Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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The Maddening Spirals of Junji Ito's Uzamaki


Uzamaki
Written and Drawn by Junji Ito
Published by Viz Media

I never really thought of spirals as a scary thing but after reading Junji Ito’s Uzamaki (now collected in one 600+ page book by Viz Media,) I don’t know if I ever really want to see one again. Ito’s story of a small Japanese town, Kurouzo-cho focuses on the madness that infests it as spirals begin terrorizing the town and its inhabitants. Kirie, our heroine, first notices the madness festering in her boyfriend Shuichi’s father. On a walk to school, she finds Shuichi’s father huddled in an alley, intently studying a snail’s spiral shell. An obsession develops in Shuichi and his father around the spirals that drives this family insane. It’s a meme infection on a familial level that’s insidious enough but it’s only the beginning of Ito’s own maddening horror that infects the reader as much as it does the characters and their village.

Originally produced in 1998 and 1999, Ito’s artwork is incredibly tight and it needs to be for the type of horror story that he’s creating. The gut punch of Ito’s horror lands in the images he draws, characters infected by spirals who undergo horrific transformations. Early on, a whirlpool opens in one girls head, pulling her completely into it. She’s consumed by a spiral and Ito’s representation of that event is an early signifier that something more than just psychological horror is happening here. As Ito twists bodies and nature in this book, the horror becomes so physical through his drawings. The physical malformations that people and the town go through in this book are lead the reader into the more insidious types of horror that Ito is working with here.


To make those physical manifestations of bodily mutations have any kind of impact, Ito has to build up the suspense to those moments, which he does masterfully. Uzamaki is a page turner as Kirie and Schuichi’s investigations into the strange spirals out slowly but continues to get more and more dangerous with each occurrence. As clouds and dust whirl into spirals, as people start going mad, as their bodies begin turning into snails and as the food runs out and the snails are the only meat available, Ito’s madness worms its way into the reader’s mind. It’s the Alfred Hitchcock method of horror where the really scary stuff isn’t in the horrific images but it’s in the moments leading up to those twisted and monstrous bodies that jump out at you. There are many such reveals throughout the book where Ito builds up and teases out the tension and each next one keeps multiplying on top of the last. 

The horror in Uzamaki is ultimately the horror of nature. The expressions of the infecting spirals take on many forms that should be natural; tornados, whirlpools, snails and whirling clouds. As the town gets pulled deeper and deeper into these unnatural forms of common occurances, it’s the environment around Kurouzo-cho that becomes the truly sinister villain of the book. Sometimes it’s easy to brush off horror if the antagonist is just another person, some mustache twirling villain for our heroes to defeat. But in Ito’s Uzamaki, it’s not a person who’s the enemy; it’s existence itself that turns against Kirie and Schuichi and everyone else. Every moment is lived inside of this fear and horror. It’s not something that can be escaped by running away.


For all of the many ways that Ito builds up the horror and suspense, there’s no big release of all of that pent up anxiety at the end. Instead of a triumphant conclusion, the story of Kirie and Schuichi resigns itself to the forces at work around them. It’s threats aren’t something to be overcome. Instead this is a story about the inevitable and about defeat. Everything and everyone in this town loses themselves to these destructive forces so why should our “heroes” be any different? Ito spends so much time on these two characters, centering the mystery and the tragedy of this town around them that the ending fizzles as Kirie and Schuichi become just two more inevitable victims of the forces at work here. It ends the way it ends because that was always how it was going to end. It’s cynical and defeatist 

Uzamaki is an insidious book, not because of the fictional horror that Ito plays with but in the way that it spreads the madness into its readers. This isn’t a story of monsters or of killers but of people who are driven into madness. That makes it so much easier and dangerous for the reader as they get infected along with the characters. Uzamaki is a great book to get lost in. Kirie and Schuichi’s struggles and fears become your struggles and fears. It’s magic that Ito is weaving here as he makes you more than just readers; you become a participant in the fear that’s infecting this town. It’s real and palpable so when he races through the ending and just gives into the fear, it’s not exciting and freeing as much as it is retiring and giving up. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

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FCBD Special: Quick Hits Featuring Our Free Comic Book Day Round-Up



Quick Hits was posted a little later than usual today because we wanted to take the time to read all the great (and sometimes not as great) Free Comic Book Day Offerings that we got at our local comic book shops across the country on Saturday.

