October 30, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for October 30th, 2015-- They did the Monster Mash!

** The Week That Was:  It was quite a frightful week here at Panel Patter.

** The Illustrated Guide to the 'Comic Book' GOP Debate (Rolling Stone): The GOP debate may end up being the most frightening thing that happens all week and Matt Bors provides a guide to the debate that should frame the candidates and issues in ways that comic fanboys will understand.

** An Announcement (Sidebar): The excellent art-focused podcast Sidebar has announced that they're ending their podcast after an almost eight-year run.  
The podcast has interviewed and talked about many comic artists and graphic illustrators over their time during a period where the critical conversation has been derided for being writer-focused.  This hasn't been a podcast that I've automatically listened to every episode of but when they highlight an artist that I like, it's been one I've made sure to check out.  

Go and listen through their archives.  There's some great conversation in there.

And if that wasn't enough...

** Closing the Library Doors (Collected Comics Library): And another one falls.  Chris Marshall of CCL was actually probably one of the first podcasts I listened to back in the heady days of 2005.  He started his podcast focusing on collected comics back when there weren't nearly as many comics collected as books as there are now.  But after 10 years, he's closing up shop as well.  It's been a great run for Chris and I personally wish him the best as his professional life takes him in new directions.

** There Is No Short Cut (Noah Van Sciver):  Noah Van Sciver offers advice for people who want to work in comics.  A lot of Van Sciver's points are fairly common but bear repeating.  But he has one piece of advice that I don't know if it gets mentioned that often.
Obviously I idolized Robert Crumb since the very beginning. I began printing my own comics when I was working at a bagel shop. I was a loner. A college drop out with nothing going on. But fatefully I happened upon the film Crumb after I had already rented everything else at my local Blockbuster video. And after I saw that film I never returned it. At work I began daydreaming about being an underground comic artist. I read everything I could find by and about Crumb. Learning about him and how he became a successful artist was incredibly inspiring to me. It charged me up. it was deeply affecting to me and gave me an entirely new art education. From Crumb I discovered Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Will Elder, and Fantagraphics books. From Fantagraphics books I discovered the alternative comics world! It was the beginning of something powerful in my life.
** For the Love of Comics (John Porcellino): And because he gets name dropped in it, John Porcellino offers a follow-up to Van Sciver's piece.
One thing I would say is that comics is still a small enough world that if you have talent, and cultivate that talent seriously, and find a unique voice and style, people will notice. There's no secret handshake or special gimmick you need to come up with. Just do good work, keep doing good work, and keep trying to improve. And be patient.
** 6 Filmmaking Tips from Martin Scorsese (Film School Rejects): While we're in the nuts and bolts section of linking this week, these tips from movie director Martin Scorsese are more about crafting story than they are about making movies.

** Required Reading: 50 of the Best Horror Comics (Paste):  And to get back into the Halloween spirit, here's Paste's list of 50 essential horror comics.  It's a list that's encompassing but really focused on the work of Alan Moore and DC Comics.  And only one Richard Corben comic?  And a fairly recent one at that?  

** Publishing News:  Some publishing announcements for early 2016.  The NBM lineup looks particularly interesting this year.  They're a publisher that I don't pay nearly enough attention to.

**Two Pop Culture Wars: First Over Comics, Then Over Music (New York Times): The New York Times draws connections between Frederick Wertham's crusade against comics in the 1950s to Tipper Gore's war against music in the 1980s.  It focuses more on the conflict between popular culture and the crusade for morality in art more than it does on the Senate hearings that really neutered comics in their golden age. 
As for violence, where would art and literature be without it? The Book of Genesis could not go more than three chapters without its first murder. Bodies litter the stage in Shakespeare’s tragedies. Grimm fairy tales are grim indeed. In the American Film Institute’s lineup of the 100 greatest American movies of all time, at least 60 contain one form of brutality or another, much of it exceedingly bloody.

**750 Years Of Parisian History, As Told Through Architectural Illustrations (FastCoDesign):  Vincent Mahé's book from Nobrow is a wonderful time machine.  Hopefully, we at Panel Patter will get to cover this book soon but for now check out this piece on the book at FastCoDesign.
To Mahé, architecture offers a compelling narrative, especially considering that Paris has pretty stringent conservation laws. "Buildings tell everything in cities," he says. "From the oldest building from the middle ages renovated many times to the contemporary museum built two years ago, they're like glass, wood, and stone giants that can live for 500 years. During this 'life' they can show wealth and poverty, war times and peace."
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Halloween Horror: Junji Ito's Gyo

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

Written and Drawn by Junji Ito
Published by Viz Media
Junji Ito’s drawings are nightmares brought to life. In Gyo, he wastes no time in twisting nature into something unrecognizable and frightening. The opening of the comic seems more like a comic book adaptation of Jaws, with a diver exploring sunken ruins while trying to avoid predatory ocean-dwelling creatures. But these dangerous creatures follow Tadashi and his girlfriend Kaori to the shore and their house that they’re staying at. Remaining in the shadows, the threats remain just barely out of site, scuttling around in the corners and crevices. The only way that Tadashi and Kaori know that these creatures are there is the putrid smell that’s everywhere. When they finally manage to trap one, the creature is unbelievable; a fish with insect legs. 

Ito’s artwork makes it impossible not to be both repulsed and fascinated by these invading creatures. As more of these fish hybrids swarm onto land, overtaking first Japan and then the rest of the world, Ito’s horror creates a dizzying experience. Like his Uzumaki, the terror Ito creates is intensified by his unwillingness to play coy with his story. His vigor for the portrayal of the unnatural creates images that makes you confront his brand of terror. He doesn’t hide the way that the world is changing but the tension he creates by constantly dreaming up new horrors to draw make you hesitant to turn the page because you just don’t know what new abomination you’re going to see next.

