does some hilarious reconnaissance, and all the while the kids deal with the fact that they're 12 year olds and in addition to being budding bank robbers, they're also middle school students and are dealing with bullying and other everyday problems.  While the story is absurd, it's also emotionally affecting - kid bank robbers may not be real, but the emotions that are portrayed (resentment, insecurities - lots of insecurities) all of that comes across in an emotionally honest way.

All the while, this continues to be a great-looking book. There's great wallpaper in the first few pages (from Courtney Menard) that gives the book a weird, Wes Anderson-vibe, and Boss' illustration really brings the story to life.  The art is just absurd enough to portray the crazy story, but it also doesn't veer far out of the realm of reality, and Boss' facial acting and character depictions are spot-on. Again his art reminds me of a slightly wackier David Aja (about as high praise as I can give) in the highly "analog" feel, and minimalist but on-point facial acting. There's also a nice variety of panel layouts from page to page, which work effectively to sometimes speed up the action, or get you to focus on the details of a hilarious and ridiculous conversation.   

Coupled with Rosenberg's terrific dialogue and narration (and some hilarious captions lettered by Thomas Mauer), 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank #3 is a funny, moving comic that should appeal to potential bank robbers everywhere. I recommend picking it up. 

December 19, 2016

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Saturday In the Park (the late Weekend Pattering for December 17th, 2016)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Tyler Boss's cover for 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #4 is a very simple but intriguing cover.  There's just enough detail to suggest that these kids are standing by a wall but there's nothing too explicit or even deep about it.  The small characters pushed off into a bottom corner creates just enough mystery about them that you want to know what's up with this comic.  

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #4 by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss and Thomas Mauer is in comic shops on December 21st, 2016.


** New Yorker artist Eric Drooker: A small giant in our midst (Berkleyside)-- Eve Kushner spotlights artist and occasional cartoonist Eric Drooker. Drooker's Blood Song and Flood are two of the highlights of Nineties' comics, visually strong books created with images that you just don't see in comics.
Drooker longs to maintain a connection to New York, so he enjoys working for the New Yorker. He has created more than 30 covers for the publication. The Dec. 14, 2015 cover, shown above — a comment on gun control — garnered considerable attention, showing a couple shopping at a superstore. Having found milk and hand grenades, they’re picking out a bevy of semi-automatic rifles. When Drooker first submitted the artwork, in 2012, the New Yorker rejected the piece. Then, after the San Bernardino shootings on Dec. 2, 2015, the magazine ran the cover immediately. By then, mass shootings had become the norm.

** “A Fair Bit of Alchemy”: A Q&A with Luke Howard (The Comics Journal)-- Rob Kirby interviews Luke Howard, cartoonist and instructor at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT.  
Howard: There just aren’t enough hours in the day and a big chunk of energy and time is being eaten up by something that isn’t comics. So what’s the solution? Either make less comics, or work two full-time jobs – your day job and your comics job. For the time being I’ve gone down that second route. It’s rough, maybe not even sustainable in the long run. But there are things about my job at CCS that really keep the fire lit. My two years as a CCS student were the hardest and most productive work years of my life. As a faculty member, being around a tribe of young cartoonists that are going through the same things—pushing themselves to be stronger cartoonists with every assignment, and the constant flow of self-improvement—can be an incredible boon to my own productivity. And I think especially since I’m still relatively wet behind the ears when it comes to comics, being at the epicenter of an education system keeps me hungry for furthering my own education. Heading into my third year as a faculty member, I feel like I’ve almost been through four years as a student, if that makes sense. It’s funny, though, you mentioning that it seems like I’ve found my niche. That doesn’t feel all that true from my perspective. Not to say I haven’t been lucky to have the opportunity to make books with both AdHouse and Retrofit—maybe that is a niche of sorts. From my side of things it all still feels very precarious, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like maybe the next time I sit down to make a comic it’ll be like I’m 10 years old again, and what comes out on the page will feel unacceptable—the spell will be broken. I still feel a lot like Emma does at the end of that story, the future is unclear.

This and That

** Fantagraphics vs. Everyone (Part One) (The Comics Journal)-- TCJ has been running a couple of excerpts from Tom Spurgeon and Michael Dean's oral history of Fantagraphics, We Told You So: Comics as Art.  Part one is here.  Part 2 is here.  I've spent a better part of the week skimming through the book so far and it's great.  It makes me wish that I was in Seattle, and that hardly ever happens.  If nothing else, the book is an important chronicle of Gary Groth and, by extension, Fantagraphic's impact and views on comics.

