August 31, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: Rafer Roberts to Debut Plastic Farm 20!

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Plastic Farm 20
Written by Rafer Roberts
Illustrated by Mal Jones, Rafer Roberts, and Matt Dembicki

In another posting about an SPX debut, today we have Rafer Roberts and a new issue of Plastic Farm, the long-running creator-owned comic that's just turned the big 2-0. Based on the content of Plastic Farm, I really fear for when this thing turns 21 and can drink.

I first read Plastic Farm waaaay back in 2009, writing what I think is one of my better reviews from the early days of this blog. Since then, I've tried to make sure I read anything I can find with Rafer in it. He's always good for turning up in quality anthologies, the latest of which is FUBAR2, which I hope to review soon.

It's no mean feat keeping up a creator-owned project for so long. But one that remains solid makes the job even more impressive.

For those who don't know, Plastic Farm is the story of a man who is either flat-out crazy or has the power to change the world. He's haunted by visions, and ends up hanging out with a group of disparate people, all of whom have their own stories to tell. It's just a bit like Canterbury Tales, if Chaucer wasn't afraid of excommunication and had grown up on horror films.

The whole thing links together so intricately, it's an astounding process that happens before your eyes. I dunno about jumping on points, but I can't recommend this series enough for those who like their comics creepy and have no fear of being grossed out from time to time.

If you are going to SPX this year, find this guy, because he's going to sell you good, solid, horror comics. Sadly, they probably won't let him smoke in the auditorium.

If you aren't going to SPX, you can find Rafer Roberts at Plastic Farm. Either way, give his work a chance. I'm betting you'll like it--just don't blame me for the nightmares, ok? It's all his fault!

August 30, 2011

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Digging into Digital Special: Scott Morse and Skottie Young's Webcomic Begins

A few months ago, Scott Morse and Skottie Young put together a sketch blog where they would pick a theme and then draw their various takes on characters surrounding that theme. It was a lot of fun to read, seeing them do everything from Batman villains to the Muppets. If you were so inclined, you could even buy the original art from them.

Things slowed down a bit as Scott worked on his convention that happened at the same time as the San Diego Comic Con, Trickster. Then, the pair of artists announced they were headed in a different direction, one that would involve an original project.

That project debuted yesterday, and boy does it look interesting!

There's only one page up so far, but when you have a story that begins with debating the merits of buying things from a monkey, you know you're off to a good start.

According to the pair of Scotts, Monday's pages will be written and drawn by Scott Morse. On Friday, Skottie Young will take over. What's even more interesting is that they're only working just a bit ahead of when the pages are posted, so neither has a firm idea of where the story is going. This is about as close to internet artist improv as you're going to get, adding yet another reason to read this, in case Scott Morse and monkeys weren't enough for you.

Working without a net should be interesting, because it may mean fevered inspiration or long delays if other projects get in the way. I'll be curious to see how that goes and how long the pair can keep things going. Given this intriguing start, I'm hoping it will be for a long time!

Morse and Young are out to do something a little different in the comics world. Why not get in on the ground floor? I highly recommend you add this one to your RSS feeds today.
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SPX Spotlight: Owly Volumes 1-4

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

[This is also Sarah's first post! Yay!-Ed]

Written and Illustrated by Andy Runton
Top Shelf

One cannot criticize the Owly series by Andy Runton - it would be like kicking a puppy. The series is just that cute, friendly, and innocent. Owly is an all-ages series in the true sense of the word, as it is enjoyable for both kids and adults. The stories are told in a silent mode where the black-and-white Expressionism-via-cartoons panels tell the story. Owly and his equally cute woodland friends do not talk, but convey ideas and emotions through facial expressions or the occasional speaking or thought bubble that just shows an icon or punctuation or another smaller image. Because of this feature, Owly is likely a fun series to read aloud to children. The only issue is that outside of the two main characters, you never learn the names of the secondary characters until the end of each book, in what appears to be an "Owly's scrapbook" section.

While each volume can work as a stand-alone piece; if you read the series altogether you will notice certain themes. Owly is a lonely, but friendly character and much of the series is about him trying to make new friends by helping other woodland creatures. The creatures initially refuse his help because of either their own nature (bluebirds being territorial, possums being skittish) or because they are afraid of the owl, a predatory creature. The only quibble I have with the Owly series is that it is a bit formulaic at times - it even has a "brain"-type of character. The raccoon who runs the plant nursery is also a librarian of sorts, explaining to Owly and Wormy what sort of plants or objects may help attract or protect the creatures that they are trying to help. So the series is also educational because it teaches you about certain plants and flowers, as well as more unusual creatures like flying squirrels. Runton is subtly encouraging readers to make friends with nature by gardening and putting up birdhouses, since you obviously cannot and should not hug owls, possums, worms, butterflies, and bluebirds (although Top Shelf does sell an adorable plush Owly toy). As the series goes on, it becomes more about being brave and facing your fears, and we learn more about Owly and why he is not a predatory creature, as well as more about his best friend and constant companion Wormy.

Owly is a good entryway into graphic novels for children as it is friendly, easy to read and follow, and is educational. And as long as you're not an adult who is opposed to cute things and anthropomorphized animals, adult readers will enjoy the series as well. Owly in particular tends to serve as a good break from darker reading materials.

August 29, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: Magic Bullet #3 to Debut at SPX!

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Magic Bullet #3
Written and Illustrated by Bill Ellis, Matt Dembicki, Dominic Vivona, Kevin Czapiewski, Danielle Corsetto, Jonathan Case, Kevin Panetta & Mike Short, Matt Sheean, Rafer Roberts, RM Rhodes & Evan Keeling, Jake Warrenfeltz, Art Hondros, Art Haupt & Andrew Cohen, Adam Dembicki, Joe Carabeo & Carolyn Belefski, Eric Gordon, Jeff McClelland & Jeff McComsey, Scott White, Dale Rawlings, David W. Ryan, Troy Jeffrey-Allen, David Dean & Jay Payne, Adam Umak & Michael J. Auger, JT Wilkins, Michael Brace, Kyle Kaczmarczyk & Helaine Crawford, Michael May & Jason Copland
DC Conspiracy (Self-Published)

As you all know, I'm a big fan of anthologies, and I'm quite pleased to be one of the many people announcing that the Magic Bullet tabloid newspaper anthology is returning for a third issue, debuting at SPX!

And best of all, it's absolutely free!

I greatly enjoyed the first two issues, which ranged from the topical to the silly to the bizarre, all in basically one newspaper page apiece. Regular contributors (and Panel Patter favorites) Rafer Roberts, Carolyn Belefski, and Matt Dembicki are back, with Matt's son(!) joining in this time, along with a whole host of other names.

One of the things that I like best about Magic Bullet is that while it definitely shows that comics can do more than just tell a quick, funny story, there is nothing in it that would easily offend someone (unless they are a member of the Tea Party, judging by last issue). Thus, this FREE anthology is perfect for grabbing an extra copy (or three) and handing out to people who say they used to like comics, but don't want to read about Batman anymore.

