Friday, May 27, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for May 27th, 2016-- The Downfall of Civilization

** So going into Memorial Day weekend here in the States, it's revealed that Captain America is, for all intents and purpose, a Nazi?  Nice job, Marvel.

** Happy Memorial Day, everyone!  Go and read a nice Patriotic Comic like Sgt. Rock or Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos.  Unfortunately, Marvel doesn't seem to be publishing any comics featuring a patriotic character.   (O.k., I guess there's a Sam Wilson book right now.  But when is Nick Spencer going to reveal that Sam is a founding member of F.O.O.M.?)

** So, what have we been up to lately?  Glad you asked.
** Scott lists his current three favorite monthly comics over at Trouble With Comics.

** At The Comics Journal, Rob Kirby reviews Gabby Schulz's Sick.

** Is the Superhero Craze Destroying the Movies? (Indiewire)-- I don't know if I've ever linked to one of these piece of film criticism but I know I've made fun of them on Twitter a number of times, the way that film writers are sounding like The Comics Journal writers from the 1980s and 1990s, decrying the effect of superhero stories on the medium.
...(most) of the people who are chomping at the bit to help "Civil War" to a bonkers opening weekend are probably not wrestling with the choice between visionary filmmaking, or a film that features a character called Vision. Which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of moviegoers who contain multitudes, but we’re talking about the masses here. And yet, it’s notable that these two options are so diametrically opposed: a gargantuan mega-blockbuster, and a Godard film. I would love for us to live in a world where those things could be one and the same, but we don’t.
Even the resignation at the end here, that Godard will never be a mega-blockbuster (or to put in it TCJ terms, Daniel Clowes will never be Marvel's Secret Wars,) sounds like the self-same smugness that TCJ held their standards to.

** Indies, Apathy and Beyond Issue #1 (Mom Reads Comics)-- Jessica of Mom Reads Comics writes about the tendency of reviewers to ignore independent comic series after the first issue.
Recently, I went on a last ditch effort to get more people interested in the series Welcome Back. I was so heartbroken about it being unexpectedly cancelled. I thought there had to be a way to keep it from happening. I had supported the series when it was in its initial order phase. I even interviewed writer Christopher Sebela about the series. However, after having such a successful launch I immediately took for granted that other readers had stuck around. I didn’t review any issues. I didn’t talk much about what I was enjoying about the story. It was given an ongoing by Boom Studios and I made the assumption it was safe. With the eighth issue now on the horizon the series is officially ending.
** And finally, a video about Calvin and Hobbles.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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Don't Call It Retro-- Future Quest #1 by Parker, Shaner and Rude

Future Quest #1
Written by Jeff Parker
Drawn by Evan Shaner and Steve Rude
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Published by DC Comics

If there’s one thing that Jeff Parker is fantastic at expressing in his comics, it’s a sense of fun. He’s great at building the tension, even building the stakes up to being the possible destruction of everything as we know it, but he never loses the sight of the sense of adventure in his stories. So nearly all of his stories have the optimism and excitement that his characters can and will save the day. It’s not that he’s telegraphing what’s going to happen next or isn’t creating any danger in the story. It’s more that he finds belief and faith in his heroes that they will actually save the day. Then on top of that, add in Evan “Doc” Shaner’s artwork (with a multi-page assist from Steve “The Dude” Rude,) which captures the feeling of the best Saturday morning cartoon animation and that Toth-like characterization-through-simplification, and Future Quest #1 becomes a comic book that thrives because it’s a fun comic.

Parker and Shaner’s comic feels like it could be something right out of a Saturday morning cartoon serial if back in the 1960s Hanna-Barbera had ever thought about doing a massive, line-wide crossover. Combining Space Ghost and Johnny Quest? What about the Herculoids? So flash forward to today when this kind of cross-pollinating synergy is what so much of our pop-culture entertainment is about and it seems like such a natural idea that there should be a Hanna-Barbera universe. And centering the story around Johnny Quest, the ultimate kid adventurer, provides a great entry point into a universe with some rather crazy and outlandish characters. Anyone who doubts this, just remember when Space Ghost was turned into a talk show host (really great) or Harvey Birdman practiced law with the best of them.

Even the artwork by Shaner (with an able assist from Rude) stays wonderfully on model, capturing the essence of most of these characters. The designs by Doug Wildey (Quest) and Alex Toth (Space Ghost among many others) are timeless and should be as iconic as Batman and Superman. Shaner takes this 50 year old characters and shows just how great the designs are. Unlike other Hanna-Barbera properties that publishers feel the need to “modernize” and “update” to make them “cool” for the kids these days, Future Quest #1 remains flawlessly loyal to those classic designs while never falling into the feeling of being “retro” or, even worse yet, ironic.