Much like Uzumaki, Ito twists the world in Gyo so that nature becomes the horror. The virus that malforms the ocean life to have the insect-like legs mutates to also twist the world and humanity into something unrecognizable. Ito’s unflinchingly depicts this world as overrun by this unnatural sickness. His fascination with the horror of the natural world becoming the monster that stalks mankind is a supernatural man versus the world story. That the monsters are on one level so recognizable and yet so alien intensifies the visceral gut reaction you have to have reading Ito’s comic.

And for Ito, the horror never ends. The shock of Gyo more than the monstrous creatures and the desolation of humanity is the ending and the bleakness of it. There is no “and then they lived happily ever after” in Gyo. There’s no salvation or redemption for the world. Of Ito’s two main characters, Tadashi and Kaori, he gives their story a conclusion but it’s hardly an ending for the conflict in his comic. At least through Gyo and Uzamaki, that’s a trend in his comics that’s a fascinating one. The characters’ stories in both books reach a point where they’re done. There’s not any more story to tell about Tadashi and Kaori. He gives them a life to live and they do just that. But he introduces this horror into the world, the twisted absurdity, and instead of solving it and restoring the world to what it was, the nihilism of the new status quo in his stories just shows that the horror goes on and on even after we’re done with it.

October 29, 2015

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Halloween Horror: The New Deadwardians

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

Written by Dan Abnett
Line Art by I.N.J. Culbard
Color Art by Patricia Mulvihill
Published by Vertigo Comics

A stiff upper lip was replaced by two sharp teeth, as Britain turned its best and brightest into vampires in order to save the rest of the population from a worse fate, becoming zombies. Cursed to live forever in service to the Queen, the "Young" as they are called cannot die--until one does, turning the established rules of society upside down in this mini-series from a few years ago.

Dan Abnett is getting a lot of attention from Guardians of the Galaxy, but he's also a prolific writer of many other comics, especially several on and off series for 2000 AD. New Deadwardians, from 2012, finds him looking at two standard horror tropes and seeking out a way to change how they operate. Normally, I wouldn't come within 50 feet of a zombie book, as I am so tired of them, it's not even funny.* But the idea of a mystery set in a world where zombies are just a part of everyday life, and oh by the way, most of the upper classes of Britain are also vampires, and I felt it was worth investigating, if you'll pardon the pun.

Abnett doesn't disappoint. His main character, Chief Inspector George Suttle, is everything you think of when you picture a typical British gentleman. Prim, proper, and so far restrained in his actions and emotions that you expect him to snap under the strain, Suttle is in his way as lifeless as the zombies that are held in check by fences. When he's asked to do the rare job of looking into a possible homicide, Suttle slowly springs to life again, with meaning poured back into an existence that seemed tedious and dull for him. What good is a man of action, who gave up his life (though not his soul, apparently) to tackle an impossible foe, if there is no action left?

That internal struggle plays a big part in New Deadwardians, as Suttle moves throughout this world that's changed from the one we know, yet still has the same class issues, cover-ups, corruption, and other ills that not even the introduction of two forms of the undead can change. Because he has to go from the upper crust to the underclass in order to solve the crime, Abnett is able to easily flesh out the world without resorting to blatant exposition. If Suttle lingers a bit too long thinking over what has come before, it works, because he's meant to be reflective. Abnett does a great job of avoiding one of the main traps stories like this fall into--veering off the main action to show the readers just how cool and imaginative he's been in creating the world. By taking Suttle across the social strata, we get what we need to see while also moving the plot along nicely.

The mystery itself is pretty solid, if not exactly original. Suttle soon discovers that the dead vampire was, like so many aristocrats before him, dabbling in secret societies, private debauchery, and things that were bound to get him burned. The deeper Suttle digs, the more attention is paid to him. When Suttle and the reader learn the truth, we know what must happen, as Duty clashes with revealing the truth. It's very well done, but anyone looking for something new in terms of the plot will be disappointed. Abnett's strength here is in looking at how the introduction of two factors (vampirism and zombies) change the way in which the story is told, not in telling an entirely new story. (Having said that, I do like how he tries to throw Suttle off the scent--I admit for a brief time, I was fooled, and that's not easy to do.)

I liked a lot about New Deadwardians, but unfortunately, I don't think the art was up to the level of writing. Culbard's style is almost painfully straightforward, which means there's a stiffness that permeates the pages and never lets go. While I understand that part of the idea is that many of the characters no longer have violent emotions, it would have been nice to see the contrast between those who are undead (in various forms) and the living. But we don't get that, and I think some of the impact of the difference between the Young and those who serve them.

There are some good moments in the panel constructions, such as when Suttle is staring down the zombies, who are more akin to him than the living, and the parallel is clear. Culbard also does a nice job of making sure that you always feel like Suttle is the center of attention whenever he's in a panel. The vanishing points usually run through Suttle, no matter where he is in the panel. When he's off-panel, the focus is clearly centered on someone else. I also appreciate that he wasn't afraid to draw both male and female characters fully naked. I'm so tired of comics where we get what I used to call "Vertigo Tits" but any hint of a penis was disguised somehow. Culbard draws dongs, and even if I wasn't keen on his overall linework, I really respect that.

New Deadwardians was pretty well regarded when it came out, and I can see why. It's nice to see the horror elements exist, but be taken as just part of life, rather than being outside of it. Like it or not, this version of the world will always have zombies and vampires, and the common man will be stuck in-between. That's the lesson we learn from New Deadwardians, and watching how that plays out when law and order is twisted by factors more powerful than justice makes for a solid, enjoyable comic that's worth seeking out for holiday reading.

*Except the original Marvel Zombies, which was funny.

October 28, 2015

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Halloween Horror: Emily Carroll's Web Stories

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

Last year, James recommended one of Emily Carrol's horror comics as part of this feature. I knew the name sounded familiar, and it turns out that's because I had filed away her name as a person to look up later, thanks to some great online horror comics she wrote.