Hey, that person! Look at all these awesome comics that you can try! You get everything from Native Americans to fancy thieves to Mickey Mouse via Hammer studios to dinosaurs to Sarah Palin acting like a demented psycho!

I bet you can't find those in your regular newspaper! (Okay, maybe that last one is there...)

If you're planning to be at SPX, don't hesitate to pick up a copy of this. It won't cost you a thing, and I bet that you'll find something you like in there. It would be almost impossible not to.

Best of all, several of the folks in Magic Bullet will be at the show. If you enjoyed the work of Belefski, Cohen, Corsetto, Czapiewski, Dembecki, Jeffrey-Allen, Keeling, Rhodes, or Roberts, you can just find their table at SPX and see what else they have to offer. It's a great shopping list! (Apologies if I missed anyone in this list, I'm going by the SPX site.)

If you can't make it to the show but will be in the DC-Baltimore area, keep your eyes peeled, as you might be able to find Magic Bullet in a store near you. But if you live in the DC-Baltimore area and love comics, you really need to be at SPX!

Below are some additional Magic Bullet Previews. Enjoy!


Panel Patter Welcomes New Partner: Sarah!

It brings me great pleasure to announce that in addition to Erica and myself, Panel Patter has a third team member, our friend and film fiend, Sarah!

Sarah, like me, reads all sorts of comics, and she's an excellent writer in her own right. I am so very pleased to have her join in the fun on an occasional basis. Sarah's one of the few people I know who can out-obscure me on bad movies, and we've both watched The Room more than once and lived to tell the tale.

Here's Sarah's bio. Her first post will be coming tomorrow, when Sarah takes a turn shining the SPX spotlight on some books you can get at the show! Please give her a warm comics community welcome!

Sarah used to be heavily involved with zines, but is not anymore. She has been writing a film blog sporadically since 2007 and is currently at Up until recently, she was a longtime resident of Richmond, VA, but she left to attend an Film Studies graduate program in Ohio. Comics qualifications: used to read Lynda Barry, Garfield, and Peanuts TP's as a kid, reads a variety of comics as an adult when affordable or accessible.

What Do You Do When the Power's Out?

Well, if you're me, you read a lot of comics!

Like a ton of other people, my little corner of the world was hit by Hurricane Irene. While I escaped without damage, I lost power on Saturday night, and as of this writing, I have no idea when I'm going to get it back at my place.

So what to do on a Sunday when you can't waste time online or write reviews? There are a lot of things, but in my case, I opted for reading comics.

Some I read by flashlight, dutifully turning my LED crank whenever the margins got dim.
Some I read by the light of the sun, sitting on the porch and watching folks crawl out and inspect the damage.
Some I read in the bed, letting the afternoon light spill in.
Some were read by using what battery power I had left on the computer.

All in all, it was the first time I'd taken an entire day to do virtually nothing but read comics. What I discovered was that a) being off the grid won't kill me once in awhile and b) man, I really can put the comics away when I put my mind to it.

My reading was quite varied. I started off with mini-comics from a few folks who will be at SPX in a few weeks, to prepare for SPX spotlight posts. I also read the excellent Blink: So Far by Max Ink and Fantagraphics' Roberto Clemente biography, 21.

For a bit of capes comic action, I re-read Gray, Palmiotti, and Conner's Power Girl.

I even manged to slip in some old Kochalka, along with one surprisingly good manhwa (Raiders) and one spectacularly bad manga (Amnesia Labyrinth 2). I'd planned to add House of Five Leaves to the running total, but I fell asleep first.

In terms of digital comics, I took the time to read about a dozen or so of the free comics offered by the Illustrated Section team that I'd saved for a rainy day. Well, it wasn't raining, but I thought it was close enough. It was rather nice to have digital comics that were non-cloud. As with all things, a healthy mix comes in handy!

Overall, I turned what could have been a wasted day into a day of reading. It was a lot of fun, and I think I'm going to try to do that again every few months. My backlog of comics, especially those I just bought, is way smaller now. Sometimes, you just need to stop and read the comics, and worry about talking about them later.

I hope all of my readers are safe, and I hope we all get power back across the board soon. What did you do, comics-wise, while the power was out? I'd love to know if others took some time to catch up on their reading, too!

August 28, 2011

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Sunday Readings 8-28-11

I'm putting this Sunday Readings together in advance of Hurricane Irene hitting in this part of the Eastern United States, just in case I'm out of touch. I hope all of my friends are safe and able to relax (or at least bunker down) and enjoy some Sunday Readings...

Brigid Alverson has news and notes from the manga world in her MTV roundup. In a double-dose of Alverson, she's also got a great listing of teen books of all kinds for the School Library Journal. Going for the triple threat, this is Brigid's MTV roundup from last week, just in case you missed it, where she talks more about JManga and other digital manga sites.

Rusty Shackles runs the fun Palette Swap blog, which re-does old video game covers. Here's a personal favorite game, Puzzle Bobble, getting the treatment. James Miller provides the art on that one.

As we lurch towards DC's new era (which is not the first time DC might have ended up rebooting everything, based on Jim Shooter's story about Marvel's solicited attempt to take over their comics in 1984), a very clever blog has asked a wide variety of creators to contribute ideas for rebooted DC series. DC Fifty-Too is the clever name, and this one by Mike Maihack is far and away my favorite so far. I'd totally read that book, as long as it didn't mean getting rid of Cleo!

Graeme McMillan discussed the idea of creator books possibly turning into work for hire. The article doesn't really come to any conclusions, but I think it's worth talking about the idea. I guess my argument would be: Haven't we already seen this on a good chunk of Image books already? Not to mention The Tick, TMNT, etc?

Going in the other direction, it looks like Dynamite is the retirement home for old pulp heroes turned into comics. Great idea, but the track record for sales is terrible. Does anyone know if these stories are any good? Wouldn't mind giving them a try, as if I need more to read!

Normally, I'm linking to Chris Sims on Comics Alliance, but here's a great article by John Parker discussing how Peter David turned a stale hero popular again and built his own reputation in the process.

Here's the Sims link, as he and a passel of pals diss on the new DC logos. They have some kind words, too, but overall, it's a lot of jokes about free clip art.

I mentioned that Scott Morse and Skottie Young were working on a new project, which gets further teased here.

Jack Kirby's birthday was yesterday, here's a Big Barda to celebrate it! Drawn by Mike Henderson.

Finally, Wonderella gives good advice to all young people. Just don't tell her that I said so, ok?

That's all for today. Hope you have a safe Sunday, and we'll see you in the panels!
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SPX Spotlight: The Legettes from Belefski and Carabeo

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Written by Joe Carabeo
Illustrated by Carolyn Belefski
Curls Studio (self-published)

MC is a former agent who's about as far down on his luck as you can possibly be. He once had a team of three sexy secret agents, but they allegedly died at the hands of a monster. Blamed for the tragedy, MC has been on an downward spiral ever since. Abandoned even by his friends, it seems nothing can change his life--except for a burlesque show? It's all setting the stage for a larger story that will play out in...the Legettes.