It’s easy to imagine Parker’s script in the hand of other artists and colorists who would over-dramatize the art (which would be totally misreading the story) but Shaner, Rude and colorist Jordie Bellaire never let the story get oppressive. With such ridiculous things as giant robotic spiders, Cthulu-like monsters, reality breaking down and even an alien threatening to destroy children, the great thing about having Johnny Quest, a kid, and his best friend running around is that we get to see all of this through these characters. And for Johnny, this isn’t the beginning of the end of the world; it’s an adventure and it’s fun.

There are so many ways that Future Quest could have gone wrong (just look at the promo artwork for any other of DC’s new Hanna-Barbera books.) But instead of following the path that something was “wrong” with these characters for a 2016 audience, Parker and Shaner embrace everything that makes these characters who they are, from the visual designs to the voices of the characters. What they manage to do that’s new and fresh is put them in a very modern, mainstream story. Bringing all of these characters together into a cohesive universe isn’t any different than the ways that Marvel and DC treat their comics or their movies. But using this very current storytelling device (getting the team together) gives these old characters something new to do. It’s a grand time to see Birdman and Dr. Quest together on a page. As Parker and Shaner give glimpses into the vortexes that are opening, it’s fun to try to figure out how Johnny’s friend Hadji and Gloop and Gleep from Herculoids will get along.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #8 (Cloaks Volume 1 by David Henrie, Caleb Monroe and Mariano Navarro)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: Peter Bagge Goes to Cuba

Anyone who reads my Graphic Nonfiction column on a regular basis can kinda sluice out my politics, which of course is one of the risks of doing a series like this. However, today it's time to throw you a curve, because this time we're off to the Land of Libertarianism, Reason Magazine!

Peter Bagge is one of my favorite creators, even if his politics and mine don't exactly square. I had no idea that Bagge was associated with Reason Magazine, but it makes sense given what I know of Bagge himself. In this visual column, Bagge talks about his recent trip to Cuba and makes observations on both the state of the country and what it might mean for them to have a greater relationship with the United States.

Here's the first page of the feature, setting the stage, some of Bagge's signature cynicism, and of course his amazing panel work:

All of the things I like about Bagge's work are featured here: His use of bright colors (note how each building in the opening panel are a different color, as are the cars, and the clothing of his characters), extremely expressive faces (even on the animals), bodies that are all curves, and quite a bit of narrative text. The latter is especially amazing to me, because unlike some, Bagge can have his characters talk up a storm and/or use narrative boxes, and yet I never feel like his panels are crowded out. Look at how he keeps the dialog balloon up and away from the visuals--it's a great, clean, crisp look that's perfect for nonfiction comics.

As the narrative progresses, Bagge of course editorializes in ways that might cause you to wince, but that's not always a bad thing. We shouldn't agree with everything we read, or else we end up in a protective bubble that causes us to think our opinions are the only, correct ones. (That doesn't mean you should consider all opinions equal, mind you--just that you should have a working knowledge of them!) 

Bagge's observations are really interesting, given that, quite honestly, most of what I've read about opening Cuba has been unrelentingly positive OR the usual knee-jerk "Screw Castro!" screeds. He notes that job duties often have racial overtones, for example. One of Bagge's concerns about merging Cuban Culture and United States Culture is that the latter, due to its overwhelming power, will destroy the former, showing this in humorous remarks about the bootlegged music that's made it to the island. In the end, though, he brings up a great question, especially for a Libertarian like Bagge: What right doe he have to say they shouldn't be allowed Starbucks, even if he doesn't like the chain?

A great combination of bright colors and dark comments Bagge's exploration of what opening Cuba means--right down to smoking bans!--this was something I came into worried about reading, due to politics, and ended up really interesting. You can check it out in full here, and I highly recommend you do so.

Weekend Pattering for May 21, 2016-- Links Remembering Darwyn Cooke

Celebrated cartoonist Darwyn Cooke passed away on May 14, 2016 following his battle with lung cancer.  Since Saturday, there have been many loving remembrances of the artist and the man.

** DC Comics, perhaps the comic company that Cooke was most associated with, released a statement, with this description of Cooke by co-publisher Dan Didio:
"Darwyn Cooke lived life like a character from a Micky Spillane novel, a throwback to a bygone era that was, more than occasionally, reflected in his work," said DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio. "He was both compassionate and combative, approaching everything he did with a tenaciousness and temerity that is now unheard of in a world afraid to offend. The simplistic brilliance of his art and the natural flow of his storytelling not only elevated but enhanced all projects he touched and his passion and love of comics was reflected in every panel of every page. Working with Darwyn was not without its challenges. There were times we'd spend hours arguing over story then go months without talking, but we always found our way back, drawn together by the common bond and friendship comics creates. This is an industry-wide loss that I feel personally, but the sadness is mitigated in the knowing that the beauty and grace of his art will forever stand the test of time and be a monument to all that is great about comics."