This edition of Quick Hits will be a bit different from our normal style.You'll see us talk about some comics we might not normally cover, as you may have noticed from the other posts today. Just because we don't write a lot about books from certain publishers doesn't mean we aren't interested in them!

For this column, we are not running the usual full creator credits. This is not a diss on anyone's participation in the work--it's merely a choice to keep the column from turning into a jumble of names, given the reviews themselves are short. We at Panel Patter, many of whom are writers and artists ourselves, fully respect the hard work and effort that goes into making a comic.

Most of these comics are in alphabetical order, but we'll lead off with a few that sparked the greatest interest among the Panel Patter staff, starting with...



And Then Emily Was Gone/Oxymoron (Comix Tribe) 

If you're looking for a good scare, this is a great issue to pick up. And Then Emily Was Gone has been a big hit for ComixTribe (my review here), as it's a highly compelling, completely nightmare-inducing, supernatural and psychological horror story with adept storytelling from John Lees and horrifically good art from Iain Laurie. This issue tells a self-contained story about some events that are tangentially related to that of the main story, and gives a great flavor of what the book is like. There's also a story involving the freaky character Oxymoron, who seems to be ready to wreak some havoc throughout time. (Review by James Kaplan)


Bongo Comics Free-for-all! 2015 (Bongo Comics)

This is the FCBD I usually look forward to the most because it's usually one of the best. Bongo basically gives you an issue of Simpsons Comics each year, featuring stories that could easily be in their main magazine, which I used to read on a regular basis in trade. Not unlike the show itself, it does seem like the gang may be starting to run out of fresh ideas, as this one hewed closed to familiar themes: Bart pulls a school prank, Homer wrecks the house trying to fix a hole in the roof, and Lisa dreams of a better world that inevitably goes wrong. They're fun stories (better than the TV show in its current state, that's for sure), and I love that the characters are like Groening's originals in the story by writer David Seidman and line artist Mike Kazaleh and are turned realistic by writer Heather Nuhfer, and artists Nina Matsumato and Andrew Pepoy. This one is like turning back to old friends, yet requires no old knowledge for a potential new reader. A great fit for FCBD. (Review by Rob McMonigal)



BOOM! 10 Year Celebration Free Comic Book Day Special (BOOM! Studios)

Instead of enticing readers with longer takes from one or two stories, BOOM! opted to go with a smorgasbord, covering everything from an Adventure Time spinoff to the critically acclaimed Mouse Guard and a few of their monthly versions of classic newspaper series like Garfield. In most cases, they've chosen to do a short-short story, and those work best, showing what the series is like. (For example, the Mouse Guard tale is a narrative about what their version of heaven is like, complete with a fable that only the humblest may enter it.) A few are excerpts, and I admit that the one for Iscariot, with its Matt Kindt-like visuals from S.M. Vidaurri, really has me looking forward to its debut later in the year.

All of these comics are designed for an all-ages audience--you don't see a short vignette from Hexed, for example--which makes sense because theoretically, that's who Free Comic Book Day should be primarily aimed at, not grizzled vets looking to scoop up previews they've likely already read at CBR already. Though filled with familiar titles (Lumberjanes, Peanuts, Regular Show, etc.) and thus not a huge draw for existing BOOM! followers like me, it's a great way for a new reader to see what they've got out there--and isn't that the point? (Review by Rob McMonigal)


Divergence #1 (DC Comics)

The New 52 was a mixed bag, but give DC credit, they're not afraid to shake things up. This issue has previews of three of their biggest titles, Batman, Superman and Justice League, each of which have some pretty significant events going on. In Batman, the Snyder/Capullo team continue their strong work, but with a significant shift to the status quo. I won't spoil the events of Batman #40 for you, but let's say someone else, someone pretty surprising is filling in as Batman. Over in Superman, John Romita Jr. continues as artist, but with story from Gene Luen Yang. I've loved Yang's independent comics (such as American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints), so I'm curious to see what he brings to DC's greatest superhero (sorry, Batman). There's a huge status quo shift for Superman as well, which I don't know has been done before. I'm a little surprised about who caused it, but very curious to see where it goes. Lastly, Justice League (written by Geoff Johns, with solid art from Jason Fabok, in the DC house style) is setting up a big conflict between Darkseid, the Anti-Monitor, and it seems to involve Diana and the Amazonians as well. (Review by James Kaplan)