I was going to write up one specifically for the site, but instead, I'll point you to her main page(http://emcarroll.com/)  where you can find not one, not two, but six horror stories, along with some fairy tales and other short pieces. Her work is exceptional, and I love that Carrol takes full advantage of being on the web to pace her stories. These are not standard comics thrown up on a web page (not that there's anything wrong with that). Instead, they take advantage of the scroll, much like a paper comic uses the bottom right half of a page as a cliffhanger, luring the reader's eye across panels that would be difficult, though not impossible, to do in analog comic form.

Periodically, such as in the story, "Out of Skin," Carroll will also animate her art, again doing something online that isn't possible in a paper format. In another, links to the story are found by searching around the room, like an old adventure game. It's that kind of thinking that gets you noticed, because you're doing more than what we tend to see from web comics these days.

Obviously, innovation will only take you so far. You have to have talent, too, both artistically and in your plotting and scripts. Carroll does a great job with both. Her pacing, especially given the challenges of adapting it for a webpage, is very strong. All the stories I read kept me wanting to click on to the next page to see what terrible thing was coming next. Her linework is well-suited to horror, with sparse, thin inking forming a shell into which she adds the color. I think it's the coloring that makes her stand out, too--she's muted where it makes sense, blended when the story calls for it, and stark in the use of whites, blacks, and reds, which makes them pop when we see them. It makes for great visuals that you'll want to return to, after racing to see what happens next.

I'm glad James reminded me of Emily's work, and I had a great time revisiting it myself. I hope you'll stop by to see her creepy creations as part of your Halloween horror comic reading experience this year!

October 27, 2015

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Halloween Horror: Gris Grimly's Frankenstein

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

I've always been a fan of Frankenstein, partly because I've always been a Mary Shelley fan. So, when we hit October, the month of the monsters, I couldn't help reading Gris Grimly's adaptation of Shelley's work. Grimly has worked on a lot of classic adaptations, like works by Poe, and has partnered up with the inestimable Neil Gaiman. Even knowing this, I was a little nervous. Adaptations of classics always give me a pause.

I was quite pleased with this for a number of reasons.

Grimly's adaptation draws heavily on the original text of Frankenstein. With the exception of some dialogue incorporated into the panels, the text is exclusively from Shelley's work.  The work was drawn in three "volumes" and as the narrative goes on, the artwork is incorporated more and more into the actual storytelling. The book is published by HarperCollins, so I wasn't surprised to see that it was very heavy on text narration, and I was pleased when actual actions were shown by the artwork. I wish that the art had been a bit more central to the storytelling, but I think this would be perfect for someone who wants to get a flavor of the classic or for a younger reader. The illustrations and panels go quite a way to show and explain the more esoteric writing style.

The art itself is kind of Tim Burton-esque. This is fitting and was a fairly pleasant combination. It was stellar, though, when Grimly has a radical style shift. As the perspective changes from Frankenstein to Frankenstein's Monster, the illustrations strip down. They become a more simplistic black and white, developing back into the main style as Frankenstein's Monster gains awareness and language. I couldn't get over how elegant a choice that this was. It was such a great stylistic communication.

Grisly's choice to accentuate the original text rather than supplant it was very cool. I liked the idea that the adaptation held a lot of the actual story. In particular, I kept thinking how approachable this would be from a teaching perspective. As a former literacy teacher, the classics are very intimidating, and younger readers are often put off by the wordings and older writing style. I think that Grimly's abridged and illustrated version makes the classic style very approachable. It also adds a sense of modernity by using a  fairly familiar artistic style.

Despite my desire for more artwork integration, I was very pleased with this story and Grimly's approach.  I think this is absolutely a solid good-for-all story. It's designed to delight not just fans of the story, but to expand how you read the story for a new age. Most of all, I think it's a great family read. It's got the challenge for adults and the pictures to help the kids along.

October 26, 2015

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You Should Go To Short Run in Seattle, October 31st

The 2015 Festival Season winds down on the West Coast with Short Run, Seattle's ever-moving one-day festival of indie comix. This year, it's on Halloween, from 11am to 6pm, at the Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center. Placed not too far from the Space Needle and a few other attractions, one of the Short Run organizers, Panel Pal Kelly Froh, tells me that the space will be nice and big, leaving plenty of room for a ton of exhibitors.

I had the distinct pleasure of going to Short Run last year, and I had a blast, hanging out most of the day with part-time Panel Patter-er, Lilith Wood. The show was in close quarters but featured a lot of great creators. This year is no exception, and it's also got some of my old favorites from the East Coast coming out for the show, including Box Brown (of Andre the Giant and Retrofit), Charles Forsman (Revenger, The End of the Fucking World), and Melissa Mendes (The Weight). 

I'm really looking forward to going back, and because it is Halloween, there is a greater than 0 chance I will be in a Halloween Costume that's comic book-themed but a deep cut. My face will be uncovered, so it's not like I'm going all Adam Savage on you. Still, bonus points for anyone who nails it on the first try. Maybe I'll hand out candy to the winners.

In fact, the only part of this that's a little disappointing is that it is Halloween. Never fear, however, the Short Run gang has you covered! Some of the exhibitors at the show (listed here) will have special trick-or-treat comics for kids! What a great idea! Obviously, this should all be with parenta supervision, but I love that the show--and the creators involved--are getting into the spirit. I imagine some will be in costume themselves, too.