This is fun story that has an awful lot going on in just one issue. We have a future where a corporation might not be all that clean and deals with its employees ruthlessly. There are technical advances that create cyborgs, futuristic communication devices, and the ability to avoid almost certain death. There are creatures and bar fights and even a striptease. It's almost too much to contain in one issue, but the idea is to set up the world the Legettes are in as quickly as possible, and I think Belefski and Carabeo do a good job of getting it all together.

The only thing that doesn't feel quite right is MC himself. He's a pretty typical protagonist who is set up to be an unreliable narrator that I'm sure will be vindicated in the end. I'm hoping that there's a bit more depth in his character as we go along. Right now, he's just wandering around giving exposition. It's needed, but as we move forward, he will need to do more than that.

Belefski's artwork for this is typical of every other thing I've seen her draw. The characters are very rounded and flow across the page. Even the mechanical and futuristic backgrounds have a sense of being more fluid than you'd normally expect from this kind of story. She also does a lot of placement work that puts the action right in the face of the reader. I like that the action of this story really pops out at me. Belefski also does a really nice job of keeping the designs varied and keeping people spread around the page so that things are busy, but not crowded. It's a great visual reading experience.

One of the occasionally maddening parts of being a fan of mini-comics is reading the first part of a longer story like this and knowing that you have to wait for the creator's stars to align again and let them get back to the material. I really enjoyed the Legettes, and I want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there's still no issue two. I definitely recommend this one, but keep in mind that it's not complete yet.

Though I've since read other, smaller works by the creative team of Belefski and Carabeo, this was actually my first experience with their work, recommended by Ed Sizemore. They have quite a few other characters to choose from, including a pair of clever thieves (Black Magic Tales) and Carolyn's webcomic, Curls. You could also see if Carolyn is free to do a sketch for you, as she does excellent work. If you can't make SPX, you can find their work here. Check them out!

August 27, 2011

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SPX Spotlight; 2 Mini-Comics from Bill Roundy

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

A to Z in the Monstrous Manual

Written by Bill Roundy
Illustrated by Bill Roundy

I first picked up a Bill Roundy comic because he had done an excellent parody/tribute to a Marvel character, Northstar. In the comic, which I reviewed a few years ago, Northstar was treated as a human being with real needs and issues, while still addressing his superhuman powers.

It showed Roundy's storytelling skills, which mix humor, horror, and everyday life. In addition, we also get these familiar concepts seamlessly blended in with queer culture, which puts a new twist on the stories themselves. I really like the fact that when I pick up Roundy comic, it's not only going to have a different take on familiar themes--it's going to be good, too. I quickly became a fan.

This is a review of my two most recent pick-ups from Roundy. He is quite prolific and usually had new comics each year at SPX. Hopefully, 2011 will not be an exception!

Brood is a sequel to Yes, Master, which featured an Igor character deeply in love with his mad scientist. This time around, we've got an angsty vampire who pines for a human. Stalking him from afar for fear of rejection (or worse!), our protagonist can no longer stand still when his object of affection is in danger of dying. A love is born--or is it?

As the vampire soon learns, sometimes the dream of the relationship is better than the relationship itself. What to do when the love of your life isn't who you thought he was? If you're a Bill Roundy comic, the results are pure dark comedy.

Gay vampires are not unusual or new, of course. But I really like how Roundy plays with the tropes involved in that concept, doing it all essentially wordlessly and letting thought balloons carry the action. It's not as creepy as Yes, Master was, but I liked that he didn't try to do exactly the same thing, only with a different monster. I wonder if we'll see the Mummy or Wolfman get similar treatment in the future?

Like a fair number of the mini-comics I read, Roundy's art is not fancy, but he does a good job of making things work in Brood. There are quite a few visual gags in the comic that are completed with just a few lines. His art hasn't evolved much in the comics I've read, but it's settled in quite nicely, doing exactly what it needs to do. Though his work is in no way manga influenced, he reminds me of manga-ka who use their story to drive their work, rather than fancy linework, and that's just fine by me.


What's a bored, geeky cartoonist to do when his local D&D group gets cancelled for the day? Draw creatures, of course! A to Z in the Monstrous Manual is a cute sketchbook in which, with a few cheats, Roundy draws a bunch of things people who aren't me get together to rough up on a regular basis. There's everything from cloak monsters to kute kobalds (misspelling mine) to an umber hulk that shows another side of Roundy's geekiness.

Because of Roundy's style, none of these creatures look threatening but they are amusing and fun to look at. I like themed books like this (my small con sketchbook is also based around the alphabet) and guessing at how-what Roundy would draw was a lot of fun. This is a great pickup for you RPG types.

If you're going to SPX this year, definitely stop by Roundy's table and see what he has to offer. If you can't make it to SPX this year, then you can find his comics here.

August 26, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: Jim Coon's Many Mini-Comics

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

All comics referenced below are written and illustrated by Jim Coon and are self-published as Last Dollar Comics.

It's hard to remember my first experienced at the Small Press Expo. I really had no idea what to expect, and a lot of the first trip to Bethesda is a blur for me.

I distinctly remember Jim Coon, however, because he had a large number of small mini-comics, buttons, and other items laid out on his table. And just about all of them were exactly 100 Lincoln pennies.

Fortunately for Jim, that's not how I paid him.

I used nickels.*

However I paid isn't really important. What's important for you to know is that his comics, while admittedly short, are a lot of fun to read. Coon often uses old science fiction and fantasy tropes in his work, giving them some sort of twist, usually sarcasm, that makes them worth re-reading in brief graphical form.
Take Robert the Robot Conquers the World, in which a boy's toy ends up going on a rampage of unthinkable proportions, all with a cavalier tone that belies the incredible seriousness usual given to such a plot in the old 1950s movies.

Or perhaps you'd prefer to see what happens when King Kong is faced with a reject from a later Godzilla flick. Rather than go for the traditional melodrama, Coon opts to use it as a forum on the stupidity of the people who populate these kinds of stories. Why are they tying up giant apes--and where do they get them in the first place?

This sort of story deconstruction walks a fine line. Done improperly, the writer comes off as jaded and attempting to be hip by blowing off that stuff that might have brought him or her joy as a child. However, Coon manages to skirt that line just enough, falling more into the territory of Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than, say, Scream.

Not all of Coon's work has this much irony. Little Lost Yeti is more of a demented version of a Rankin-Bass Christmas special, complete with a guest appearance by Santa Claus. There's a heartwarming tale within the jokes, if you know where to look.

I'm not sure if Samurai Cat is still available, but it, too, showed some sense of a more serious side to Coon's work. As with any Japanese-themed tail, there was honor and duty to be carried out. I've since lost my copy of that six-part(?) series, but it was definitely a favorite from SPX past.

Perhaps the cutest thing I've read from Mr. Coon is Little Frank. Shaped differently from most of his comics, this is an old-fashioned fairy tale with a distinct moral and just a little bit of magic. What I like best about the story is that it references other legends without actually following any one of them very closely. You'll see and hear the echoes but in the end, the story takes it own unique turn.