Gronk and Friends (Action Lab FCBD 2015)

One of the best things about FCBD is how it caters to families. Action Lab's FCBD book is split between Gronk and Hero Cats. Both are family friendly. What's really great about Gronk in particular is the way it shows a more realistic, but still entertaining parent-child relationship. It cracked me up to see an adult woman deal with a little rambling monster. It appealed to my humor without sacrificing the age-appropriateness for the kids in my life. On the art, Katie Cook does a great job making vibrant and adorable monsters. They look like an adorable mashup of chibis and web comics. The colors are bright but not abrasive and I couldn't get enough of the androgenous Gronk. I had this approved by an adorable (and easily scared 7 year old) and it gets a big two thumbs up. We read it twice. I love having the opportunity to introduce comics into kids' lives and Gronk is a great, funny read with likeable characters and pleasant art.

The Hero Cats portion was slightly less appealing to me. It's still cute, still age appropriate for the young 'uns, just didn't have the humor I was looking for. THAT's actually the best part of the FCBD samplers. I know that in the samplers, I can try out some great stories and if they don't click for me, it's no big deal, because it's smaller and less time (and of course free). (Review by Brianne Reeves)


Molly Danger (Action Lab)

I know nothing about Molly Danger, or at least I didn't before I read the Free Comic Book Day issue today.  Now that I've read it, I still don't know a whole lot about the character's backstory, supporting cast, or even her origin but it doesn't matter.  This was a blast.  If this issue is anything like the series by Action Lab, then you can guarantee it's a lot of fun.  There's something about this book, possibly the art style he's using for this series, that reminds me a lot of Astro City.  And that's pretty high praise coming from me, because I adore that book.  So this free little preview actually worked on me.  I'll be picking this up!  Count me in Mr. Igle. (Review by Douglas Peach)


Tales of Honor 0 (Image/Top Cow)

When the people of Earth move out across the stars, they form varying societies. One, based on the old Monarchy of England, Manticore, has arguably the most bad-ass female Captain in fiction Honor Harrington. In this short, we see why she's both feared and respected, as she takes on a slaving ship with an important hostage, playing Kirk/Sisko-level manipulation to come out on top, even if it's not the way you'd expect. I became a fan of this character late last year, and this is a really good example of why--Harrington is a strong female character, non-sexualized by both the writers (character creator David Weber and comic writer Matt Hawkins) and artist Linda Sejic, who makes her feminine in a very normal body shape. It's a great way to do character-driven hard SF, if a bit on the conservative side, and this told you what you needed about the world as well as why Honor is a character to watch. Very good introduction, and thus a good FCBD in my opinion. (Review by Rob McMonigal)
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FCBD Spotlight: 3 Takes on Secret Wars 0


JAMES KAPLAN'S TAKE:

Worlds will live! Worlds will die! Nothing will ever be the same! Ok, actually, pretty much everything dies. In case you missed it, this coming week is the first issue of Marvel's Secret Wars, which is the culmination of more than 5 years of storytelling by Jonathan Hickman at Marvel (in both Fantastic Four and Avengers). The Multiverse is dying, and it's down to 2 universes, the main (616) Marvel universe and the Ultimate Universe.

This #0 issue focuses on the children of the Future Foundation, which include Franklin and Valeria Richards, children of Reed and Susan Richards (better known as Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman). She's the brains of this highly intelligent outfit, and she fills them all in on the events (covering years worth of storytelling in the Avengers) that led them to this crisis. It's a fun little issue with a lot of information. I really enjoyed the artwork from Paul Renaud. He's got a very expressive style; really nice emotion and expression on the kids of the Future Foundation; kids are hard to draw as many artists basically draw them as small adults (which can look creepy).  Renaud also does yeoman's work in depicting a number of different events that have been seen in prior issues of the Avengers; these are single panels that have to tell a lot of story,many he does them well. 