** At the New York Times, their comic writer George Gene Gustines writes the obituary about Cooke.

** Here are three pretty great interviews that Darwyn Cooke gave in a relatively short period.

** At The Comics Journal, Markisan Naso writes about Cooke, and even quotes Cooke addressing the controversy over his involvement in the Before Watchmen project at DC.
Before Watchmen elicited a largely negative reaction from comics fans and creators who perceived the initiative as a blatant cash grab by DC that violated the moral rights of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It was a backlash Darwyn accepted. “I understand that kind of an emotional response to something that meaningful. I think it’s all fair game. I’ve read some pretty nasty things said about myself, for example. I can deal with that,” he told Rolling Stone. “I made a very deliberate and very conscious decision the day that I got involved with this business to honor the work that had come before me, and to respect the work of the men that had come before me. I can’t give the Siegel and Shusters what they deserve, and I certainly can’t give Alan Moore what he deserves, or what he thinks he should get out of this. That’s all beyond my power. But what I can do is have respect for what he’s done, and try to do my best to live up to that.”

 ** And also at TCJ, Joe McCulloch looks at Cooke's work in his "This Week in Comics" column.
I ought to be posting an image from Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations here, because that is the work of his I appreciate the most as total storytelling. The first of the line, 2009’s The Hunter, is particularly interesting. Under Cooke — who died this past Saturday, only 53 — Donald Westlake’s portrayal of entrenched criminal business becomes a cool fantasy magazine of perfect design references: absolute aspiration made manifest, with not only every car and sofa a potential apotheosis of the mid-century sleek, but people themselves drawn as veritable avatars of good living, as if any one of them might spin around and freeze, a salable period consumer item gleaming in their hands. By god you will want to buy it. Every criminal is in business in The Hunter, because crime *is* business, and into the spread marches Parker, the superior professional. He has arrived to settle accounts, and when these corporate men are shot they die demurely, their bodies unwilling to surrender the disruption of gore. Even the shadows are tidy in this catalog world.

** For Printmag, Michael Dooley collects a number of memories and tributes to Cooke, including this one by recent collaborator Gilbert Hernandez.
When [DC Comics editor] Shelly Bond was at Vertigo she called to tell me Darwyn wanted to collaborate with me. I was happy to do it because I knew he would surely do a bang-up job on it. Well, he went beyond my expectations and completed the book [Twilight Children] beautifully.
I met him at New York Comic Con 2015 and we became fast friends. When I headed out for the airport to go home, he gave me a loving bear hug that suggested maybe we’ll see each other again. Months later when I found out just how ill he was, that hug has so much more meaning now. What a guy. God bless.
** At Newsarama this week, I was able to write about Cooke and Hernandez's Twilight Children.
It’s these character actions, the way that they love, argue, fight and care for each other, that provides a strong platform for Cooke’s work. It’s fascinating to read this book, because Cooke very well could have been a possibly long-lost Hernandez brother with this kind of artwork. The way Cooke’s characters are arranged in a panel feels akin to Gilbert’s “Palomar” stories, while in other ways, Cooke’s art evokes Gilbert’s brother Jaime Hernandez (see his Love Bunglers book) with simple yet emotive lines.

** Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter has collected even more links to tributes and memories of Cooke.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

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Rob's Guide to Linework 2016

One of my favorite comics shows is happening this weekend, and not even a really busy week at the day job was going to keep me from filling you in on some of the people that should be on your must-visit list when you go to the show Saturday and Sunday.

And remember--that's the thing about Linework NW--it's two shows in one! Saturday and Sunday lineups are almost entirely different, so if you're able, make sure you go both days. It's well worth it.

Linework NW was started in 2014, as a one-day show. The following year, it expanded to two days, and instead of shutting out so many good people, the folks behind the event opted for a dual show, with rotating creators on each day. It's a brilliant solution to "How do we get so many cool people in one place?" and while I admit, the first time I saw it done--by the Brooklyn Zine Fest--I was a little unsure how it might work. Having seen it in person here in Portland, I've become a huge fan.