Coon's artwork, like many who deal in the realm of parody, is made up of just enough lines to get the job done. The covers that accompany this review are pretty typical of his style in their interiors. He is able to make the stories work by providing just enough of the visual gag to drive the story. You're not going to read a Last Dollar Comic for the artwork. You're in this mostly for the fun mashups of old tropes.
Similarly, there are sometimes issues with Coon's verbiage. In some cases, the attempt to be both sincere and yet detached from the material makes for some clunky text, especially when the action is being narrated instead of written out into dialog.

I am also a bit disappointed by the change from $1 comics to $2. While I know that making comics is more expensive, it makes it that much harder to pick up a short work like Yeti when it's only a 1/8th size comic that's effectively two printed standard pages.

Despite those issues, I still like Coon's work, and will be curious to see what his newest comic, which appears to be a Sesame Street parody, is all about. If you're looking for a quick read with a solid joke or two, Coon's comics should be a must stop on your SPX tour.

If you can't make it to SPX, Coon has an Etsy store which you can find here, complete with sample pages of the comics.

*Not really. It was actually dimes.

August 25, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: 3 Mini-Comics from Andrew Cohen

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Howzit Funnies
S-h-h--! (you'll wake the dead)
Dr. W #1

Written by Andrew Cohen
Illustrated by Andrew Cohen

I first saw Cohen's work in collaboration with Matt Dembicki, and made a note at the time that he was someone I might want to investigate at a later date. This feeling continued when I ran into his Dr. W character, who seemed to care not for the bounds of panels, in the pages of Magic Bullet.

Thus it was a pretty easy choice for me when I had the opportunity to grab these three mini-comics. Each one is thematically different from the other, though the general writing style, artwork, and sense of humor share a common link.

Howzit Funnies is an off mingling of artwork with what felt like poetry to me. Sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, the overall effect is lyrical. Take the first few lines of the book as an example:

"Sittin' in a bar in outer space--talking to a girl in pretty lace--astronaut came and punched my face--woke up later 'bout half past three--in the back of a cab, just the cabby and me--cabbie looked worried, he had something to say--I said don't mine me man, I'll be on my way!"

Each dash represents a new panel on the page, and each one gets an illustration that matches the text in a humorous, downplaying manner. There's a hint of blues in the mix as well, given themes of people done wrong, losers down on the luck, and the like. Not everything fits into that mold, and what doesn't honestly didn't work for me. But I liked the narrative story parts quite a bit. Cohen's scratchy, dark lines work in harmony with his text, even if they sometimes undercut what the narrator is saying or doing.

The heavily inked art continues in Sh-h-h--!. This time around, Cohen puts together stories themed around the dead. They aren't serious by any means, however. We're strictly in black comedy territory Bones dominate the pages, happily flaunting their lack of skin at the reader. We get one tale that would fit right in with the blues vibe of Howzit and the whole thing reminds me very much of the kind of Day of the Dead jauntiness that I'm not sure I've actually seen in a mini-c0mic before.

Cohen also does a few stories here in a manner that suggests old woodcuttings, which is a trick I quite like when I notice a cartoonist using it (Rick Geary being the one that comes to mind most often for me.). This is a more cohesive work than Howzit, and might be a better place for a reader to start unless...

...they want to see someone have fun with the comic format. If you're looking for Will Eisner on steroids, then definitely seek out Dr. W. This was my favorite of the three comics, because each and every story in the comic plays with panels. This is one of the most imaginative comics I've ever read, and I read a lot of comics.

A few examples:
  • Balls ricochet around the page, striking characters from the margins.
  • Dr. W. pulls a panel off to prove a character is cheating.
  • A river flows with Dr. W. in it all over the page.
  • The placement of a window leads to multiple sight gags.
Keep in mind this is a five by eight comic, not an oversized hardcover or anything of that nature!

Dr. W is so incredibly innovative (and cranky!) that his adventures never grow old. He's a perfect straightman for the panel-bending, because he accepts it all as being perfectly normal. Nothing that happens shocks him, though it might be incredibly annoying.

Mr. Cohen is a bit hard to track down on the web. He's got a blog, but it's not been updated in almost two months. He will, however, be at SPX and if you are going to the show, definitely look up his work. Hopefully, he'll have some of these comics along for you to try!

August 24, 2011

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Panel Patter's Spotlight is on SPX!

It's almost time for my favorite show of the year, the Small Press Expo! This will be my fourth year in attendance, and I owe a lot of my current comics reading habits to that convention, which brings the best and the brightest in the indie comics field to Bethesda Maryland once a year.

This year, the Panel Patter team is proud to shine the spotlight on some of those creators by featuring a series of reviews of their work. Starting tomorrow and running until September 9th, this blog will be highlighting comics both old and new from people and publishers who will be at the show.

Some will be long-time Panel Patter favorites, such as Joey Weiser and Sara Lindo, both of whom will have new books available at the show. Others are people who I've been more recently introduced to or have been meaning to read, such as Max Ink and Andrew Cohen. We'll still be doing other posts along the way, but the focus is on people you will be able to meet at the show, along with my usual show previews.

If you're a creator who is going to be at the Small Press Expo and have an interest in being spotlighted, please get in touch (! I'd love to help spread the word and increase the number of cool creators I'm looking forward to seeing that weekend.

The Small Press Expo will be held at the Marriott Convention Center in Bethesda, MD on September 10th and 11th, 2011. Don't miss it! And don't miss these great folks who are in the Panel Patter Spotlight!
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Baltimore Comic Con 2011 Haul

After every show, I try to put together a list of the things I got at the show. Here's what turned up in my bag of magical comics when I opened it up today to catalog it:

Graphic Novels and Collections

  • Blink So Far by Max Ink (also 2 minis)
  • Dusk Volume 1 by David Doub and Others
  • FUBAR Empire of the Rising Dead by Various
  • Journey into Mohawk Country by HM van der Bogaert and George O'Connor
  • The God Machine Vol 1 by Chandra Free
  • Gods & Undergrads Books 1 and 2 by Monica Gallagher
  • Monsters!* Mostly by DAve Wachter
  • Strange Tales for Boys and Girls by Neil R. King
  • Umbra by Vikki Chu
  • The Unknown Books 1 and 2 by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer
Single Comics

  • Border Crossings 1-3 by Christian Sager and Andrew Sides
  • DC Conspiracy Book of the Dead by Various
  • First Law of Mad Science #1 by Mike Isenberg and Oliver Mertz
  • Gay Kid #2 by Katie Omberg
  • Saga of the Power Heroes 1 of 5 by Derrick A. Rivers
  • The Serial Squad! One-Shot by Paul E. Schultz
  • Teddy and the Yeti 1-3 + Special by Jeff McClelland and Others
This show was a little unusual for me in that I got more bound books than mini-comics. I think some of that had to do with the nature of the artists at the show, as it seemed like there were more collected works than single issues or mini-comic samplers.