For someone who hasn't been reading any of this I'm not sure that Secret Wars will be the easiest event to follow, but on the other hand, it's a multiverse-wide crisis. We can rest assured that good guys will fight each other until they realize they should team up, and there will be all sorts of epic epicness from the team of Hickman and artist Esad Ribic.  This issue was a good primer.

DOUG PEACH'S VIEW:

So I've been out of the Marvel Comics loop for about 6 months, but I'm catching up and still able to be oddly excited about this new Secret Wars event.  I'm really hoping the whole thing is just an elaborate diversion that will allow us to keep Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man I've grown to enjoy reading so much.  I don't really care which universe he's in honestly, I just want to keep reading more about him.  But only time will tell.

One thing's for certain, this book isn't going to tell you too much about that, or much of anything.  It's a tease in every aspect of the word.  I'm not sure if I wasn't already planning on purchasing the event, if this issue's 10 pages would be the thing that made me change my mind and get on board, but it's a fun read and it was free so what am I going to complain about? Nothing.

The art by Paul Renaud is top notch, and as this issue focuses on Val and The Future Foundation's plan, it's nice to see someone who draws children like children and not just tiny versions of everyone else in tights.  That's always been a pet peeve of mine, and Renaud not only knocks that out, but also ends the issue with a pretty dynamic two-page spread of the Marvel heroes launching upwards into battle.

It should be noted, that Hickman has never let me down either so I have tremendous faith in his talent.  I've got a whole stack of issues with his name on them and not one has come up short in the story department.

So I'm on board.  If you're part Marvel-zombie on your mother's side you're probably already on board too, and if you're not then I say hop on.  I think this is going to be a fun ride.

(This book also included a Attack on Titan / Marvel Comics mashup that was completely lost on me.  I've heard great things about the manga but it didn't feel right to me to mash them up with Marvel characters.)

ROB MCMONIGAL'S DISSENT

Free Comic Book Day is all about getting people excited about comics. Show them the joy and fun of reading the merging of visuals and words, in ways the only comics can do.

This does not accomplish that goal in any way. It's based on something that's been going on forever in the Marvel books, slowly taking flawed heroes (like Reed Richards and Tony Stark) and turning them into utterly unsympathetic characters you hope lose. At this point, we have a bunch of unfamiliar characters to casual fans ("Wait, the Fantastic Four have kids? Are these all their kids?") talking about how Marvel's heroes did bad things, and now we have almost no hope left, so it's time to create a 21st Century Noah's Arc that's not big enough to save everyone?

It's a story I have no interest in, but that's not the issue here--is this really the best foot forward Marvel has? You're publishing Ms. Marvel (PS: Vote for it for the Hugo!), a book that's getting great traction among new readers. You have Miles Morales, who is more interesting than Peter Parker's been in years. You've got an Avengers movie going on, but all you see is some of these guys looking like they're the bad guys. Characters that are easily recognizable to me (a person whose first word was practically "Excelsior!") because Paul Renaud draws the hell out of them aren't given so much as a line of dialogue.

I can never be the "new comic reader," It's too late for me. But it's really hard for me to imagine anyone I know who's not already invested in the premise of Secret Wars getting excited by this. How could they? There's nothing heroic going on here in a superhero comic. If you're going to pitch something this complex to new people, at least give us a POV character who's going to be sympathetic, familiar, or preferably, both. 

Instead, we've got a teaser for hard-core fans. That's not what FCBD is for. We get the other 364 days. Marvel missed the boat here, big time. Hickman might be a great writer, but he's not Bendis, who was much better at appealing to a larger audience while still promo-ing the new storyline.  It's definitely pretty, but there's no hook, and I was left feeling personally and professionally (as a comics ambassador, advocate, and evangelist) disappointed. 
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FCBD Spotlight: James Kaplan on All New, All Different Avengers/Uncanny Inhumans


The All-New, All-Different Avengers/Uncanny Inhumans  (Marvel Comics)