Unlike some shows, Linework NW is solidly about comics, not about trying to get a television deal, and while some creators are celebrities in my eyes, no one's going to be standing in line to ask about thirty year old television shows from actors who wish there were anywhere else. And this year, it's not just indie comics from everyone from Fantagraphics to Yeti Press. Frankenstein's Comic Swap, a local get-together for geeky collectibles and comics, will be haunting the basement of the show while panels happen in the upstairs room.

It's a wonderful show with a welcoming atmosphere and I really can't wait to get there myself in a few hours. Held at the Norse Hall (address in the graphic above), the show will be from 1pm to 8pm on Saturday and Sunday, with an after-show side event at the nearby IPRC, a comics and zines friendly creative workshop-class place, that's featuring readings from Suzette Smith, Panel Pal Virginia Paine, and more.

So, there will be a ton of great people to see, and of course, the show is curated so well that really, you can't go wrong buying stuff from anyone who's tabling there. That said, I of course have recommendations for you! Remember that I always try to find new favorites at these shows, but whenever I go to an indie show, I make sure that I see my favorite creators and publishers to find out what they're up to and buy from them. Consider this your "Mandatory Fun" er, Mandatory Stops on your Linework NW Tour:

Both Days:

Alternative Comics was returned to the world by Marc Arsenault a few years ago, and we're all better off for it. The home of an amazing array of creators, from Sam Henderson's absurd Magic Whistle to Derf Backderf's satirical nonfiction to the science fiction of Malachi Ward, along with classics from James Kochalka and others, Marc's got a simply amazing lineup that just keeps getting better every year. And because Marc understands the direct market due to his bookstore ties, he's teamed up with other small publishers, like Floating World and Press Gang, which means that all kinds of indie comics can get into places they might not otherwise reach. Don't miss Marc's table at the show!

Fantagraphics is one of the seminal indie publishers and is located just a few hundred miles away in Seattle. Running the gamut from Peanuts reprints to being the home of Robert Crumb for so long I don't think I even remember when they weren't his primary publisher, there's definitely something for everyone, especially if your taste in comics really runs to the classics, both mainstream and underground. For the show, they'll have a few new books for your reading pleasure, including Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann and the second volume of Jessica Farm(!!) by Josh Simmons, along with several others.

Oni Press has been around for a long time, and I think sometimes they don't get the attention they deserve as a publisher, being known primarily as the home of Scott Pilgrim. But there's so many other things, like Stumptown from Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, and Ryan Hill, Panel Pal Joey Weiser's Mermin, Panel Pal Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell's Meteor Men (still my favorite Parker book), Sixth Gun from Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, and so many more. They really run the gamut in terms of comics, both for older and all-ages, and if you haven't checked in on them for awhile, make sure you do so today!


Elijah Brubaker has been doing Reich, about Wilheim Reich, at Sparkplug Comics for an impressive length of time. More recently, he's got a webcomic about the Biblical story Jezebel, and some other tricks up his sleeve.

Theo Ellsworth draws intricately and strange. That's a winning combo in my book, and speaking of books, Theo has a new mini-comic debuting, well, basically as you read this! Go have a look. This is one of the things on my planned purchase list for today.

Dylan Meconis is one of the Mighty Members of Helioscope Studio, aka the greatest collection of creators since the Marvel Bullpen in its heyday. She specializes in comics capturing a cool historical vibe, such as the excellent Bite Me!, and is currently doing the ongoing webcomic Family Man.

Revival House Press is part of Marc's group of small publishers, and it's where Malachi Ward perches his many creative ideas. Ward will also be at the show, so be sure to check all three booths out to maximize your chances for great comics!

Ben Sears draws cool things. You like cool things. Go see his work today, and then buy cool things.


So if this seems a little lopsided, I apologize. I know and read a lot more of the Sunday only folks.

Kevin Czap and Czap Books is run by John Rhys-Davies Kevin Czap, and I'm looking forward to catching up with him and his press, because I haven't really done as much with Kevin's work as I'd to have. In addition to Kevin and his brother Matt's comics (and I still want to review Matt's book Eat That Toast, which I highly recommend!), he's also got Cathy G Johnson, one of indie comics's rising stars, Laura Knetzger, who will be at the show Sunday as well, Liz Suburbia, and many more. There's also the Ley Lines series, available by subscription, and, I hope, at the show, too!

Kinoko Evans has a comic called Magical Character Rabbit Comic Zine. Do I have to say any more than that? Didn't think so.

Meg Hunt draws awesome illustrations that feature bold brush strokes and vibrant colors. I'm not sure what she'll have at the show today, but it's going to be gorgeous. This much is true.

I mentioned the IPRC above, and if you want to learn more about what kinds of creative outlets this excellent collective resource can offer you--including a Zine/Mini-Comic library (that has a fair number of donations from Erica and I over the years)--make sure you stop by their table.