As with any show, I recommend you look around to ensure you don't run out of money. Bring cash, though cards are becoming more common. Grab something you wouldn't ordinarily, and be ready to be surprised. Short Run doesn't do panels at the show proper, but if you're local, there are satellite events happening across the week

  • Charles Forsman is the publisher of Oily comics, which used to do small minis and now is more into longer, larger minis, such as Forsman's own breakout hit, Revenger. He's sure to have single issues of that one for you, along with some other minis of his own and others. This is a chance to meet a great creator who doesn't often get out this way, so don't miss him.
  • Colleen Frakes is a long-time Panel Pal and one of my favorite creators. She's been doing a lot of autobiographical work lately about growing up on a prison island, and it's been collected this year in, appropriately enough, Prison Island. She's also behind a jam session on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fury Road, and has a long-running fiction series, Tragic Relief. Lots of great stuff, and well worth your time and $$.
  • Fantagraphics, one of the longest-running indie comix publishers, is based out of Seattle. They'll have a table here with their latest and greatest, along with favorites like Hip Hop Family Tree and some of their reprint work, ranging from Peanuts to Steve Ditko. 
  • Jim Woodring designed the poster above, and he'll have his collections on hand, along with, I'm guessing some prints of the poster to sign. No word on if he'll have his giant pen, though.
  • Josh Simmons writes some of the bleakest horror comics you'll ever read. He hates his characters so much that he'll drag them through hell, let them out, and drag 'em back in again. Habit, Jessica Farm, and Black River are just a few of his titles that are amazingly well drawn--but are not for the faint of heart.
  • Kelly Froh is one of the brains behind Short Run, so I don't know how much of her you'll see at her table, but her minis, which roam across all sorts of subjects in short bursts, are always of high quality and definitely recommended.
  • Kus is a Latvian comics anthology series that features creators from all over the world. Once, they did an entire issue about cats. It's a great chance to pick up international comics in person, and I've loved what comics of theirs I've been able to read. 
  • Linda Medley was a creator I read ages and ages ago, and immediately fell in love with thanks to Castle Waiting. I'm super-excited to finally get to meet her and see what she's been up to. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's great, and I look forward to reading it!
  • Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg is another long-time Panel Pal, going back to my early trips to SPX. It's been great to reconnect with her here in Portland, where she lives and teaches art to kids across the area. Lisa's specialty is autobiographical works, including thoughts on turning 30 as well as other diary-style books. 
  • Melanie Gillman creates the webcomic As the Crow Flies about being a queer teen at a fervently Christian camp. 
  • Melissa Mendes is another special guest from the East, and she's currently putting out the best comic work of her career with The Weight, a webcomic with some heavy family drama. I'm not sure what Melissa will have at the show, but be sure to see her while you can.
  • Robyn Chapman is a mini-comics creator and publisher who also publishes a short annual report about mini-comics.
  • Press Gang is a collective that includes Panel Pal Francois Vignault and several other creators, often working in tandem with Study Group and Floating World Comics. I know Fancois will have Titan 1 and Titan 2, and I'm sure there will be other great comics there as well.
  • Retrofit/Box Brown really knocked my socks off with their work. Started by Brown, who now has some partners involved, Retrofit began with a bang, featuring James Kochalka, Colleen Frakes, Noah Van Sciver, and many more. It's still going strong, and I'm looking forward to catching up when I see Box at the show. Brown himself is an amazing creator that uses almost geometrical work to create images. Andre the Giant really nailed him as a breakout star, and anyone who's not been introduced to his work yet has no idea what they're missing. Go fix that at Short Run on Saturday.
  • Sparkplug Books was started by the late Dylan Williams, and now my friend Virginia Paine has the reigns, keeping the publisher's name afloat and keeping readers in great comics. She'll have more in the small mini-comix series, which includes The Anthropoligists by our own Whit Taylor, an honorable mention in this year's Best American Comics. My pick here is the incredibly strange--and fun--Vortex by William Cardini. 
  • Yeti Press is a small publisher in Seattle, specializing in books that are sometimes extremely gorgeous and sometimes just full of gore. It's an eclectic mix, in the tradition of Fantagraphics, and Panel Pal RJ Casey will steer you right to a strange new comic that could end up as your next favorite. 
  • Yumi Sakugawa rounds out this list. She'll have her new book, There is no Right Way to Meditate, along with minis and other things. Lilith Wood and Panel Pal Mari Naomi recommended me to her, and I've become a big fan. You will be, too, when you get one of her comics.

I'm sure I missed someone here--I always do when creating a round up--but as you can see, Short Run is jam-packed with amazing creators who deserve your money. If you live in the area, I hope you'll take some of your time on the best day of the year to go visit the show, and pick up some great comics!
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Halloween Horror: Rowans Ruin #1 by Mike Carey, Mike Perkins and Andy Troy

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

Story by Mike Carey
Illustrated by Mike Perkins
Colours by Andy Troy
Letters by Jim Campbell
Pacing and suspense are two of the most important aspects when attempting to develop a story that is capable of truly terrifying the reader. Ultimately, if you aren't worried about what happens to the characters then you aren't worried about the story in general. Digging into the deepest fears that manifest whenever I'm alone in a house, this first issue had me scared and hiding under the covers more than anything that I've read before. A woman called Katie arranges to temporarily stay in a large house in rural England but quickly discovers that the house offers far more than she bargained for.
You are undoubtedly going to be sucked in by the first three pages of this issue; the interrupted phone call to the police is a trope that repeatedly catches me. Clear and absolute panic can be seen in her voice, but the mix with pure determination latches you on to the character really quickly. Her desperation to not be thought of as weak or to be caught short speaks testament to her strength as a character and to Carey for writing someone that is so compelling to read about.