As you might gather from the look at Secret Wars #0, Jonathan Hickman does comic storytelling on a huge, macro-epic scale. Apparently there is going to be an Avengers team at the end of Secret Wars (so, it's a relief to know that the universe is not going to cease to exist). If Marvel was going for a contrast to the epic, "designed" feel of the Hickman Avengers, they couldn't have picked a better contrast in Mark Waid, who knows plenty about big superhero stories but always keeps the action and emotion very grounded. This is a very different look for the Avengers, and it's nice to see that some of the strides that have been made in inclusion are not being erased by the events of Secret Wars. I really enjoyed the art here from Mahmud Asrar, with bright colors from Frank Martin. Asrar really gives each character a lot of personality; it's expressive, emotive art which isn't easy to do when many of your characters are wearing masks. It's a nice depiction of action, and works well with Waid's more character focused (while still exciting) superhero storytelling. 

This team includes Sam Wilson as Captain America, the female Thor, The Vision and Iron Man, along with a very strong youth infusion from Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider Man), and Nova.  It's a diverse, interesting team, and we get to see youth and experience interact. Waid excels at bringing the big superhero excitement while never losing sight of the human element (see: Daredevil).  

There's also a story about the Inhumans which is a preview for the new book the Uncanny Inhumans. In this short, entertaining story, two new Inhumans emerge at a film premiere in Mumbai. There's sinister forces who want these Inhumans for their own ends, but Queen Medusa and her team are there to save the day. Charles Soule has a good handle on these characters, including the nobility and commitment of Queen Medusa. Brandon Peterson (with colors from Justin Ponsor) provides highly detailed, compelling art that brings the frenetic action to life. The art team also illustrates how strange and confusing it would be to suddenly change in these unpredictable, drastic ways.

Both books look like a lot of fun, though I'll admit the Inhumans still don't do that much for me as characters. 
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FCBD Spotlight: AJ McGuire on Hip Hop Family Tree 3 in 1


Fantagraphics offered a comic on FCBD that was a split between Ed Piskor's "Hip Hop Family Tree" and Dash Shaw's "Cosplayers".  I'm a “Hip Hop Family Tree” well-wisher because its a singular comics project unlike anything else and it is telling stories about people whose influence is still felt on today's pop culture but who in many cases have not received the recognition they deserve.  It's been met with wide acclaim and enthusiasm, been translated into multiple languages, and has gone into multiple reprintings.

My gripe with the comic is that at the glacial pace it is moving (Whodini, among others, will be covered in Volume 3 due later this year) it will be another 50 volumes before it reaches any rappers actually relevant today.  In one way that's fine because I suspect Ed Piskor doesn't have the same level of enthusiasm for Future and Fetty Wap as he does for the rappers of the golden age. But the great thing about rap music is that it is the only form of popular culture in which the weirdo, innovative artists are right there in the mainstream, and conversely the "underground" are often artistically conservative, backwards looking rappers rehashing the sounds of yesterday.  I can't help but feel that this comic plays into this conservative streak that contributes to people laughing at Young Thug and holding up Joell Ortiz as a savior of the artform.

Dash Shaw's contribution is 20 pages in his ongoing “Cosplayers” series.  Two young women find a box of comics and cut them up for a collage.  Later they are given issues of Jack Kirby's "2001 A Space Odyssey" by the proprietor of a comics store who had his eyes opened and life ripped apart by the comic.  The last page of the story is yellowed as if were a page from "2001" itself and has a collage with various pieces taken from "2001" cut and pasted on top of each other. Various celestial objects zoom around and Kirby krackle permeates underneath a Dash Shaw illustrated panel of the comic itself cut into pieces with word balloons indicating the comic itself speaking, "That's what wanted.  I wanted to be destroyed... and reborn."  As an anti-fetishization statement it’s both funny and suprisingly moving.

Dash Shaw's artificial yellowing on that one page mirrors the technique that Ed Piskor employs throughout "Hip Hop Family Tree" to make the comics appear as if they were actually created during the time period they are illustrating.  But it strikes me that there is a difference between a single page that shows the birth of something new through creative destruction and the celebration of something old with a false patina.