Gary Groth: We published the Paul Levitz memo in the Journal where DC’s option to buy Diamond was revealed. I remember talking to Larry Marder at Image about that, and basically he didn’t give a shit. I thought it would be a revelation to him, that he would step up and say, “No, we can’t let this happen and we have a tremendous amount of clout and we are going to keep at least two distributors alive,” and basically he, and I assume all the Image partners, for whatever reasons, when they had the option of either going with Capital or sticking with both of them, chose to go with Diamond and kill Capital. Dark Horse made the same choice. Capital clearly would have served as a perfectly acceptable distributor in the direct-sales market and a counterweight to Diamond. Diamond could not have offered Image anything that Capital couldn’t, and in fact, Diamond probably had to offer them less because they became a monopoly. But for reasons that will probably forever remain a mystery, neither Image nor Dark Horse elected to keep two distributors alive in the direct-sales market. So much for competition being an essential ingredient of capitalism.
The last Maakies! strip by Tony Millionaire (Dec 14, 2016.)

** All Hail Maakies! Tony Millionaire Ends His Stupendous Alt-Weekly Achievement After 20-Plus Years... (The Comics Reporter)-- Speaking of Tom Spurgeon, he has a thorough sendoff for Tony Millionaire's Maakies!, after Millionaire announced that he was ending the strip.
Despite the sturdiness of Millionaire's basic presentation, part of the effectiveness of Maakies was that Millionaire carved out an enormous space for self-expression within what in other hands might have been narrow thematic grounds. Some of the most memorable Maakies installment eschewed jokes for serious, even elegiac declarations: the lyrics to Moon River, a lowering of the sails for the author Patrick O'Brian in 2000. It was one of those deviations that led to his most useful structural ploy. Millionaire crafted a bottom-tier strip within the strip, an homage to the old Sunday-comics habit of including a supplementary feature. The bottom strip almost always indulged in straightforward joke-making.

Your Moment of The Future of Comics?

** 2017 may be a rough year for comics retail and the industry–or not (The Beat)
** Last Gasp Distribution shuts down, publishing to continue (The Beat)
** When Is A Merger Not A Merger? When It’s Desert Sky Comics (Bleeding Cool)
** Why Are The Comics Retailers Worried About Mass Store Closings? (The Beat)
** Two Comics Stores Close In Columbia, South Carolina –Punk Monkey, Heroes And Dragons (Bleeding Cool)
** Let’s Save Comics!!! More thoughts on new readers, Marvel attrition and DC cover prices (The Beat)

There's been a lot of digital ink this week about a bleak 2017 for comics, particularly for comic retailers.  The Beat and Bleeding Cool have been chronicling the retailer's point-of-view lately, putting a spotlight on failing and closing comic shops.  These stories are nothing new but as 2016 closes, these stories begin painting an ugly picture of the future.  And this future is caused by Marvel, DC, and the readers.

I'm a fan of comic shops (still proudly a "Wednesday Warrior") but I don't think I'm really a fan any more longer of the direct market.  It's a mechanism that developed in the 1980s that powered decades of great comics but in 2016, it looks more and more like a creaking structure that's only as strong as its strongest element, which historically has been Marvel Comics.  The DM is still the primary distribution system of comics although webcomics, Kickstarter and other methods of direct selling look like they could be the future.

So what is 2017 going to be like?  Are we going to lose a significant portion of our retailers as they close shop?  If you follow the Beat and Bleeding Cool, it looks like it.   And is that the worst thing?  Who knows?

It's funny in a tragic way that we're having this dialogue as superheroes and comics seem to be at the height of their penetration into popular culture.  Marvel movies are the biggest things even as the output of Marvel Comics seem to be connecting less and less to their usually loyal fanbase.  DC Comics and their movies have the perfect opportunity to strike but they can't get their act together long enough yet to really take a bite out of Marvel's market share.

But comics feel stronger than ever.  Image Comics, Dark Horse, Oni and Black Mask seem like they are all poised to really do something if only they could find that next great thing.  Alternate stalwarts Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly are producing some of their greatest work even as they've celebrated publishing milestones through two fantastic retrospective books.  And there are a ton of smaller alternative publishers like 2D Cloud, Koyama Press and Retrofit that are really revitalizing a unique aesthetic in comics.