Andy Troy's colours fit so perfectly to ground the night scenes in darkness and shadow that you get subsumed by the feeling of loneliness. We've all had those nights where we've been left somewhere by ourselves and jumped at every shadow; the colouring constantly re-enforces this feeling and creates such a strong atmosphere. Perkins' use of perspective to keep the reader directly next to Katie heightens the reactions to the scene as you are seeing exactly what she sees. Keeping the mix of determination and fear written on Katie's face must have been difficult and the uneasy body language that can be seen throughout the later scenes is a subtle detail that demonstrates just how uneasy she is.
By keeping the plot in relatively established roots, it gives the story a classic feel, but the inclusion of technology gives it the modern update that it needs. It's worth noting that this isn't a "The ghost has infected the Internet" story, but instead uses the technology as our way in. Throughout her stay in the new house, Katie keeps updating a blog about her exploits and is in regular communication with her parents and the original tenant of the house. Although it is not as apparent as movies like The Blair Witch Project, we do seem to be observing the story using the "found footage" that she has left online. Very quickly this implies dark things in the future of our character, but only time will tell.
For me, the part of the story that hits the hardest is the utilisation of those paranoid moments that you have in day-to-day life where you'd swear, for a second, that there's someone just on the edge of your vision. Given the static nature of the medium, the reader gets a far longer and more certain glance at these moments to know that it's not just in her head. Perkins manages to obtain the exact level of detail to let you know that there's something definitively there, but doesn't hand over enough detail to categorise the thing that's chasing her.

Something about this first issue lets me know that this miniseries is going to be special. With Halloween drawing closer, my genre-appropriate sense is tingling and this is exactly the book that I needed right now. Even though it probably won't finish until after Christmas, the mystery and intrigue that have been crammed into a single issue is an impressive feat. Judging by the fact that even the daylight and happy scenes don't feel safe thanks to the intense and shadowed art from Perkins and Troy, life doesn't hold a lot of hope for our protagonist. Carey has a doorway into the core of what makes me truly terrified and I wish he would give it back; I need more sleep as it is.

October 25, 2015

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Halloween Horror/Digging into Digital: Comixology Submit Scary 50% Off Sale

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....

The fiends at Comixology are getting into the Halloween spirit, with a weekend sale on their Submit line, which is where you'll find a lot of the kinds of comics Panel Patter likes to feature the best.

Up until Monday, October 26th at 11:59pm EST (so convert depending on where you live), Comixology will give you 50% off select horror comics.

Here's just a sampling of comics that we at Panel Patter would suggest you consider:

  • Anthologist extraordinaire Spike Trotman's Sleep of Reason is just $9.99 with the half-off sale, and that's 370 pages of carefully curated indie horror goodness. If you're getting just one thing from the sale, make it this one.
  • Once upon a time I didn't quite understand the value of money, so I bought Doc Frankstein at my local comic book store when it arrived. It wasn't that it was bad, it was that I had this silly idea that they'd actually finish the story of this monster-as-hero against religious zealots, if memory serves. So why put it here? Well, it is the Wachowski brothers doing what they do best, and if you are okay with never getting closure, I remember them being kinda fun. For a few bucks, you can see how good my recall it.
  • Before she was an Eisner-nominated anthology editor, Rachel Deering had started a miniseries about a reluctant lesbian werewolf who must try to save her lover, Anathema, working with a variety of creators, including Chris Mooneyhan and Wesley St. Claire. It's a fun romp by a person with a strong understanding of comic book horror.
  • Panel Pal Aaron Duran, along with James Sinclair and Jennifer Alvin, wrote a short series called La Brujeria, featuring a young woman who finds working at a pawn shop is far more than she's anticipated. This is a good pick for folks looking for characters of color who are treated as real people, not props.
  • If you missed out on the series of kickstarters for Nentl of the Forgotten Spirits, written by Vera Greentea with art by Laura Muller, is available as well. This series features on the Day of the Dead rather than on Eurocentric horror
  • Another webcomic/Kickstarter project, Kel McDonald's Sorcery 101, also has several single issues available in the sale. This is Kel's longest-running series, with a tag line of "Learning Sorcery from  an Angsty Vampire," it's a great fit for urban fantasy fans, if you haven't checked it out yet.

If you'd like to stock up before the 31st on horror comics, best do it fast--this sale ends Monday at 11:59pm EST, and then it becomes a ghost, and not a cool one like Deadman, either.

October 24, 2015

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Graphic Nonfiction: Lucy Bellwood goes to XOXO

We'll return again to one of our favorite nonfiction creators, Lucy Bellwood, who continues to do work with Medium even after the loss of The Nib. A little while back, my hometown (and Lucy's) of Portland, OR held a conference called XOXO. It's a place where independent folks from the arts and technology mix and talk.

Bellwood was asked to do live sketches of the speakers, requiring her to work quickly, as she only had 20-40 minutes to complete her drawing and include a few pull quotes in the form of speech bubbles.

They're really cool, and I think Lucy did a great job with them. Here's her portrayal of Spike Trotman, anthologist and artist:

You can find all of the XOXO sketches from Lucy here.

I had a lot of fun seeing these pop up on Twitter, and it's great to find them collected. You can learn more about Lucy Bellwood from our past posts or by going to her website. She'll soon have a full book for you--the collected Baggywrinkles--if you didn't back the Kickstarter. Look for it soon!

October 23, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for October 23rd, 2015-- Injection V1 and links

** Note: We're going to to do something a slight bit different this week.  As well as having your usual weekly collection of links, we'll also feature a short review of Injection Volume One.

** Review: Injection Volume 1 (Ellis, Shalvey, Bellaire; Image Comics)-- The Warren Ellis/Declan Shalvey/Jordie Bellaire run on Moon Knight was popular, but the stories never felt like they were more than tossed off concepts stretched out into a full issue of a comic. It’s a clipped writing mode that Ellis has tried to achieve with varying degrees of success since his slimline format book Fell with Ben Templesmith. The Moon Knight stories were visually exciting and the stories had strong hooks, but it never felt like Ellis was really that interested in the characters he was writing. His second major work with the Slavey-Bellaire artistic team feels more like classic Ellis as he strikes a nice balance between concept and character.