I was particularly excited to get God Machine, as I'd sampled it earlier digitally but felt like it would read better in print. I also wanted to get something from Ms. Gallagher after reading her entry in the Baltimore Time Travel Anthology. One can never go wrong with Mark Waid, and Blink comes highly recommended by Johanna.

The singles/minis were mostly things that caught my eye and were priced within sampling range. Teddy and the Yeti was based on enjoying the writing that McClelland had done in the FUBAR anthology. I am of course a big fan of Ms. Omberg, and was pleased to be able to get her second Gay Kid issue ahead of SPX.

I had a really great time at the show, and can't wait to read these great comics!

August 23, 2011

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Baltimore Comic Con 2011 Wrap-Up

Over the past weekend, I had the great pleasure of once again attending the Baltimore Comic-Con. As I mentioned in my preview posts, I was at the show last year and enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was nice to get to go again, even though I had to make it basically a one-day show due to other commitments.

I can't speak much to Saturday's part of the show, though Johanna Draper Carlson amongst others has done a wonderful job of writing up the fun on Saturday. I will say that I encountered tons of people who had clearly been at the show, either in costume or out of it, as I walked towards the Convention Center. They were full of smiles, too, which is always a good sign, and talking enthusiastically about what they'd bought.

When I got into the show proper, I saw that it was extremely crowded. I barely got time to grab some of the books I wanted to definitely buy before it was time to go. I left with so much anticipation for the next day, it probably stayed on my face all night. Not even eating alligator and kangaroo could dull my enthusiasm, due partly to a great dinner with comics friends Johanna, Ed, Julia, and Erica.
The next day, I ran (literally at some points, because keep in mind I don't need a car to go to this show!) to the Convention, and was greeted by a welcoming committee, pictured to the left. Fortunately, I was not one of the bloggers they were looking for, so I was able to hit the show floor for a quick look around before going to a panel.

While not as crowded as Saturday, Sunday still did quite a brisk business. I think a lot of it had to do with Stan Lee's presence, but that didn't mean people were only around for one of the legends of the comics business.

I will say, however, that the lines for all things related to Lee were impressively long, even longer than for McFarlane the prior year. The snapshot to the left was pretty typical of the Lee lines, which only grew as time went on. For better or worse, I opted to skip waiting to see The Man. I love Lee's work, but I'm at the show to see as many folks as possible, not just one person, and waiting would have killed my timeline.

Not too long after I ogled the Lee lines, I went up to the first panel of the day, about children's digital comics. Based on the debut of a new product that should be available on the ipad now, Comics Jukebox, the panel consisted of folks related to kids comics in some way, ranging from Todd DeZago's Marvel work to a representative of Archie Comics to the founder of the Jukebox, John Gallagher.
Partly because Gallagher was a bit late, DeZago started off the conversation and as a result, the panel ended up being more of a conversation on digital comics than on kids comics in the digital world. That was cool, because I am extremely interested in the subject, as most regular readers know

I live-tweeted the panel and I might get a panel write-up later this week if time permits. The most interesting things I heard was that these panelists not only were not afraid of the copying issues related to epub, they argued that the future of digital comics was in an epub-related format. (Tell that to the publishers, who are locked into the cloud!) They also kept referencing the ipad, despite the fact that the non-ipad users in the room outnumbered ipad people by about eight to one. Lastly, I was shocked that the panel agreed that digital was a better deal for creators than print, which is against all the conventional wisdom I've ever read. Go figure.

Soon it was time to be back on the floor again, which had a nice buzz about it. I started my swing through the artists and guests, picking up the things that interested me along the way. This takes time and effort, by the way, to do it right. If you just sort of scan the aisles, it can look like there's just a lot of folks trying to do pinups of popular characters. Which is fine, if you do that sort of thing.

However, what I look for are either creators who I've met before who might have new stuff, people whose art blogs have intrigued me, or those with an affordable introductory product that I can grab without worrying if I overspent.

It also doesn't hurt if you have an awesome booth, like the FUBAR folks. They put together a themed anthology of zombie stories set in World War 2. While I admit I'm a bit--make that a lot--zombied out, I knew one of the contributors and picked it up as a result. I'm glad I did. The stories are quite good, and use the meshed ideas quite well. Definitely worth it for $12.

Before moving on, though, I want to emphasize how important art blogs and affordable comics were for me at this show. I specifically sought out people that I'd started out knowing only from their art blogs. Having had the chance to see that their chops were good, I knew I wanted to buy merch from them. Blogs aren't paid work, but they are free advertising that can later be put in a book, or used to tease a longer work. Definitely consider it if you're trying to get the word out about your work.

When you make that book, make sure it's a good value, too. While I rarely put down a five dollar or less comic if it's caught my eye without buying it, I won't even pick up anything over that if I don't know you. Please place value on your work, but also understand that it's always good to have something people can use to see if they like you or not. Trust me, we'll be repeat customers, and that's when we'll start buying the pricier stuff!

Before I knew it, I had to be back up in the panel area for the second digital panel of the day. This time, Comixology was hosting, and they had a row of talent that included Jeff Smith, Jimmy Palmiotti, Scott Snyder, and others. The panel started off a bit stiff, but Palmiotti (and a passing thunderstorm) quickly set an informal tone, and the conversation flowed freely.

(Palmiotti is a riot, by the way. If you get a chance, make sure you see him on a panel, regardless of topic. He's awesome.)

As with the prior panel on digital, most of the creators were enthusiastic about the medium, particularly with what it can do for independent creators. Smith noted that Rasl and Bone sold equally well in digital form, which is not the case at all in print. Palmiotti liked being able to add digital extras, and everyone seemed to think it nixed the availability issue for smaller comics.

I thought it was really interesting that the panel seemed to think that digital would not kill the comic store at all, becoming a place to pick up things otherwise unavailable or serving as a way for those not near a shop (or who are uncomfortable in a shop for whatever reason) to get their comics. Comixology mentioned working on a deal with retailers to have the ability to pick up digital comics through their websites, which I don't quite understand, but I trust them to be on top of good ideas.

Comixology continues to be the top of the digital field, both in terms of being promoters of the digital comics world and also in terms of improvements. They're looking at doing more digital trades and seeing what publishers might let them do in terms of sharing comics. I can also say that they are not ones to rest on their laurels, either, though that's all I'm at liberty to mention. Just trust me on this. It would be easy to stand pat, but they keep moving forward. I hope that continues for a good long time, as I'd love to keep giving Comixology more business.

As with the prior panel, I live-tweeted the conversation. If time permits, I'll try to do a more in-depth post about it as well.

After the second panel, I made another few swings through the show, getting a chance to talk to Stan Sakai, JM DeMatteis, Jose Garcia-Lopez, and others. It's always a thrill for me to be able to shake a creator's hand and tell them how much I love their work. I found out one of my favorite DeMatteis stories is one of his favorites, too!