David Lasky varies from autobiog comics to nonfiction to little, strange things, drawn in a tight style with a ton of lines and inks. I dig his work, and you should see if you do, too.

Press Gang/Floating World/Study Group are the lovely combination of some of the best people in comics. This is where you'll find Zack Soto and Francois Vigneault, two of Linework's Organizers. It's also more of Marc's publisher collective, it's where you can grab Bartika (in a new edition, I hear), the new Terra Flats, the Sun Bakery anthology, Titan, and so much more. Do not miss this table, or you will regret it!

Josh Simmons is one of the best at horror comics creating right now. And not, say, retro-horror like Richard Sala. This is full on, keep you up at night, mess up your mind horror. Go visit him, but only if you have a strong stomach.

Sparkplug Comics sadly, is on its farewell tour. But I'm sure that Panel Pal Virginia Paine will stay with us in the comics world for a long time to come. Make sure you grab some things from Sparkplug while you still can, and be sure to also see Suzette Smith and of course, Virginia's own comics.

Tugboat Press is the home of the long-running split zine Clutch and Invincible Summer. It's always a great read, and if there's a new issue, we'll be picking it up for the McSatifka household.

Wuvable Oaf is Ed Luce's long-running series, and one of the shining lights of the LGBT comics scene. Make sure you stop by and pick up a comic or two.

Yeti Press is one of those small press publishers that I remember seeing from the start, and I'm super excited that they're still going, years later! RJ Casey, one of our Panel Pals, is the face of the franchise out here on the West Coast, and he'll be at the show, with comics old and new. Combining the pretty and the profane, Yeti Press is a publisher you should be following--and buying from--if you aren't already!

Whew! That's a long list!

I'll see you at the show! If you haven't met me and want to say "hi," I'm the person with a pony tail, bright blue glasses, bright red shoes, and either a Jim Woodrig Short Run OR Amelia Cole t-shirt, depending on the day. Don't miss Linework NW!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

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Single-Minded for 5/18/16: New Books from IDW

I haven't looked at IDW book in a while, but seeing that there were three new #1 issues that interested me, I decided to take a short look at each of them. Each has something really interesting to offer.

Archangel #1
Created by William Gibson and Michael St. John Smith
Script by William Gibson
Art by Butch Guice
Inks by Tom Palmer with Butch Guice
Colors by Diego Rodriguez
Letters by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing

Archangel is an opportunity to see science fiction legend William Gibson bring his ambitious ideas to comics.  Here he teams up with a strong art team, led by the terrific Butch Guice, to create something that's fun and atmospheric, and puts together "time travel" and "World War II story" which is one of my favorite combinations of story elements.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #7 (Figment Volume 1 by Jim Zub, Filipe Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Mirth, hope and enthusiasm are qualities that are universally enjoyable, no matter the source. Figment is a series that unquestionably has each of these in spades. It tells the story of how the mascot of Disneyland’s Epcot, who I was admittedly unfamiliar with prior to this series, came to be. Based in a quasi-Victorian England, under-appreciated inventor Blair creates a machine that takes its power from the user’s brainwaves. Unwittingly creating both the titular character and an extended universe, Blair is taken on an adventure that causes him to question his very place in the world.

The first aspect of that summary that might jump out at you as an older reader is the nature of the science experiment that sets you off on this journey. Delivering it all with a perfect blend of sincerity and heart, Zub unquestionably and instantly sells it to you. It’s stated as an outright fact with such gravitas and with such charming results that you immediately forget to care about the actual science behind it. As a whole, that sums up everything that makes this miniseries work so effectively. Yes, a lot of it can be a bit incredulous, but it’s entertaining enough that you don't care.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the beautifully inane ramblings from Figment, the purple dragon that you may already be so familiar with. Right from the gate, he babbles in his own special way about objects that he likes or things that he wants to do. While they may initially seem meaningless, when you pay attention to what he’s saying, you can actually pick out some surprisingly inspirational statements. Zub is a writer that I’ve been following for quite some time, so it’s amazing to see him construct all of these layers of speech that only continue to grow in significance as you deconstruct them.

For example, as Blair attempts to think their way free from a jail cell, Figment spouts an off-the-cuff remark that “the rules are whatever we want them to be”. While it explicitly motivates the protagonist into the next phase of their journey, it’s something that we could all do with hearing in a dire situation. Far too often, people limit themselves to the confines dictated to them by an external source, so receiving this piece of advice, from the epitomisation of imagination no less, loops back around to be the perfect example of a far more creative and satisfying way to live your life.