The story sets up a group of characters who years ago tried to ensure that the future would continue to progress and develop. And now that future has caught up with them and they’ve got to deal with the ramifications of that. Some of Ellis’s best writing is when he’s working with an ensemble cast, such as in Planetary or the underappreciated FreakAngels, or strong single characters as in Transmetropolitan and Red. Injection Volume One is the perfect blend of those two approaches with a strong focus on one character, Maria Kilbride while setting up the rest of her team as the future begins to fight back.

Shalvey has a nice visual pacing that syncs up with Ellis’s story. His composition finds ways to move back and forth between the more mundane and supernatural parts of this story with ease. He can do the talking head scenes, the violent action and the out-of-this-world sequences and have them exist side-by-side. Part of that is that his character work is so strong and consistent that it binds the book visually. Bellaire’s color acts as another binding agent, weaving the connective visual element throughout the book.

It’s these broad, large stories that Ellis has a strong knack for. As already mentioned, this is the spiritual predecessor of Planetary and FreakAngels but also Global Frequency and also his currently running Trees with Jason Howard. The world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be and now it’s time for the people who are responsible for that to set things right and to protect this crazy, strange world.

** Pattering about Panels:

** What Does Cinematical Mean? (Vulture)-- A term that gets thrown around a lot in writing about comics is "cinematical."  "This comic was so cinematical."  "That comic was wide screen" (different words but to the same effect.)  In a lot of criticism, comics and even in television, it's become a shorthand term that's very problematical.  It's a shortcut to describe something when it would be more powerful to use our words and describe what we mean by "cinematical" when referring to something in a comic book.  It also is a shortcut that prevents us from creating or using our own language for comics.  As we try to describe one form of art using another form, we're taking backward steps in developing our own critical parlance to talk about a vibrant artform.

Comic reviewers and critics aren't the only ones guilty of this.  In this golden age of television, TV critics and recappers describe many shows as "cinematical" but over at The Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz has a video essay explaining why he thinks this term is being used incorrectly and that there's a very specific and thematic meaning we should embrace when we call something "cinematical."

** Moebius and the Key of Dreams (Paris Review)-- (quick aside, I love this image of Moebius- the regal Monsieur Jean Giraurd.)  At The Paris Review, Robert Pranzatelli looks at the worlds that Moebius created in his comics.
As [Moebius] later explained, this state of “insécurité permanente”—the desire it inspired in him to re-create consistency and the satisfaction of then doing so—brought him “un délice absolu” (“absolute delight”). Elizabeth Bishop, when asked what quality she most valued in a poem, famously answered “surprise”—an element common to many forms of delight, whether at a child’s birthday party, in a researcher’s moment of discovery, or in a work of art. It is also essential to both comedy and suspense, and for Moebius it was central to his compositional process. Beyond his need to continually surprise himself, he also spoke of setting aside his rational “decision center” and allowing his hand to become “autonomous” when he created as Moebius (his works as Gir were necessarily more disciplined).
Somehow I had even completely forgotten about the Inside Moebius books that he did in the last 15 or so years.  I hope those are part of all of the books that Dark Horse will be reprinting soon.

** Inflatable Dolls-- The Hooded Utilitarian's Kim O'Connor takes on Adrian Tomine.
Despite these missteps, Tomine’s talent is plain. There are quiet moments of real insight, like when he writes about how your neighbors on a long flight transform back into strangers after you deplane. He has a natural ear for dialogue. His facility with his pen across multiple styles (which he employs to great effect throughout the collection) really can’t be overstated. And his palette is flawless, demonstrating a masterful use of color that surpasses even Ware’s.
I honestly don't see a lot to argue about in O'Connor's critique of Tomine.  His comics are very male-centric.  I think I've always appreciated Tomine more for how his stories are than for what they are and maybe that's a problem.  It's probably more of a blindspot when it comes to the way that I view his cartoons.  Having read a lot of Tomine, I can't say how much of it's really stuck with me in any meaningful way.  O'Connor compares Tomine (favorably) to Ware but there's a level of humanity that's visible in Ware's work that I've personally never found in Tomine.  Even with that, I still find Tomine a great cartoonist because I think that level of remove in his comics is a significant part of his artistic journey.

And The Hooded Utilitarian is one of the websites where you can read the comments.  Keep reading beyond just the main piece because there's some good discussion continuing there.

** In 'Killing and Dying', Drama Is Hidden Between the Lines of Profile Art and Dialogue (Pop Matters)-- In the interest of giving equal time, Hans Rollman at Pop Matters praises Tomine's new collection "Killing and Dying."
Nothing actually seems to happen in any of the stories. But the key lies in reading the interior drama beneath the prosaic surface. In a sense, work like this challenges the reader: emotional drama is carried not on the sleeve, but hidden elusively somewhere between the lines of profile art and dialogue. “The old geisha’s face is presented rather casually. Yet if we can see through it, we realize that behind this mask are hidden her deepest emotional dramas…”

** I Just Love Car Chases (Twitter)- If this tweet means that Gabriel Bá is working on new Umbrella Academy, I'm pretty excited.  That first miniseries was one of the best comics of this century!

**'Ghost' by Whit Taylor: finding a new self in an irrevocably changed world (Comics&Cola)-- At Comics & Cola, Zainab reviews a comic by Panel Patter favorite Whit Taylor.

** Twenty Small Press Anthologies Of Note (The Comics Journal)-- Speaking of Panel Patter favorites, Rob Clough reviews twenty small press anthologies (if that wasn't apparent in the link title,) including Pratfall, edited by our own Rob Kirby.

October 21, 2015

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40 to Life on Bitch Planet

Bitch Planet Book One: Extraordinary Machine
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Drawn by Valentine De Landro and Robert WIlson IV
Colored by Cris Peter
Lettered by Clayton Clowes
Published by Image Comics

The strong characters in Bitch Planet Book One: Extraordinary Machine are imprisoned because they are strong characters and because they are female characters. In Kate Beaton’s new book Step Aside Pops, there’s a fun sequence that basically shows everything that’s wrong with the idea of “strong female characters.” As Beaton shows off, they’re never really that strong and they’re barely ever characters. The idea of “strong female characters” exists usually in service of trying to create characters that are strong and female without the creator really understanding that if they create characters first, that will lead to things like women characters who are strong. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's Bitch Planet Book One is a romp of an exploitation comic that is character driven and turns the idea of an exploitation comic starring "strong female characters" on its head.