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. I had a nice full bag of goodies (more on that tomorrow) and the rain had conveniently stopped. It was time to leave this oasis of comics behind for another year. Like many others, I had a great time, but I hope to be able to attend both days next year. Walking home, I realized just how much I didn't get to do, despite all that I had done!

The next Baltimore Comic Con will be on September 8-9, 2012, at the Baltimore Convention Center. You owe it to yourself to be there next year. Start making plans now.

Otherwise, you have to answer to these guys:

August 22, 2011


Get Fit for the Pit #1

Hey, cats and kittens! I'm Erica Satifka, and this is my first post for Panel Patter. I normally blog over at Breakfast at Twilight, my bikes-and-other-things blog. I read a fairly broad selection of comics--although not as broad as Rob's--but for my reviews I'm mostly going to be focusing on zines and mini-comics.

Get Fit for the Pit #1
Written by Maranda Elizabeth, Korinna Irwin, CA Eaves, Ele, Ramsey Everydaypants, Nicole Harris, Russell James Pyle, and Chris Landry; Compiled by Nicole Harris
Click Clack Press

Get Fit for the Pit #1 is subtitled "a zine on taking back our health and fitness," and that's exactly what it's about: a compilation zine about punks and/or general outsiders reclaiming sports and exercise from jocks, bullies, and other people who made high school hell.

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I have recently developed an obsession love of cycling. And while my goal is not "fitness" but transportation, increased fitness is a great side effect, allowing me not to get so out of breath when I scale the steps up to our Baltimore row house. And I can definitely attest from experience that athletics (team sports, anyway) aren't always prized in the "outsider community," except perhaps as a form of irony. And this is really to our detriment, as exercise (which could be defined as "anything one does that is not sitting on one's couch watching Simpsons reruns") has numerous benefits including increased energy, better sleeping patterns, and less irritability, or at least that's been my experience. To deny yourself the pleasures of fitness because it's a "jock thing" is ludicrous, and yet, that's what a lot of "alternative" folks do, due to the popular image of an athlete as a rich, Spandex-clad warrior with three percent body fat, and you're a person who had to look up "body fat percentage" in Wikipedia to see if that's a low number or not.

The types of sports/fitness practiced by the contributors run the gamut from running to hooping (it's not just, you know, for kids) to roller derby to yoga. The submissions are mostly text-based with minimal illustrations, but there is a centerfold comic by Ramsey Everydaypants (List) about her experiences as a weightlifter. Running dominates, with essays on the activity from Nicole Harris (who also compiled and published the zine), Russell James Pyle, and Chris Landry (Striking Distance). I found Landry's essay especially inspiring, as he stresses the non-competitive nature of (non-race) running and the fact that it can be a great way to explore your city. It almost makes me want to try running! But only almost. I also really liked Korinna Irwin's (Roots of Hope) take on yoga not being a "hippie" thing, that it can be a life-changing practice for anyone who undertakes it, akin to "joining hands in a black bloc protest." I also get what she means about wanting to force everyone you know to take part in your chosen activity, since I am like that with cycling! (Much to the annoyance of the editor in chief, heh.)

My only real criticism is that the stories can be a little repetitive. Two pages isn't a lot of space to do more than give a basic outline of their history with fitness and discuss their chosen sport, which doesn't leave a lot of room for in-depth discussion. There's a lot of critique that can be made about the fitness industry as well as the infrastructure problems and sedentary work patterns that lead us to see fitness more as something separate from our everyday lives, and you don't get that critique here. But Nicole intends for this to be a series (the next one is about nutrition), so hopefully future issues will dig a little deeper.

Get Fit for the Pit #1 is available at Click Clack Distro.

August 19, 2011

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Baltimore Comic Con 2011 Special: Creators You Should Find in Artist Alley

It almost time for the Baltimore Comic Con! It's time for the comics world to shine right here in my own hometown, and I couldn't be happier! The show is being held at the Baltimore Convention Center on August 20th from 10am to 6pm and August 21st from 10am to 5pm.

Wrapping up our three-part series of posts previewing the Con, it's time to look at some of wonderful folks you can meet over the next two days in Artist Alley at the show. Now keep in mind that these are the smaller press folks, not the ones designated as guests. I love Mark Waid, and if you get a chance, you should totally go say hello. Same for Charles Vess, Stan Sakai, Amanda Conner, and any number of the great, familiar names at the show. But they don't need a lot of attention. The list below are folks who might otherwise slip under the radar, and they've got great comics for you to read. Don't miss them!

Here is the complete list of folks in Artist Alley for the Baltimore Comic Con. My highlights are below, in the same order as on the show's list.

I think the real reason Chris named it Adhouse books was so that he was always on the top of lists like this. Regardless, Adhouse has a wide-ranging selection of excellent books from people like Eisner Nominee Jim Rugg, Stuart Immonen, and others. Go see what Chris has on hand this time around. You never know what hidden gems might be found at his table.

This will be the second show in a week where I get to see Carolyn Belefski and Curls Studio, which is of course a good thing! She'll have stuff from her webcomic as well as a few of other other projects on hand. Be sure to check our her samples from Sketch Before Sleep.

This will also be my second time seeing Chandra Free, who drew an awesome Batman sketch for me (in crayon!) at the Comics Geek Speak Supershow. I've since had the chance to look at her work more closely via digital sample, and it is amazing. There's a strong Jill Thompson vibe while still keeping her own feel. I will be making a beeline to her table to get The God Machine before she runs out of copies. You should, too, if you like gothic-themed comics.

Dave Wachter is a favorite of mine, as many of you know from my frequent linking to his blog on Sunday Readings. He should have some sketchbooks on hand, along with new material related to one of his webcomics, if I remember correctly. You should check him out, and consider a commission.

George O'Connor is the author behind the spectacular Olympians series, which recasts the Greek Gods as superhero-like figures while retaining their original myths. If he has any of the books on hand, pick one up.

Katie Omberg is also another personal favorite who is currently working her way through a series of autobiographical stories that mesh well with the It Gets Better Project. She also does retail horror story comics, which are always good therapy. Make sure you look at what she has new for this year.

I loved Kill Shakespeare to death, and they're premiering Kill Shakespeare accessories here in Baltimore! How cool is that?

Matt Petz created the fun Tyrannosaurus Beth and is also behind the digital comic War of the Woods, which looks at the War of the Worlds through the eyes of animals. He's also no slouch at sketching. Make sure you stop by his table, and he'll probably be near other cool webcomics folks as well.

Digging into Digital interviewee Mike Maihack will be back again this year, with paper copies of Cleopatra in Spaaaace!, one of my favorite webcomics. Make sure you grab both volumes. I can't wait to get my pre-order at the show on Sunday.

Rafer Roberts is probably tired of saying hello to me by now, we see each other at shows so much this year. This is the third time around, and so I get to once again remind you to buy Plastic Farm, which is an amazing, creepy story of epic proportions. Rafer is also part of a new anthology, so pick that up, too, while you're at it.

Top Shelf is one of my most-reviewed publishers, so I am always happy to see them at a show. There's new kids material, new Moore's League, new naughty comics in Chester 5000, and a new book from Robert Vendetti, the Homeland Directive, among many others. Take some time to see what they have in store for you!