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FCBD Spotlight: Breaking the Rule by Talking Fight Club 2/Goon/Strain


I am FCBD Fight Club’s review. Chuck Palahniuk’s novel was first published in 1996 and David Fincher’s movie adaptation of it came out in 1999.  It’s hard to think about that story without thinking about the times when it was produced and what it meant to be a “man” in the 1990s.  Twenty years later, Palahniuk writes the sequel in comic form and hardly misses a beat in this year’s FCBD offering from Dark Horse.  Offering a slightly different ending of the novel, Palahniuk’s story offers a transition from the novel to the upcoming comic series with the narrator once again at the mercy of the dangerously charismatic Tyler Durden.  Cameron Stewart’s artwork and Dave Stewart’s colors captures the brutal world, alternating between the narrator’s love and hate relationship with it.  This story serves only as an appetizer though as Palahniuk and Stewart use it to remind us of the world of Fight Club as they prepare to unleash the full sequel on the 21st century.

The second story in Dark Horse’s FCBD issue features Eric Powell’s The Goon in a short story about the Goon’s travelling circus entering a town of Confederate vampires.  Powell’s story is fun as he has his villains obviously in over their heads as they don’t realize who they’re dealing with.  Powell’s artwork is at times reminiscent of the great Gene Colan as he uses his pencil to sketch out the settings of the story.  Look up Colan’s work on DC’s Nathaniel Dusk and then look at Powell’s shot of an old, decrepit southern mansion.  It’s the pencil work that’s similar in both comics but Colan’s horror work, particularly his Dracula comics, sets up so much of the horror and action in Powell’s comics.

David Lapham and Mike Huddleston provide the final story, The Strain.  Unlike Fight Club or The Goon which don’t presume too much knowledge of the reader, Lapham’s story only means something if you know the vampire mythology of the series this is from.  It’s hard to get invested in this as Lapham and Huddleston are creating a piece that’s more driven by mood and suspense than character or plot.  Powell’s story didn’t need much other than what was on the page to pull the reader in while Lapham’s story maybe doesn’t need as much either but it also doesn’t give that much of a reason to care about another vampire story.  Huddleston’s artwork drives the mood and anxiety, leading to a final image that’s far more interesting than any other moment in Lapham’s story.
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Focusing on Free Comic Book Day



This past Saturday, May 2nd, was Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), and thousands of people came to their local stores to pick up free comics, most of which are samplers and teasers for existing or upcoming series. They also came to creator signings, parties, doorbuster deals, and all sorts of things that make having an event day for comics so special.

While we don't have any coverage of a particular event, today we'll be posting reviews throughout the day of comics that came out on Free Comic Book day, including an all-FCBD edition of Quick Hits.

We hope you had a great time at your own Free Comic Book Day, and we hope you enjoy our looks at the books that were produced by many publishers and paid for by the comic stores who gave them out (yes, these books cost the store money--they are not free for them to hand out). If this is your first time checking out Panel Patter because you found a review of one of these books, or are new to comics in general, welcome! We're happy to have you, and we hope you stick around!

Once all the posts are up, this will serve as a master index for them below:

Scott C on Dark Horse's Fight Club/Goon/Strain comic.
AJ on Fantagraphics's Hip Hop Family Tree 3 in 1.
James on Marvel's All New, All Different Avengers/Uncanny Inhumans.
James, Doug, and Rob M on Marvel's Secret Wars 0.
Bree, Doug, James, and Rob M on books from Action Lab, Bongo, Boom!, ComixTribe, DC, and Top Cow.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

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BOOM! Studios Announces Peanuts Tribute Book with Lemire, Telgemeier, Sakai, and More


In a press release issued this past Monday, publisher BOOM! Studios, who have been publishing new Peanuts stories for a few years now, were putting together an all-star tribute to the late Charles Schulz, including New York Times bestselling author Raina Telgemeier, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai, and indie creator Jeff Lemire.

Set to be a 112 page hardcover, BOOM! intends to announce the creators involved over time, probably leading up to San Diego Comic-Con, unless I'm badly mistaken. The project is to celebrate Peanuts' 65th anniversary, and each artist will get a chance to write a brief essay about their thoughts on Schulz and his comics. It's a really great idea, and I look forward to seeing the book when it debuts. Peanuts was one of the comics of my formative years and even when it started to wander off over time, it was still a comic I read every time I got a chance to pick up a newspaper. Its influence is so large that a lot of papers, at least last time I checked were still reprinting the strip, because there's a big demand to read it.