The crimes that the inmates of Bitch Planet are guilty of seem ridiculous. They all basically boil down to the idea that these women are not in line with the desires of the patriarchy that rules the world. Like the best science fiction, DeConnick and De Landro's concept sounds absurd on the surface but once you dig beneath that surface, it doesn't seem all that silly in light of the ways our society oppresses almost everyone it doesn't identify as "normal." That's where the idea of noncompliance comes in: these women aren't guilty of a crime like murder or theivery. They’re not what men want them to be and that’s the punishable crime in Bitch Planet.

DeConnick and De Landro’s work in Bitch Planet is inciting in a way that most comics try to avoid being. The creators' attitude pervades the book, infesting the characters with the same fiery spirit that the creators have. DeConnick and De Landro’s characters are unapologetic about who they are. The beautifully large Penny Rolle’s act of non-compliance is not allowing herself to be body shamed into thinking that she should have a petite figure. Penny is the one inmate who we see her act of rebellion and “criminality.” With half her head shaved, she starts out as the comedic relief of this exploitation comic but she becomes the emblem of it, more than any other character. Other characters embody the strength of this comic or the injustice but Penny becomes the rallying spirit because DeConnick, De Landro and Robert Wilson IV (guest artist for a chapter focused on Penny's story) make her the most beautiful soul in it.

De Landro storytelling echoes a lot of David Aja’s work in Hawkeye, only without the narrative acrobats that Aja employed. De Landro’s construction of the page, built around these inmates being used to further a male-dominated agenda, focuses on the gender of these characters with only suggesting the sexuality of them. Within the first few pages, the nudity of these women is apparent but it’s never leering. It’s never about making these characters into sexual objects. De Landro’s drawing makes it about the state of these characters, their flesh and their spirits being laid bare for their wardens and for the audience. Whether it’s Penny or Kam, the rebellious strength of the series, their bodies remain their own through this comic. Even when Kam begins putting on a show for a peeping tom, it momentarily borders on being truly exploitative but DeConnick and De Landro never let this moment get out of the characters control or their own agency.

Even a funeral becomes a statement about gender

The narrative hook of Bitch Planet, female prisoners offered the chance of freedom is they participate in a brutal sport, isn’t anything all that special. It's a staple of the prison story. DeConnick never loses sight of that so her character work becomes the focus of the comic. A much more linear story that her equally intriguing Pretty Deadly (a comic that's much more poetic in form and function,) Bitch Planet plays with expectations and perceptions, but it also carries the writer's temper through her characters. Find a podcast with DeConnick and you hear the passion in her and that carries into Bitch Planet more than almost anything else that she's written. The railing against the powers that be in the comic are an exaggeration but a reflection of the cries for equality and justice that need to be shouted in real life.

October 20, 2015

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Inktober Shines Week 3

A lot of Panel Patter readers probably already know about the great concept called InkTober, where creators practice their craft with ink drawings and post them for the enjoyment of their followers. It happens on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, for the most part, often cross-posted between them.

It would be impossible to read all the InkTobers that get posted, but that doesn't meant we can't spotlight some of the ones that catch our eye. We're going to try something new this year and post weekly some of our favorites, in no particular order. Rob McMonigal picks more selections they saw this past week.  Enjoy!

Gomez Addams from The Addams Family by Kelly Williams (Metaphase)

Kelly Williams is doing Addams Family sketches all month long, and as a person who grew up on the reruns, I'm super-excited about this. Bonus points to Kelly because he's drawing them as originally portrayed by the creator, Charles Addams. You can find out more about Kelly Williams here.

Alien Environment Suit by John Welding (Illustrator)

Look at the amazing linework on this one! I don't know John Welding at all, but this one was RT into my Twitter timeline, and I was blown away. You can find out more about John Welding at his website.

The Sin of Sloth by Breakfast Jones (Illustrator)

I can't resist a good pun. Here's Breakfast Jones (real name Kendyl Lauzon) putting a very slow-moving joke together as part of her Inktober. You can learn more about Breakfast Jones at her website.

That's it for this week. For some reason, I wasn't on Twitter when people were posting, so I didn't see as much as I had for week two. That's the good/bad part of Twitter as a platform--fun when you see things, less fun when you don't. Anyway, we'll be back for more next week!

October 18, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for October 18, 2015-- Odds and Ends

** So, what kind of pattering have we been up to lately?  Glad you asked because it was a haunted Halloween type of week.

** This week, Noah Van Sciver has been doing a daily comic at The Comics Journal about his residency at Center For Cartoon Studies.  You can check out all of this weeks comics (as well as the week of comics he did in August, 2014) at TCJ website.  

I remember first hearing Van Sciver talk about this a couple of months ago on an interview with Robin McConnell on the Inkstuds podcast and thought it sounded like a great experience as Van Sciver finished his Johnny Appleseed book and worked on a second Fante Bukowksi comic.  Hopefully he'll do some more comics like this.

** John Porcellino has some thoughts on this year's SPX and how it's changed over time.
Again, as I took pains to say in my last post, this isn't a bad thing. It's good! Comics has grown so much, so quickly, that now there are a zillion different people coming at it from a zillion different angles. But it does make it kind of hard for old-timers to keep up. I say old-timers with my tongue in cheek a little, but damn, let's face it, a lot of us are pushing 50 now, not to mention those fogies like the Hernandezes and Cloweses.