This fantastical and magical world is brought to life by the absolutely astounding work from the legendary, at least to me, Filipe Andrade. His art is regularly a controversial one for its refusal to adhere to the limitations of human anatomy. When you’re travelling through a world that exists at the whim of its creator, this is a quality that gels tremendously well. There’s a staggering amount of Blair and Figment falling with style in this volume, brought into three dimensions by Andrade warping the body in a very situationally appropriate way. Dynamism is a quality that Adrade never struggles with and that could not be more apparent in this series.

Nowhere are Andrade's design abilities more clear than when looking at the secondary characters that get roped in to the adventure, Chimera and Fye. The lumbering animal called Chimera has an endearing lollygagging tongue but, with human teeth, falls somewhere between cute and unsettling. However, its prominence at the forefront of enthusiasm sells you on how impossible the story would be without it. The magical fairy, Fye, is a fascinating addition to the already established mythos; he represents another side of imagination that we haven’t seen before. His race is usually able to create objects through the use of music, but he’s never been able to lock down that ability. Instead of being able to conform to the standards of his race, he’s taken down a path where he's forced to learn to appreciate his abilities for what they are; you simply need to look at them imaginatively in the right way.

The narrative itself takes you on an emotional journey that’s surprisingly fraught with peril. As the main cast discovers their true selves off in the land of imagination, there’s a plot unfolding back at home with a shockingly dark tone. An unwelcome force lead by a character known only as The Singularity has appeared to try to force as much so-called “order” into the world as possible; unfortunately for the humans, their order requires ruling with an iron fist. Watching this diametrically opposed story unfold in parallel to an inspirational journey of self discovery does wonders at heightening the power of each. There’s nothing like a new low to make the highs look even higher than they did before and, again, this book absolutely sells it.

If you’ve previously been turned off by the Disney Kingdoms imprint, you should honestly give it another chance. There’s a lot of talent, from both a narrative and artistic perspective, getting poured into these books and they honestly deserve a chance. If the aesthetic isn’t enough to sell you, although it absolutely should be, Zub manages to take a story that sounds ridiculous on the surface and creates a story that grips you from the very first page. With an ending that will make you either fist pump the air or sit there grinning beatifically, it’s all wrapped up with a magnificent bow that will leave you feeling inspired to maintain that sense of imagination that Disney has come to represent. There is no doubt in my mind that anyone, regardless of age, can read this story and wholeheartedly adore it.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at or head over to for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: Jason Fischer Tells Us To Go To Linework NW on May 20th/21st in Portland, OR

It's hard to believe that this coming weekend is the third annual Linework NW show here in Portland, Oregon. Started by Panel Pals Zack Soto and Francois Vigneault along with some other great people, the show is back and has added a new component, linking with the periodic Frankstein's Comic Book Swap, where old comics and other collectible materials will lurk for your purchasing pleasure.

It's going to be an amazing time, and I hope to get a few previews up this week on the site. But for today's Graphic Nonfiction, we have Jason Fischer using his characters from Terra Flats, telling you all about Linework NW. Here's the final panel, which I include because it has all the important details:

Check out the full comic here, and if you're anywhere near Portland, OR this weekend, please come out to Linework NW. It's fun, it's free, and it's where genuinely cool people in comics will be for two days. I hope to see you there! Please say hi!

Friday, May 13, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for May 13, 2016-- The Inside Edition

** All the links that are fit to patter about at home:
** And links that are fit to patter about all around the web:

** Dean Haspiel's 10 Rules (10 Rules for Drawing Comics)-- I don't know if I've seen anything on this site lately but I love the idea of it.  Its latest entry is Dean Haspiel listing his 10 rules for drawing comics.

Love this one:
6. Image is text, too. Sometimes I draw first what I want to write and then reverse-engineer my story-making process.

This is something for everyone to remember.

** The Most Beautiful Illusion (LA Review of Books)-- Always link to Jodorowsky.  Always.
When a person starts to study logic he decides that life is separate, that time is past, present, and future. We divide: body and soul, spirit and soul, we make these separations. But life is a unity — we have everything at the same time. Open the newspaper, you will see the Pope and you will see a criminal on the other side, and also prostitution and business and boxing. Everything is happening at the same time in the newspaper. That is our mind.

And now after reading this interview, I'm off to find Jodorowsky on Twitter.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

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Satellite Falling #1 Should Be in Your Reading Orbit

Written by Steve Horton
Line Art by Stephen Thompson and Lisa Jackson
Letters by Neil Uyetake
Published by IDW

Lilly is the lone human on Satellite, home to 74,999 other creatures who think of her as just another bigoted member of her species. In reality, she's a bounty hunter, losing herself in dangerous work to recover from personal tragedy. Her latest job might be a bit too much for even her to handle, however, in a wonderful opening issue to a sci-fi crime story with amazing artwork and a story to match.