I'm sure I'm missing some folks I wanted to highlight, and I'm sure I'll realize it the second I get to the show, see them, and then blush accordingly. My apologies in advance! No matter what, there is a ton of talent in the ranks at the Baltimore Comic Con. Go see them on August 20th and 21st!
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Baltimore Comic Con 2011 Special: Panel Patter Recommends Panels for You!

It almost time for the Baltimore Comic Con! It's time for the comics world to shine right here in my own hometown, and I couldn't be happier! The show is being held at the Baltimore Convention Center on August 20th from 10am to 6pm and August 21st from 10am to 5pm.

Going to panels is one of the cool parts of any convention. When done right, the panels are the thing you'll remember long after the show is over. For instance, last year I remember sitting in for a bit on a panel where Comixology and Boom! Studios (I think) were discussing digital comics. I didn't have a smart phone then, so I filed it away for future reference. Now I'm a huge digital comics supporter, and I attribute that panel to helping me see the possibility. At another show, a joking back and forth with a creator ended up leading to several friendships within the industry for me.

You never know what's going do that for you. So make sure that you do take some time to go to at least a few Baltimore Comic Con panels. I really wish I was able to attend panels on both days, but that's not going to happen due to personal reasons. But that doesn't mean I can't encourage others to go in my stead! Without further ado, here are my picks for the panels worth checking out at the Baltimore Comic Con on August 20th and 21st. Please note that I am modeling what you can do at the show, which means no appearing in two places at once. If you were hanging with me at the con for both days, this is where you'd find me.

All panel description text taken directly from the Con's website. You can view the complete list here.

12:00-1:00 – Spotlight on Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis & Kevin Maguire – Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire are the fan-favorite creative team behind Defenders, Metal Men, and Justice League. With stories that blend adventure and humor, their books are like no other. Join the men who put the “Bwah” in “Bwah-ha-ha” as they take a look at their work together.
It is absolutely killing me that I am going to miss this panel. I assure you that it's for a good reason. But if you happen to see me between noon and one on Saturday, do not be surprised if I am either weeping or about as angry as Bruce Banner when WalMart is out of purple pants.* DeMatteis is one of my favorite writers, having composed the perfect ending to Harry Osborne's story that I haven't forgiven Marvel for getting rid of yet. I'm also a fan of Giffen, and their work together is some of the best in comics. This is probably only for fans of their work, but I'm sure it will be awesome for those of us who miss the days when the JLA--and DC itself--could be both seriously and silly, all at the same time.
1:00-2:00 – BOOM! 6th Anniversary panel – Join BOOM! Studios Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ross Richie as he pulls the curtain back on BOOM! Studios. From an upstart one-book-a-month publisher debuting in 2005 to 2011′s powerhouse comic publisher, BOOM! Studios has had one of the most meteoric rises of any comic publisher in the last twenty years. Find out what makes this company tick as Ross reminisces about the early days at BOOM! and its current success. A one-of-a-kind panel for all those that want to know the real story behind the success of BOOM! Studios.
This is the only case where I'm glad I'm not at the show so I don't have to make the extremely difficult choice between this panel and the one on Charles Vess. However, while I really dig Vess's work, Boom! is one of my favorite publishers. I really would have liked to be around for this session, to hear what they attribute their success to. Personally, I think it's a combination of hiring good writers (Waid, Messner-Loebs, Cornell, Langridge, and others), putting out a variety of products (horror, licensed work, kids material, and superheroes, just to name a few) and ensuring that there's always a base level of quality to anything they do. Go to the panel and see if I'm right!
2:00 – 3:00 – A Conversation with Jeff Smith & Stan Sakai – Jeff Smith’s Bone celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year. Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo will soon reach its 200th issue. Now, these two talented creators sit down to discuss their work; from their beginnings to future plans. Join Jeff & Stan for what is sure to be a lively and fun look at the world of comics.
If I have to convince you to see a panel with Jeff Smith and Stan Sakai, then man, I don't even know you.

That would put me at 3pm, and I'd probably stop at that point to spend some time on the floor of the show, meeting cool creators. However, if you're still inclined to do one more panel, I'd go with Legendary Comics from 3-4. For those who don't know Legendary are the folks behind Frank Miller's Holy Terror, and they also promise comics from Paul Pope and Matt Wagner. They definite intrigue me, but I'd want a break after three straight hours of sitting on panels.

11:00-12:00 – Comics Jukebox: All-Ages Comics in the Digital Age – Digital, web, & downloadable comics are a growing trend in the medium, but where do kids comics stand in this arena? Creators John Gallagher and Steve Conley moderate over a panel of experts, including Dan Parent (Archie), Steve Hamaker (Bone, Fish & Chips), Mike Maihack (Cleopatra in Space!), Rich Faber (Roboy Red!) and Todd DeZago (Perhapanauts, Superhero Squad). Those in attendance will get a special card allowing them to download a FREE Exclusive BUZZBOY story from John Gallagher, and one person will win the opportunity to make a cameo appearance in “Leon, Protector of the Playground,” the new all-ages graphic novel by Jamar Nicholas.
Now we're into the day I'll actually be at the show, and I this is the panel I'm most looking forward to sitting in on. Comixology is the gold standard for digital comics in my opinion, and I'm really curious to see how they talk about things like age restriction, pricing, and popularity of digital comics. And if they don't, I'll be asking them!

1:00-2:00 – Going Digital: Day and Date, and what you need to know – With Marvel announcing their same-day-strategy and DC distributing their entire line starting August 31st to provide you with their acclaimed line of comics the same day digitally as they come out in print, you need to make sure you are prepared. With almost everything you want on demand or deliverable to your door, why should your comics be any different? Marvel and DC, with the help of comiXology have created a digital comics experience that puts the power back in your hands to enjoy your favorite comics on demand. Your comics, when you want them, where you want them.

Come join John D. Roberts, Co-founder of comiXology, who will lead our panel as we explore the new digital horizons together.

After taking a short break, maybe to eat, I'll be back in a chair to follow the most intriguing digital storyline for traditional publishers, day and date digital. I'm hoping they'll address price, because to me, paying a premium for day and date is okay, but the current cost is too high.
  • 3:00-4:00 – Stan Lee Spotlight – Face Front, True Believers! This is a panel no comics fan will want to miss as Jimmy Palmiotti sits down with the one and only Stan “The Man” Lee! He is a Founding Father of the Marvel Universe and the face of Marvel Comics to legions of fans. Join the writer, editor, actor, and legend as he discusses his illustrious career. Excelsior!
I'm going to do my best to sit in on this panel, but I am not betting on being able to get in. I have no idea how many Stan Lee VIP packages they sold, but he's obviously a very popular guy. Plus, I have a feeling that lots of people will be queuing for him way before the 2:45 doors, and I would rather talk to creators than wait in line. So we'll see how this goes.

So that's my recommendations. Anyone want to convince me that I'm missing a key panel? Hit me up in the comments, and be aware I can only make it on Sunday.