** David Gallaher and Steve Ellis The Only Living Boy V1 is available for presale and Gallaher has information on how you can help out The Hero Initiative by preordering this comic off of Amazon.

** Benjamin Bailey at The Nerdist highlights 6 horror comics you've got to read.  

I’m not delusional enough to think public discussion of harassment will affect those who are doing the worst harassing. Individuals like that will not respond to reasonable appeal. But by making it a bigger topic, one (of hopefully many) outcomes is that we can reach the middle ground- men who accidentally harass women due to ignorance, or just bad judgment. This is a grey area, and often happens unwittingly. I sometimes get emails and drawings in which the sentiment expressed is that the sender saw a photo of me in real life and was surprised they found me attractive. I understand that telling someone you find them pretty is relatively harmless, and sometimes even complimentary, if you know the person. However, being told by strangers that they’re surprised by my face is disheartening. It detracts from my work, and has a subtle demeaning undertone, as if to suggest that since anyone who spends all their time and energy on faceless endeavors should be unattractive. But my work has nothing to do with my face, so discussing it is mostly unnecessary, occasionally offensive, and a total non sequitur.
** Matt Bors tweets with Martin Shkreli, the guy who bought the AIDs medicine and then jacked up the price.  

And it just gets weirder and better from there.

Yeah. I did. I mean, when you’re doing everything from beginning to end, and you’re working with a script and you’re very clear on the story and the idea of it, you can make those kinds of decisions, and those kinds of decisions can be very important to the storytelling process. Like on Supreme, with all the scratches and marks, I wanted that to bring about a sense of Diana’s mental state. When she’s feeling unsure about things or she doesn’t know what direction to go in or when things are very confused. The reader is kind of distracted, and that distraction is part of how she’s feeling, so they remind the reader hopefully that things aren’t quite right in her head at this point. And then at later points maybe she’s feeling a little bit calmer about things
** And speaking of Tula Lotay, at Paste Magazine she created a comic around the song Demon by Bear in Heaven.

** Steve Lieber writes about doing research in the digital age.

Hernandez: That’s what I’ve always found interesting – and I’ve learned this more from movies than from comics – when you’re studying film, they show you foreign films. And I’d watch something from, say, Sweden, and think This could be Latin America, or this could be Canada, or this could be Japan. I learned that you can be universal without sacrificing the culture. I learned that the closer to the culture you are when telling a story, the more universal the story becomes, instead of watering it down. That’s why The Twilight Children is going to work perfectly with a wide audience, because even though it’s specifically these people living in this little town, the characters are universal, and the things that happen to them – their feelings, or their reactions to things – anyone can relate to it.

October 17, 2015

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Graphic Nonfiction: Jared Cullum's SPX Report

I don't know that I'll ever make it back to SPX, but it's always fun reading what others have to say about it. One of the most enjoyable for me is Jared Cullum's, because he draws it with animals standing in for the creators. That means I get to guess every year who each animal represents!

Here's a sample from the longer comic. How many creators can YOU find?

I love Cullum's openness and honesty in these reflections on his visits to the show, and I can't wait to read next year's entry! Find out more about Jared Cullum here.

October 13, 2015

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Inktober Shines Week 2

A lot of Panel Patter readers probably already know about the great concept called InkTober, where creators practice their craft with ink drawings and post them for the enjoyment of their followers. It happens on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, for the most part, often cross-posted between them.

It would be impossible to read all the InkTobers that get posted, but that doesn't meant we can't spotlight some of the ones that catch our eye. We're going to try something new this year and post weekly some of our favorites, in no particular order. This week, it's more choices by Rob McMonigal.  Enjoy!

The Shadow by Rob Ullman (Old-Timey Hockey Tales)

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Cubs fans? Rob Ullman, who is best known for drawing hockey dudes and curvy dames steps into the world of pulps for this great sketch. Find more Rob Ullman at his website.

Q*Bert by Brandon J. Carr (illustrator)
Link to the original post

Not sure exactly when I first started following the artwork of Brandon, but he's a superb illustrator and a sharp wit. You can find more about Brandon J. Carr at his website.

Jersey Devil by Tsulala (Devil's Candy)

Sometimes a person re-tweets something, and you're like, "Holy Shit! That's Amazing!" Well, may I present to you one of those moments for me. This is spectacular, from the color scheme to the intricate lines to the little details, like the falling candy. You can read Tsulala's webcomic she co-creates, Devil's Candy, here.

Pippi Longstocking Does Chores by Shivana Sookdeo (West)

I wasn't planning on repeating people two weeks in a row (or maybe at all, given how many cool Inktober sketches there are), but...just look at this one! You can find more of Shivana Sookdeo (and more great InkTober sketches of Pippi) at her website. She also has a new mini on Gumroad.

Explorers Down by Scott Morse (Soulwind, Magic Pickle)

I remember the first time I encountered Scott Morse's work, in a volume of Soulwind. I was instantly hooked by the combination of a slightly Kirby aesthetic mixed with a look and feel that's entirely his own. Scott hasn't done a comic recently that I'm aware of, but I hope we'll get a new one soon. No matter what, you should totally be following his twitter, as he's not just posting these--he's posting process images, too! 

Sexy Witch by Natalie Hall (tattoo artist and illustrator)

This was another one that found its way into my timeline, and I was extremely impressed. This one is less about specific details for me and more about the way in which Ms. Hall uses extremely thin, long lines to create a figure that's both attractive and terrifying--note that realistic heart she's about to use for some nefarious purpose! Hall's got a shop where you can buy things with her art on them, which you can check out here.

Granny Weatherwax by Katie Shanahan (Flight, Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales)

Last but not least, here's one for Discworld fans, as Granny Weatherwax gets the Inktober treatment by Katie Shanahan. Find more of her art at her website or in one of many cool anthology projects.

That's it for this week. Hope you're enjoying this, it's a lot of work to put together, but it's some really cool art to look at when we're finished!