Here's a Lemire image for you to ponder. As readers know, we don't do a lot of PR for publishers, but this was one I wanted to give people a heads' up on. I imagine quite a few of our readers will be looking forward to this one when it comes out.

Jeff Lemire's Peanuts, part of the BOOM! Anniversary book.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

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Digging into Digital: Free Digital Comic Books (Last Update: 1:00 PM EST)

It's Free Comic Book Day today, and we at Panel Patter want to encourage you to go out there and visit your local comic book store, many of which are having author signings, deals on older comics, and of course, the free new offerings from publishes ranging from the biggest names to micro-pub collectives.

But hey, why not look at some of the free digital comic offerings also going on today? We're trying to collect as many of them as possible in this post, which we'll update with more information as the day goes on, if we find any others. They're listed in alphabetical order:

CREATORS:

Lucy Bellwood of Baggywrinkles, Cartozia Tales, and various shorts in The Nib and elsewhere is offering her autobio mini True Believer for free today here.

Rachel Dukes is offering all of her digital books for free today, including Frankie Comics (about Rachel's adventures with her cat), and lots of others. Use the code: "fcbd15"

Ryan Estrada will "charge" you a tweet, but in exchange, you get every comic he's ever made (I have them, from various projects over the years). That's 1785 pages of comics, ranging from quirky autobio (Ryan's lived a very interesting life) to zany fiction pieces that have some relation to his own experiences. You can get it by following this link.

Kevin Joseph is offering the web-only version of his comic Tart today only at this link.

Jenny McKeon is offering all of her comics available on Gumroad as free for today only.

PUBLISHERS/DIGITAL PLATFORMS:

Naturally, Comixology has some comics picked out for FDBD. Included here are a ton of Image #1 issues, like Southern Bastards, The Fuse, The Fade Out, Saga, Trees, Bitch Planet, Wicked + Divine, Copperhead, and Wayward. Also included are some Marvel Infinity Digitals, an always-entertaining Atomic Robo freebie, and oddly, enough, a part of Bone. So if you wanna sample some series you've heard about, especially from Image, now's a good time. You can get them here.


Friday, May 1, 2015

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Weekend Pattering 5/1/2015- Artists are the Rodney Dangerfields of Comics

** So we now live in a post C2E2 2015 world.  You know, this is like when 2012 came and went and there was no Mayan apocalypse.

** I went to C2E2 this year and these big cons just don't do a lot for me.  Pal Gordon basically summed up my thoughts on the big con this year so I'll send you over to his blog.  Of course, I thought the same thing last year.  If I was asked to describe the last couple of years of C2E2, I would say that the show is basically a giant geek-oriented flea market.  It's kind of like the market in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In fact, I'm surprised that I haven't see a giant swordsman in the middle of an aisle get shot by a nerdy archeologist there.  

** This is why I'll probably never get a press badge at C2E2 ever again.

** So by my estimation, there were two big announcements at C2E2 this year that basically epitomized the problem with the mainstream superhero companies.

First up was the announcement from DC about Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello teaming up to do a Batman comic book called "The Master Race."  The press release for it ended with this line:
Artists for the project have yet to be announced.
And then there's the Marvel announcement that wrestler C.M. Punk will be co-writing a Drax the Destroyer comic that doesn't even mention any artist at all.  And Marvel and DC aren't the only ones who like to announce comics without artists.  It took Dynamite a month or two to announce who would be drawing the Matt Wagner-penned Spirit revival.

The Spirit by Dan Schkade
If you're an artist working in or have sometime in the last 15 years worked in mainstream comics and you complain that reviewers treat the art in your comics like something disposable, you need to look at how your editors and publishers treat artists in their comics.  Since 2000, the trains have been made to run on time and that means that the artist is treated as something less than a full creator of a comic since most can't do 12 issues in a year.  

This is not the way comics should be.  And it's not for a large chunk of the comic industry but when your market leaders treat artists as interchangeable cogs in the big machine, that mentality is going to feed down into your audience who doesn't know better.  That's going to lead to reviewers who treat the writer like an author and an artist like an illustrator.  