*Do you think Bruce is more of a Target guy? I'm not sure.
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You Should Go to the Baltimore Comic Con This Weekend (August 20-21)!

It almost time for the Baltimore Comic Con! It's time for the comics world to shine right here in my own hometown, and I couldn't be happier! The show is being held at the Baltimore Convention Center on August 20th from 10am to 6pm and August 21st from 10am to 5pm.

I actually have surprising confession to make in relation to this show: Last year, the Baltimore Comic Con was my first major comics show! I know that's hard to believe, given I've been reading comics for almost thirty years now, but it's true. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I never once made the big show there.

Why, you ask? Because while there were always comics folks at the Pittsburgh show, a lot of the focus is on general media sensations, like TV show stars or models or things of that nature. It wasn't focused squarely on comics, and thus, it was never a must-see show for me.

What made the Baltimore Comic Con such a great show for me as my first major show (and pushed me to go to Heroes, when I was told it was just like it) is that it's about *comics.* Sure there are other elements involved--I don't think you can separate comics and movies at this point--but the bulk of the show is about comics. From the guests to the panels to the theme of the show, the Baltimore Comic Con places the emphasis on comics, which is where I want it to be.

If you are at all interested in comics and live within a few hours of Baltimore, it is definitely worth your trip. There are big names every year that will draw all sorts of lines (last year it was Todd McFarlane) and there are plenty of others who will see crowds all weekend. What that means is there is almost certainly going to be creators who *you* like that are seemingly being ignored. For me, that was Jeff Parker. I got to have a lovely conversation with him, and he convinced me to read Red Hulk (though it took me awhile) with words to the effect of "Hey, it's me we're talking about. Trust me."

Those are the little moments you'll have at Baltimore. No matter how huge the show appears at first glance (and trust me, it's daunting if you're a con newbie), the crowds ends up working its way out, and while everyone has their own preference for what to do (mine is spending time in Artist Alley), they get to do it. You will, too!

Here are some things you should do if you go to the show tomorrow and/or Sunday:
  • Bring something to read while waiting in line. The entry lines are pretty long at the start of the day. You might get lucky and talk to someone cool, but you might also get the tool who spends the whole time talking about why Poison Ivy shouldn't wear pants. Plan accordingly.
  • Spend the first half hour or so just walking around. Sure, you've got your map and your list of panels and you're ready to make a bee line to J.M. DeMatteis, but if you don't take some time to get oriented, you might a) get lost or b) end up missing something you weren't expecting.
  • If you are looking to buy comics or trades, shop around. There are a ton of vendors at the show for those who want trades or singe issues. While it might be tempting to stop at the first place that looks good, pretend you're actually on the internet for a minute. Take the time to find a good deal unless it's a must-have item. Odds are you can find it cheaper, and if not, you're not out much in the way of time.
  • Speaking of spending, set a budget and stick to it. Get cash if you can. Leave your credit card at home unless you have a strong sense of restraint. There is going to be a strong urge to buy everything you see that you like, and down that road leads madness. Whatever you do, don't hope to be able to get cash at the show. That's sage advice for any con, really.
  • There's nothing wrong with appreciating and taking a photo of a person in costume. But always ask first and please don't be one of the many creeps trying to take pictures of women from the back. That is just so low class it's not even funny.
  • Make sure you stop by artist alley. Not only is it a place to meet your favorite well-known creators, sometimes you'll run into a favorite that you weren't expecting to see. I got to thank Ron Garney for his Cap and Silver Surfer runs that way. Also, a lot of these guys have things for sale, ranging from their prior work to sketchbooks and the like. Always nice to support them with a sale.
  • Plan your panel-sitting carefully. Baltimore has a lot of really cool panels this year, but if you only do panels, you can't see the artists, and that's a big part of the appeal of the show. I'd argue for at least a 50-50 ratio of panel to con-roaming.
  • Eat. For the love of God, do not do what I did last year and skip food. Either leave the show and come back or bite the bullet and get con food. Trust me on this one. [Edited to add: Drink lots of water, too. Easy to dehydrate and feel as weak as I did for not eating. Thanks for the heads-up on that, Julia!]
  • Lastly, buy at least one thing outside your comfort zone. Like Superheros? Awesome, so I do. Buy someone's autobiographical work. You might like it. Only read webcomics? Give a small trade paperback a try. See what happens when the story has a beginning and an ending, all within 150 pages. Find yourself gravitating to known publishers, no matter how small? Pick up at least one self-published title. Any one will do. Self published doesn't mean bad, it means complete creative control. Never touched a Superman? I challenge you to go and find a new series to try that involves powers and the fight of good against evil. Open your boundaries! That's what these shows should be for!
Whatever you decide, I hope to see you at the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend! Look for me to either be entirely overdressed on Saturday late in the afternoon or wearing an awesome Dick Giordano Batman shirt on Sunday. Have fun, and buy some comics!!

August 18, 2011

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2011 Ignantz Award Nominees Announced

The Small Press Expo is happening again this year, on September 10th and 11th, 2011 in Bethseda, Maryland. This will be my fourth year attending, and I have come to really look forward to it every fall.

Part of the fun of the Expo is the Ignantz awards, named of course for everyone's favorite brick-throwing mouse from the comic strips. While I've never attended the awards themselves (I feel like that's more for the artists than a reader-blogger), I'm aways excited to learn who comes away with a brick.

While I have voted the past three years in a row, I almost certainly won't be making the show on Saturday, and therefore won't get to participate. However, anyone planning to go to the show--and really, if you live anywhere relatively close to the Washington, DC area and are willing to experiment beyond capes comics, you should go--definitely needs to not only look out for the nominees but also have your vote count!

I admit that this time around, I am less familiar with the nominees. (I'll be sure to fix that before the day is through when I go on Sunday!) Carol Tyler's work is excellent, though fellow Paneler Erica is far more familiar with her work than I am. Box Brown is very highly regarded, and of course, the Kate Beaton popularity machine (seriously, her popularity at SPX is not only well deserved, it's unbelievably high) should net her another win. I'm fond of Gabrielle Bell's work, too, but Beaton is a special talent. I don't think I need to sing the praises of another Erica favorite, Jaime Hernandez.

It's also nice to see that the judges were not shy about online comics in the regular awards, with the inclusion of the quite good Box 13, published by Comixology. I did not read that particular issue, but the ones I have read are of a high quality.

Lastly, I am always impressed by the variety of sources for the nominees. While there are some familiar, repeating names like Fantagraphics, overall the choices are scattered among over two dozen publishers, if you count each indie published book as its own thing (and why not?).

When I go to SPX, I'll be looking for these creators and comics, and you should be, too. The list of nominees is below, courtesy of the SPX website.

2011 Ignatz Award Nominees

Outstanding Artist

Outstanding Anthology or Collection

Outstanding Story

Outstanding Series

Outstanding Comic

Outstanding Online Comic

Outstanding Graphic Novel

Promising New Talent

Outstanding Mini-Comic