This is just really your year-end reminder that comics are not DC and Marvel and are not the Direct Market.  While those are large portions of comics, and we all benefit when they function in a healthy manner, comics are so much bigger than the DM. Parts of comics may stumble and fall but there's so much more to comics that are found in other places than your Local Comic Shop.

Current Mood

December 13, 2016

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The Wake by Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth

Written by Scott Snyder
Line Art by Sean Murphy
Color Art by Matt Hollingsworth
Published by Vertigo/DC

Dr. Archer is drawn into a mysterious undersea project by a government that's previously rejected her, leading to the discovery of creatures at the ocean's floor who may hold a key to her past, even as they threaten her future. In another time, a flooded world tries to recover while rumors fly of a way to recover from devastation, if only the right people will listen. It's all woven together in The Wake, a great mini-series that won an Eisner, which is hard to argue with.

There's a wonderful sense of horror and mystery in this one, as we first need to discover just what it is that's hurting a top-secret drilling project and then seek a way to save humanity. Snyder really understands the pacing necessary to make a horror story work, and this case is no exception. We open with a mysterious project, find a creature that man thinks he can contain, and when he can't, no amount of preparation can save him from the consequences.

Once that arc is completed, the story pivots to a different kind of horror story--one in which the worst has already happened and the devolution of humanity into something savage and barely recognizable. That's when our second heroine, Leeward, must evade both the dangers of the world and also what's left of the American government in order to bring about change. It's a story of hope against the odds, and my only complaint is that, given the world we're set in, I'm not sure that the ending exactly fits. I think Snyder tries a bit too hard to provide a moral lesson, and the in-world logic really gets dodgy, at least to me.

What is not dodgy is Murphy's art, combined with Hollingsworth's coloring. Here's one of the first pages from the book, where Murphy is establishing the world that Leeward lives in:

We can see right away that things are flooded, Florida-in-ten-years style. Buildings are falling over and falling apart, so we know that humanity isn't doing well, even if our protagonist seems to be doing okay for herself. We see she uses an animal for help and is athletic. Leeward is also alone, further indicating bad things have happened, and the waves at the bottom, along with the cut-in panel showing the concern on her face, tell us that something is very very wrong, even above and beyond the overall wrongness of the situation. All of this is conveyed in the space of two pages.

Snyder does a great job of using Murphy's extreme talents to tell the story, rather than talking over it. We don't need to get into endless explanations, except in a few parts, because Murphy makes the scene to clear, in panel after panel. That means that the characters can talk and interact instead of being exposition factories. Additionally, each ones gets their own distinctive voice, even as they are archetypes of horror characters, ranging from the lawman, the outlaw who isn't all bad, the dreamer, and the heroine. Cleverly, each role is doubled in the dual narrative, too.

I really dig Murphy's art style, which is rough but still structured, reminding me a lot of Matteo Scalera. His added lines and extremely thin pencil work combine to create a very strong atmosphere, and his panel construction is unbelievable. Here's another example, when Dr. Archer meets the monster:

Just look at that structuring! It's one part Mignola, one part Sienkiewicz, and maybe just a bit of Frank Miller thrown in for good measure. Murphy is an amazing talent, and even if you find the story running out of steam, his art pushes you past the rough edges. Combined with Hollingsworth's excellent coloring choices, this is one gorgeous book.

I wish I'd read this one sooner. It's a great horror story, and one I definitely recommend. Snyder's totally wasted doing superhero books--his horror stuff is just so damned good. Make sure you check this one out, if you haven't yet.

December 9, 2016

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Hey, Andy are you goofing on Elvis? (Weekend Pattering for December 9th, 2016)

Previously on Panel Patter

The Wicked + The Divine #24- A Past Reflection of an Uncertain Present (Scott C.)
Saga #40 (James K. @ Comicosity)

Cover of the Next Week

After all of these years, Richard Corben can still draw nightmares.  Shadows of the Grave is his newest comic from Dark Horse and based off of this cover, Corben's imagination may be more twisted than ever.  And considering the great horror comics that he's worked on before, Corben's artistic worldview hasn't lost its edge.