I first encountered Steve Horton back when I was writing actively for Newsarama, with Amala's Blade, which I praised in a column there and then followed up by placing it on my Favorites List for 2013 here at Panel Patter. When Steve let me know he had a new comic coming out, I was extremely excited, and from the first page on, I wasn't disappointed.

Opening with a long view of Satellite, then moving in to a human cabbie who monologues while transporting an alien across the landscape, Horton sets up Lilly and allows Thompson a chance to show a bit of the world around her. Thompson's linework is sharp and crisp, reminding me strongly of what I think of as the 2000AD house style mixed with a more simplified (because almost no one can be just as complicated) George Perez. As we move across the pages, Lilly encounters more aliens, all of whom are extremely varied and distinct, ranging from shape-changers to humanoid bugs to those that remind me a bit of sharks. None directly homage aliens from other, better known properties, which I greatly appreciate.

The story itself will be familiar to those who read widely, both in prose and comics, in the crime/detective genre. Lilly is an outsider who gets involved in something far larger than she plans and may just get her killed. It's a very noir world, where lives are cheap and no one is above manipulation. Lilly herself  is a walking deception, which is both an advantage and disadvantage and is part of why she gets entangled in the mess that makes up the main story.

She's also queer, and one of the things I thought was particularly cool was how her alien boss reacts to this. I also like how Horton, who has always had a touch of feminism in his writing without being pedantic about it,* shows that even in alien cultures, there's a Patriarchy that isn't afraid to throw its weight around when pressured. The moment helps to galvanize just what Lilly is up against in this world she's chosen to live in.

There's a lot that happens in this first issue, and it moves quickly. Thompson and Jackson make sure the reader is grounded in absolutely gorgeous visuals. The panels flow strongly from one to the other, and Thompson refrains from using a single full-page splash, not even in the final reveal that creates a cliffhanger for the second issue. That means that there's plenty of room for reaction moments or short set-pieces that hammer home the decisions that Lilly makes. Thompson also works hard to keep the reader's view constantly changing, such as using a mix of worm's eye, medium, and behind the character looks while Lilly waits to meet a contact, allowing time to pass within the comic without that annoying static repetition trick that others use. With an eye for detail, Thompson fills in the space around Lilly and the others with small details, like other aliens and architecture, allowing readers to absorb the world without decompressing the story. Jackson's color palette is muted just enough to fit into the noir world created by Thompson, but without going down the road of grey and brown used by, say, Dave Stewart in his collaborations with Sean Phillips.

And that's without mentioning the absolute heartbreaking moment when Lilly finds out just how horrible some of the creatures in Satellite are in how their treat their fellow alients. Thompson knocks it out of the park, showing how pathetic the victims are, how much Lilly's target dismisses them, and how the whole thing impacts on Lilly personally. It's so very powerful, with each panel decision making the most of its space, including a 3-panel segment that sets Lilly off--and should bring a strong reaction to readers, too--without falling into shock value. It's one of the best sections of a comic I've read so far in 2016, and I'm not saying more because I want you to feel the impact for yourself.

Satellite Falling #1 is a great opening comic. Lilly's a broken character who is both brash and mysterious, in the vein of great noir characters. Horton's plot and dialogue fit the genre well, with adaptations for the space setting. Combined with Thompson's impeccable linework and a color scheme that keeps things strange without falling into comic-book color cliche, you're in for a treat. Anyone who reads Copperhead definitely needs to pick this one up, as its in a similar vein while feeling completely different. We're in such a great age for sci-fi comics, and Satellite Falling should be the next one in the conversation for comics you need to be reading.

*I really hate when writers whose politics align with mine decide to disguise essays into stories, hammering you with their message. Naturally, I hate it worse when writers whose politics don't align with mine do it, ruining a great series mid-stream with their racist fear-mongering.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

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Boundless Vol. 1 Kickstarter: A Love Letter to Science

Love science?  Love comics?  Then I'd encourage you to take a look at Boundless Vol. 1: A Science Comics Anthology, the new Kickstarter from the Boston Comics Roundtable (BCR).  The anthology will explore different scientific processes, technologies, methods, and historical moments in a number of different scientific fields. The goal of the comics creators is make something fun as well as educational.  

Sample Art from the anthology
The BCR is the oldest and largest community of independent comic creators and cartoonists in the Boston area.  They hold weekly meetings to discuss news in comics, showing of members’ work, and to encourage professional development. They've previously successfully published a number of anthologies on various topics (including horror, reviewed here).