** Speaking of Frank Miller's Batman story, Greg Carpenter used that announcement as a launching point to write about Bernie Krigstein's classic EC story "The Master Race."  

Bernie Krigstein bends space and time in "The Master Race"

Always reblog Krigstein. Just look at those panels on both tiers on the right. Bending space and time, has anyone come close to doing it this way?  It's right there for anyone to riff on but I don't think anyone has come close to creating something as sublime as that last panel in this sequence.  I keep looking for someone to be this innovative or at least brazen to steal from Krigstein.  

** Andrew Wheeler interviews Asaf Hanuka about his new book The Realist.  I just got a copy of this book and I hope it is at least half as good as it looks.  Hanuka is a wonderfully surreal artist and this story of fatherhood looks to be a tender and honest look at the anxieties of the modern world.  

from Asaf Hanuka's The Realist

** Paul Gravett profiles Sonny Liew, another artist who doesn't get as much attention as he should.  He's actually doing a Dr. Fate comic at DC Comics but you should really find his Malinky Robot comics.  

** Our own Rob Kirby catches us up with where we can find his comics and recommends a book or two in the process.  

** Do you want to see what Presidents are really doing in their notes during all of those important meetings? The Washington Post has a great feature showing their doodles and having some of their political cartoonists critique drawings.



** One great piece of news coming out of C2E2 was an upcoming creator owned book by Gene Ha.  Chris Arrant interviews Ha about this project that will get launched as a Kickstarter sometime later this year.

Gene Ha's MAE

** The Week in Patter

Thursday, April 30, 2015

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Garbage Quest by Bobby Mono


Written and Illustrated by Bobby Mono
Self-Published

A young knight discovers that a castle is full of trash, from old paint to a bastard sword. Soon he's on a quest to get rid of everything, but he'll have to do some really hard work just to meet government regulations in this quirky, comedic mini that's a lot of a fun to read.

In a series of mostly one-panel pages, Bobby Mono does a great job with the timing and pacing of the comic. As soon as the government official shows up to say the knight can't pollute the moat, we know we're in for a joking ride, and things continue, as he asks why the garbage dump wizard has an exclamation point over his head.

"Oh, that's because I'm a quest-giver," quips the wizard, who is in full beard and pointed hat mode. This is only the start, however, as the wizard gleefully asks the knight to first kick turtles and then push babies in the mud. Don't worry, though, they're evil babies, complete with sinister moustaches.

That's the kind of jokes you're in for, from start to finish, as we learn the only way to get rid of latex paint is to have a dragon burn it, or the man with overly large ears, who suggests a way to get rid of an old couch. Each gags follows the next in rapid succession, with the running gag of an interdimensional being getting the worst of the knight's efforts to clean up.

There's one other running gag that's a bit of a D&D joke, and it's a lot of fun to get to its resolution, which closes out the comedy, but you don't need to know the reference to find it funny. Mono's dialogue and visuals take care of the heavy lifting, and anything else you get is a bonus.

Visually, Mono's art reminded me a bit of Kate Beaton or similar creators, people who are able to take mostly flat images and make them interesting and compelling. I love his design for the wizard, especially when he's describing the tasks, for example. Mono takes the tropes he's working with and bends them to his will. You'll find better-drawn crystal-ball retail shops, I'm sure, but the setting, the calm manner in which the associate explains they do take used balls, and the way the orbs are distributed across the page do much to make the story work.

Unlike some minis of this type, Mono even makes a strong effort to set up the backgrounds. There are intricate brick designs on several pages, the dragon's cave has stalactites of varying sizes, and there's a bit of a smokey feeling to the blacksmith shop. It's some nice scene-setting that helps make Garbage Quest stand out among similar comics.

The best thing about this comic, though, are the visual set pieces, whether it's the dragon dutifully frying paint, a cultist eagerly taking bones, or that poor creature having all kinds of detailed trash thrown into its otherworldly home. This is a very fun, laugh out loud type of comic, and I'm really glad I picked it up. If you like jokes in your comics, you should grab it, too.

You can buy Garbage Quest here.