** First Second Editorial Director Mark Siegel on Nurturing the "New Mainstream" of Comic Books (Paste)-- First Second is one of the more fascinating publishers, nurturing a lot of very different types of comics.  Siegel, the editorial director of the house, has lead the publisher to one of the most important voices in comics.
I always knew I wanted First Second to do, in some ways, a very American thing: something that’s true to the American voices of today, with a very strong “world” component. What’s interesting now is that it used to be three great schools of comics—the American school, the European and then the Japanese school—each of which, obviously, is many schools. But the fact that now they’re speaking to each other and blending into each other, and we have things like Last Man or Faith Erin Hicks, someone who grew up reading manga, who is now a bestselling author. We’re in a different place. I think creatively people are in a different place. Now the masters of manga, the masters of Europe, the masters of America—people are drawing from all these in new and interesting ways. And you also have this situation where graphic novels are also speaking to other kinds of literature, and you have the whole range of genres, from the quiet, introspective fiction to high-fantasy and sci-fi. So the interesting thing to see is, What story will we tell about this time period that we’re in? I’m sure that we’re going to look back on this as a renaissance, as a Golden Age for a new kind of graphic novel that escaped the constraints of earlier comics.

This and That

** Odod Books Launch: A New Place for Kid's Comics! (Kickstarter)-- It's the final few days for Uncivilized Book's Kickstarter campaign for their kids' line of books, Odod Books. The Musnet comic from Kickliy looks amazing. Uncivilized has been one of my favorite smaller publishers for the past couple of years and I would love to see this campaign succeed.
Comics are very important to us, and especially comics for kids. Growing up, we loved reading comics, but sometimes they’re hard to find for people younger than 12. We've been publishing literary focused comics by award winning artists through Uncivlized Books for several years now and we think it's time we turned our attention to younger audiences. We want to publish kid's comics with all the depth and quality that we've offered through Uncivilized Books.

** Andy Kaufman Gets the Graphic Novel Treatment: A First Look at ‘Is This Guy For Real?’ (Playboy)-- So a few weeks ago, I joked about Box Brown's next book being about the 2016 Cubs but his real next books sounds just as good, if not better. As announced on Playboy of all places, Brown's next book is going to be about the great comedian Andy Kaufman.
“Andy Kaufman has fascinated me for years,” Brown says. “I was too young to remember his runs on David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. But because of Man on the Moon, Comedy Central started re-airing Andy Kaufman’s performances. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. He was extremely influential in the comedy world, but I think still misunderstood and often emulated with varying results.”

** Comics for Choice Call for Submissions-- Whit Taylor and O.K. Fox are editing a comic anthology about abortion, raising money for the National Network of Abortion Funds. You still have a couple of weeks to check out the website and send in your submissions.
This is a scary time for reproductive freedom in America. Already, people face far too many obstacles to access the abortions they need, with bans on insurance coverage, far-away clinics and mandatory waiting periods. Fueled by misogyny and misinformation, the Trump administration wants to restrict access even more. Now is the time for us to use our art to raise both awareness and money to protect this crucial right.

** Comics Should Be Decent: A Discourse About Discourse (Loser City)-- Nick Hanover and Kim O'Connor discuss the current climate of comics criticism.
O'Connor: Is my glum mood because of the state of the discourse…sort of? I’m not sure. I feel a certain mortification around comics, like sometimes I’m a little ashamed to be associated with it when it comes up in my real life. I felt depressed after Zainab closed C&C. Along with those things…I probably shouldn’t say this…some of the people who write about comics for major outlets are the fucking cockroaches. Like…they survive this stuff that’s killing off some of the rest of us, in part because they can be nasty. So to me those are the guys who are most directly responsible for pissing in the talent pool. They’re actively making inside baseball conversations less interesting by being bullies, and they’re also helping to shape the bad, bland conversation that’s unfolding in the broader culture. I don’t know how that all relates to the harassment and the assault stuff, but it sort of feels related, doesn’t it? Maybe on some level a lot of this comes down to fanboys?? Even at the corporate level, there’s that mentality of we can’t fire these boys because they’re good at what they do. Classic fanboy shit. Not for nothing, Riesman is one of the few journalists on god’s earth who seems positioned to put some heat on DC. Which…fat fucking chance. I don’t know, I’m just thinking maybe fanboys are gonna fanboy, whether we’re talking about shielding sexual predators or yelling at people about Adrian Tomine.
This is probably an inside-baseball piece but these kinds of articles fascinate me. I'm never quite too sure what to make of these but it kills me to read about a lot of the crap and abuse writers whom I like take from creators and from the greater fandom. I think a lot of the discourse happening today is some of the best even as the larger discussions get uglier and uglier. Admittedly, in the past year I've slowly disconnected more and more from social media where I think a lot of the ugliness happens.