Sample Art from the anthology

The funds will be used to cover printing costs as well as pay the artists and writers.  As the Kickstarter states, the BCR is "a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization, we don’t have much funding and so we’re turning to Kickstarter."  BCR provides the following breakdown on Kickstarter costs:

The sample pages show a nice variety of both topics and art styles.  Fun and educational comics are always a great idea, and this seems like a very worthy project.

Sample Art from the anthology

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #6 (Wander by Brian Middleton)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Wander is an independent comic that was released on Comixology towards the end of April. It's a brief 11 page introduction to the eponymously named hero, Wander, as he ventures deep into the aptly named Aerial Labyrinth in search of his estranged love. With a deliberately sketchy style and an unconventional third-person narrator, it's got all of the innovation that you would expect from a story so wholly focused on exploring the path less travelled.

The most striking effect of the narration is its ability to sell you on the fantastical nature of this story. A third-party chronicle of a situation is most prominently used when it's getting recounted to an enraptured audience; you therefore instantly view the story as one with great stature and meaning. Everything subsequently feels far more worthwhile and it's very easy to imagine this story as one that would be immensely fun to read to your child. Reading should always be a shared experience growing up and this is a perfect example of an appropriate story for that.

However, as with the famous Alice in Wonderland, an older audience can easily see past the facade to the possible interpretations beneath. With his slightly bedraggled appearance and the spectrum of creatures that he encounters, you could easily interpret this story as one made up as a parent as a bedtime story to a curious and adventurous child. It's important to distinguish that while it has the charm and innocence to draw you in, it maintains its hold on you by forcing you to hazard a guess at what all of this magical and scientific matter actually means. The beauty of it, however, is that it doesn't force you to coalesce an answer; all of the interpretations are possible and it keeps your mind buzzing.

For the first half of the issue, the layouts are a 2x2 grid, highlighting the book's suitability for a younger audience. It provides a simple structure to follow, guiding your eye through the gradually unfolding story. However, as action enters the story, Middleton demonstrates an understanding of the most appropriate page layout for the situation at hand. He switches between them with ease and never loses sight of his ability to tell a story with the simplistic nature to appease a younger audience, but the flexibility to keep in an older one.

Wander is one of those stoic protagonists who speaks only when he has to. However, his personality can easily be gleaned from how we see him act and the simple, yet very effective faces that Middleton draws. He ranges from defeated and morose to dedicated and aggressive in the space of a single page and you can easily pinpoint the type of person that he is. However, there's no question that, at his core, he's an altruistic and driven protagonist who refuses to back down in the face of adversity; despite this being a common trope, it always works well for me and I think it will for you too.

Despite the nature of the book to jump from one crisis to the next, you get brief glimpses of where the story is capable of progressing to from here. We see glimpses of what could yet come to pass in a panel telling us about the legendary mage-mechanic that built the monstrous guardian as well as the reveal on the final page. There's potential in both the past, present and future of this story and it's enough to convince anyone that this is a story worth jumping into.

With only eleven pages to tell his story in, Middleton manages to convey the agency of three characters as well as setting up the aesthetic and tone of this world. As previously mentioned, while this is a story that fits perfectly as one to read to a younger audience, it has a certain charm to it, in both the writing and the style of the art, that you can get invested at any age. It's a little bit insane, but that's part of the charm. There's currently only this introductory chapter to feast your eyes on, but I can guarantee that it will bewitch you into wanting to read more. 

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at or head over to for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: Olivia Birdton Weasels into the Nonfiction Nature Field

I'm always on the lookout for new creators to add to my rotating stable of potential features for this column, and when Steve Lieber and Lucy Bellwood were bantering and used a comic from Olivia Birdton, I immediately seized on the chance to show off Birdton's work to you.

With a new Tumblr called "Science Adventure Times," Birdton is providing a mix of her own comics along with a few other posts about science and the natural world. 

As this is a new project for her, Birdton notes that she's still working on how the formatting will look, and for those of us getting to her new feature early, part of the fun will be in watching how it grows and changes over time.

What I really like here is that she doesn't go overboard, sticking to four panels, giving the reader enough to start with, but not requiring a long-term reading commitment or burying her art in text. Her thin, flowing lines work well for animals as well, and there's no "talking" by the subject creature, though we do get a few cute hearts, which is adorable. I'm not quite able to tell how she is coloring the work, but it's definitely complementary, adding depth but not feeling unnatural.

This is a cool project that I hope she continues. You can see the full comic here. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled, and expect to feature Ms. Birdton again soon.