** Editorial: Why the New Sincerity Has Forever Changed Comics (Paste)-- Somehow, I think I've missed this whole "New Sincerity" thing. Magdalene Vissagio, the writer of Black Mask's Kim & Kim, looks at this recent movement in comics.
That grimdark saturation is enough to make one think that something like Squirrel Girl isn’t an offbeat exception, but a deliberate act of rebellion. These observations comment on the entire structure of how comics are produced and what they mean. Some of that equation is structural; the industry, as a whole, has doubled down on a particular market segment for oh, the majority of its existence to the detriment of a conceivably wider comic-buying public. These new books are almost all put together by other kinds of people other than straight white dudes—POC, women, LGBTQ writers—and widely appeal to these same audiences. That’s not a coincidence.
I'll freely admit that I don't get a lot of these comics but I'm the 45 year old guy (actually 46 years old, thank you) that Vissagio refers to ("Stylized, youthful, increasingly female and often queer, these books are almost (read: explicitly) a deliberate slap in the face to a toxic fandom culture and a broken business model that has focused exclusively on 45-year-old white dudes.")  I may not get it but I'm happy to see these comics and the audience they're reaching, even if I think Vissagio's piece spends too much time talking about what they're rebelling against instead of singing the praises of these new comics.

Your Moment of Spiegelman

** Cartoonist Art Spiegelman: 'I don’t want to spend another 13 years on a book' (Independent)-- This headline just makes me sad.
“I don’t want to spend another 13 years on a book,” he says, reflecting on the lack of a real follow-up to Maus since its 1991 completion. “I don’t have that other book obviously in me. I spent the first few years after Maus trying to figure out what that might be.” Now, after that 300-page, epochal work, he’s contemplating “the one-page graphic novel…more filled with implication than any page has a right to be”.

Current Mood

December 8, 2016

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The Wicked + The Divine #24- A Past Reflection of an Uncertain Present

The Wicked + The Divine #24 takes place on January 1st, 2015.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre hasn’t happened yet.

The Paris Bataclan killings haven’t happened yet.

The Brexit vote hasn’t happened yet.

President-elect Donald Trump wasn't even a serious Republican candidate yet.

Prince is still alive.

David Bowie is still alive.

For Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson, the future is undefined because now, after the young pop gods killed their guide and manipulator Ananke, they are now in charge of their own lives but don’t know what to do other than screw and fight amongst themselves. And that’s what this issue is as Laura, once the young and naive fan but now the goddess Persephone, discovers the boredom and pettiness of godhood.  Screwing and fighting.

It’s fascinating to think that we’re watching Gillen and McKelvie build the future out of the past. With the comic’s present receding farther and farther into our past, this rift between fiction and reality creates an interesting distance between reality and fiction. For as much as it’s about gods and monsters, The Wicked + The Divine has focused on the humanity of its characters, their loves and their betrayals. And now these characters no longer have their shepherd so they’re asking, like we probably are as well, what now?  Everything is unknown and unraveling.  Welcome to our future.

As the second issue of the "The Imperial Phase" arc, this issue remains about the pettiness of these characters. Laura self-medicates with sex. Cassandra loses herself in her work so much she doesn’t even realize that it’s a new year. And Woden, Ananke’s right-hand underling, threatens to undo everything Laura has accomplished. 2015 isn’t a year for the gods that’s getting off to a great start.

When asked what to call her, Laura identifies herself as “The Destroyer,” a self-identification that she repeats when threatened by Woden. The future for these characters that Gillen and McKelvie are building towards feels just as tumultuous as our real future does. The issue opens with fireworks and sex and ends with blackmail and weapons drawn. The optimism of New Years is quickly followed by the weight of the unknown. The thrill of being young and foolish has been replaced the responsibility and consequence and those are two things that none of these characters are ready for yet.

The Wicked + The Divine #24 begins the future for Laura and this pantheon of gods and it’s not getting off to the best of starts. It’s not like this comic has ever referenced real world people or events (it’s not Phonogram) but we know that the world changes continues to evolve and change for better or for worse over 2015 and 2016. It’ll be interesting to see how real world events of 2015 and 2016 inform the comic about 2015 that Gillen and McKelvie are creating.

The Wicked + The Divine #24
Written by Kieron Gillen
Drawn by Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Matt Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

December 2, 2016

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Memories of Howard Chaykin, Alex Ross and a Gumby Watch (Weekend Pattering for December 2nd, 2016)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Like his artwork on Sabrina, Robert Hack's variant cover for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Salmon of Doubt #3 is a true joy in the way that he captures a timeless quality in his images.  With the old paperback design of this cover, this book looks like a lot of fun.  And it actually looks a bit like a Matt Kindt cover as well.  Kindt and Hack have a similar approach to their images.  Hack's cover here is fairly simple but the simpleness is deceptive because the strength of his drawings is more in the complete image than in any single element of it.  


** ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY (Fandor)-- I live by a simple rule:  always link to interviews with Jodorowsky.  It doesn't even really need to be about his comic work.

Jodorowsky: Everybody knows the system we live in is bad. No one is happy. We know that politics is rotten, and that religion is a business. Everybody knows economics has no justice. There are a lot of people who don’t have enough, and a lot who have too much. We know we’re destroying the Earth. Actually, we know everything are we doing wrong. And if we knew everything that will be in the future, we would change it. When I made films in the past, I could kill an animal. I believed that killing animals for art was to sacrifice them, like in religion. But I was not aware of animals suffering. Then many people came out who started to shout about why do we kill animals if they are nice and beautiful. Naturally, now we eat less meat. It is like this—step by step. In the future, the new generation will make a political revolution, because the world is no good right now. Everybody knows that war is a business. How many young people would like to go to a war and get killed today? People right now are global, they don’t want to die for their countries. Violence is now happening elsewhere, especially over access to water.

This and That

from Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

*** THE BEGUILING ANNOUNCES MOVE TO COLLEGE STREET (Sequential)-- I've only been to The Beguiling once.  A couple of years ago, we drove up to Toronto for a vacation and stayed in the downtown area.  There are actually a number of really good shops in that area but the big one I really wanted to hit was The Beguiling and, since it's in Scott Pilgrim, Honest Ed's.  This was probably a year or two before it was announced that Honest Ed's had sold all of the property on that block for future development.

So my son (probably 8 or 9 years old at the time) and I wandered around the store for a bit.  He was getting impatient and but I was in heaven up, on the second floor, somewhere around the DC Showcase bookshelf.  I maybe already had one or two in my hand and was just starting to dig through their deep collection.

And then it happened-- my son barfed in that corner.

So there you go; that's my memory of The Beguiling.  If I ever get a chance, I probably owe the staff of The Beguiling a beer because I quickly apologized, dropped the books, and ran my son out the door before he could spew any more around the store.

For some weird reason, this is one of my favorite memories related to comics.  (I can rank it favorite because my son was only suffering from motion sickness after paying more attention to his Gameboy as we drove around Toronto to get to the store.

My other favorite memories?  Glad you asked:

  • Howard Chaykin #1 -- At a Chicago Comicon (back when it was still great before Wizard bought it,) I was standing in line for Howard Chaykin.  This was probably around 1987 or 1988.  When there was only one person in front of me, I reached into my pocket and pulled something out.  Somehow, Chaykin saw this and momentarily freaked out at me thinking I had pulled a live mouse out of my pocket.  It was only my Gumby digital watch.  I honestly don't think I stayed in line after that because it would be years before I would get a Chaykin autograph.  (stay tuned for that story.
  • Sometime in the late 1990s, my friend Ty and I drove into Chicago and hit the great Chicago Comics.  As we were wandering the store, Alex Ross came in to pick up some books and he started browsing around the store, just like we were.  (Remember, we're in Chicago.  Seeing a comic creator around here can be rare sometimes.  It's not like we're NYC or Portland.)  I turned to Ty and dared him to go over by Alex Ross.  Really all I wanted to do was push Ty into Ross.  Don't know why.  We were kids then and the thought of pushing Ty into Ross greatly amused me.  
  • Howard Chaykin #2:  Around 2010, Chaykin was a guest of Wizard World Chicago.  Ty (there he is again) and I were back in line to get a signature.  Whoever was in front of us got into a discussion with Chaykin about aging and thinning hair or losing hair.  Chaykin saw me and said something like I had a great head of hair (I'll remember that moment forever) but I'll lose it when I turn 40.  He then asked me how old I was.  I was 40 years old.  He shot daggers at me and I think may have cursed me in Yiddish.  Long story short, I got my copy of the American Flagg! collection signed by Chaykin, probably the one and only Chaykin signature I have on any book.

Your Moment of 1980s era Howard Chaykin

Let's just keep the Howard Chaykin love going with this video from the 1980s of an interview with Chaykin about tough guys.

Current Mood

November 30, 2016

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Pounding the Journalistic Pavement with Sarah Glidden in Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

Written and Drawn by Sarah Glidden
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

If there’s any one thing we can take away from Sarah Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, it’s that time keeps on marching on and our stories and histories continue to change. Her newest book chronicles a trip to those three countries in 2010 where she and a small band of journalists wanted to report on Iraqi refugees and their lives. Back then, a large number of displaced Iraqis found refuge in Syria. And now in 2016 Syria is torn apart by war and people are fleeing that country to find refuge elsewhere, including in the United States. The situation in Syria has changed so much that Glidden addresses the march of history and wonders if her story is even relevant after recent events. But just because situations and politics change, the stories of these refugees and, indeed, all refugees becomes even more important. The stories she tells in this book aren’t just a history of 2010 but an important exploration of the ever-growing issues of refugees that are more and more part of our world.

Glidden asks herself and her readers “what is journalism?” in the opening pages of the book. Is it what her friend and travel companion Sarah, a journalist herself, describes it as- verifiable, accountable and independent? She seems to be the expert here. But to some of the Iraqis they find on the way, journalism is just a cover for American spies and having a veteran as one of their other companions seems to cast a lot of potential drama over their group? Or is Glidden’s own chronicling of her travels journalism? Or maybe the book isn’t even about journalism at all, even though that’s what Glidden wants it to be. Maybe it’s about how Americans and Iraqis view each other and Glidden’s own brand of journalism is just a tool to tell her stories.

At the center of Glidden’s journey is Dan, a guy who joined the marines for some complicated reasons. He didn’t believe in the war with Iraq but he also couldn’t let others go over to fight for America if he also wasn’t willing to. Now going to college on the GI Bill, Dan joins these journalists to go back and revisit the country and its people. A childhood friend of one of the other journalists, it’s hoped that Dan would be able to provide a unique and questioning perspective on his and his country's’ roles in the lives of these displaced people but he’s never willing to open up that much. He wants to believe that their presence in Iraq was just and that the people’s lives are better now even as he meets people whose lives have been completely uprooted and irrevocably altered by the actions of the United States.

Dan’s presence on this trip only complicates an already complicated situation. Dan is central to Glidden’s book but he’s not the focus of it. In Glidden’s travels, we meet all sorts of different people who have had to leave their homes and, in many cases, their families. Some of these people are welcoming to this small group of Americans, welcoming them into their homes and freely telling their stories. Other people treat the Americans as the surrogates for the United States and the country which attacked their homes, destroying their lives and families. Rolling Blackouts show that there are two and, often, more sides to every story and Glidden meets many of those stories. 

Glidden’s cartooning breaks down a lot of the barriers between us sitting in our comfortable homes reading this book and the lives of the refugees. In most cases, we would read accounts like this as prose, with an author painting these images with words and phrases. But like Joe Sacco, her spiritual predecessor when it comes to this type of comic storytelling, Glidden has the power of the images. She shows people eagerly answering their questions or pulling back when they learn they are talking to Americans. The observational and conversational nature of her cartooning makes these complex politics and emotions easy to follow. For as complicated as the issues that Glidden covers are, her approach to telling these stories is as clear and concise as possible. It’s this clarity that makes Rolling Blackouts a must read to understand the lives of refugees around the world.

At the end of the book, Glidden circles back to her questions about journalism and she doubts her own ability for it in the stories that she’s just told. There may be elements of independence, accountability, and veracity in her work but because of how much time has passed since 2010 and now, she questions her own work. Syria in 2016 is a lot different than the Syria of 2010 but the stories of these people still need to be told. The lives of the refugees, whether they’re in Syria or Germany or France or the United States (or wherever they may settle) share these experiences and Glidden’s book allows us to create a relationship with them. And with this relationship comes some understanding of the lives that refugees have had to give up to find safety for themselves and their loved ones.