February 28, 2016

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Last Chance to Back the de Campi/Ordway/Louise "Semiautomagic" Campaign

I'm a big fan of Alex de Campi's work, going back to reading Valentine on my cell phone via Comixology before finally getting a tablet. I'm a big fan of Jerry Ordway, going back to his Superman work. And while her work is newer to me, I also love the coloring that Marissa Louise has done in her still-growing career. Combine the three together on a horror project? It's absolutely amazing, and now they've teamed up again to tell more stories as part of a Kickstarter campaign that ends today, but you still have a chance to back before it finishes up.

When I first heard that Alex, one of our Panel Pals, was working with Jerry Ordway, I became extremely excited. Alex's scripting abilities, especially in the horror genre, are second to none, and Ordway's linework, if anything, has only gotten better over time. He can make any scene, no matter how normal, and bring out the details. When tackling an urban fantasy, Ordway's abilities really shine, because he can take something as simple as an airbag and make it menacing, as you can see from the KS campaign background image.

For me personally, Semiautomagic is the best work to appear so far in the new Dark Horse Presents (with the caveat that I'm only caught up through the first fifteen issues). It features a snarky female magic user named Alice who isn't afraid to manipulate people, putting her on a similar level to Constantine without being quite to obnoxious or overly reflective about it. The foes she faces are truly terrifying, especially once she gets closer to her goal. In a very small space, de Campi creates an extremely large world, one that Ordway populates with a horror that's no so much about gore (Alex has Grindhouse for that) as it is about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, just by adjusting the perspective.

It's not an apples to apples comparison, but to some degree the horror aspects here are kind of like the 1970s Jim Aparo Spectre stories, where the "good guy" would turn normal objects into weapons of murder. And if you know the series I mean, you'll know you're in for some amazing work here, all colored by Marissa Louise, who also excels in bringing out the best in ordinary objects. Nothing here is over-the-top; it's all colored in a way that complements the story style, and her ability to decide when to color as normal and when to throw reality out the window really polishes off the whole picture.

Now the Kickstarter itself isn't just for the a trade of the material already printed by Dark Horse. This is to take home a deluxe hardcover (or your own personal digital edition) of the original tale, plus another 80 pages, split between two new stories featuring Alice, drawn by Ordway and Louise, and a third by  Lara Margarida, featuring a side character in the original story. All three will be part of the collection, as the campaign has met its main stretch goals and is reaching for one final goal--a new cover for the hardcover.

Goals for this one are pretty straightforward. $20 gets you a digital edition, and will be the only way to get the new material digitally, since it's not part of Dark Horse's orbit, they're just coordinating things with de Campi. $45 will bring the hardcover to your door, and of course, higher tiers offer pitches or portfolio reviews.

Normally if I'm pushing at the end of a campaign, it's to help make sure it gets over the finish line. This time, I'm so very pleased to be here not to help the project fund, but to ensure that you don't miss out on a chance to get a copy of one of the best horror stories of the past few years. (If you don't believe me, Alex has included the first few pages of the story on the campaign page for you to try for yourself.) But again--act fast, because this Kickstarter ends today. You might be haunted by your choice to pass. This is a great comic by great people--a winning combination you shouldn't miss.

February 27, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: Mari Naomi Plants a Story from Her Life

Panel Pal Mari Naomi is one of the best of being brutally honest about her personal life. The author of Dragon's Breath and Other Stories as well as last year's Turning Japanese is also good at finding a bit of comedy in the mundane.

Here's an example of that, titled "Carnivore," about the time she wanted fresh air in her drawing space but also had to battle flies. The answer is one of my favorite plants, as we can see from this panel:

I'm most familiar with Mari's work in black and white, so seeing her add color here is extra special, bringing a new dimension to her overall layouts. What's interesting to me is that she doesn't try to color everything, or even completely color any particular object. That means that the reader's eye is drawn to whatever she opts to color. It's also fun seeing Mari portray herself as she looked during this time in her life. And of course, as I've noted before, her ability to adjust the pictures on the page to suit her needs, such as the really cool eyes at the top of the page above, and the variety between tight panels and larger looks is what puts her above most in the autobiographical comic field.

You can read "Carnivore" in its entirety here.
Mari Naomi's website is here.

February 26, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for February 26th, 2016-- The Review Revue

** In the graphic novel Beverly, a gesture's worth 1,000 words (The Chicago Reader)-- The Chicago Reader takes a look at Nick Drnaso's new comic Beverly, out now from Drawn & Quarterly.

Beverly, a graphic novel by Chicago cartoonist and illustrator Nick Drnaso, consists of six overlapping stories of suburban life. The bleak tales are told mainly from teenagers' perspectives. The characters, though shapeless and rarely expressive, are recognizable, and their situations are unenviable. The settings verge on the mundane: an after-school job, a house party, a pizza place, soccer practice, the playground where kids smoke. But in this world, the slightest aberration resounds like a shot.

**  Trashed (The Comics Journal)-- Rob Kirby writes about Derf Backderf's book Trashed.
In proud underground comix tradition, Backderf gleefully renders panel after panel of revolting scenes in loving detail, including piles of used disposable diapers, leaky bags of wet dog poop from a kennel, and a dirty cat box–complete with a dead cat lying on top. Disgusting in an entirely different way is the fact that nearly 30 percent of our garbage is packaging and containers: “That’s right. The largest part of our crap is the crap that our crap comes in!” Backderf also reminds us that recycling, however noble, has barely made a dent in our vast landfills, those ginormous oceans of waste that pockmark the planet.

** REVIEW: The Autumnlands #9 (The Green Gocrow)-- Mark Dickson reviews Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey's latest issue of The Autumnlands.  
Dewey’s design work continues to blow his past self out of the water; in the space of only a few pages, you’re able to acquire a strong sense of what keeps this community going. The explicit tour that the characters receive is dwarfed by all of the information that’s crammed into the background. A world isn’t capable of firmly connecting with an audience without the ability to say that you believe these secondary, even tertiary, characters have lives outside of what we see on the page. All of this is the sign of a tremendous artist who is able to portray such a large amount of information over such a short space of time.

 ** Palookaville, Twenty-Two by Seth (World Literature Today)-- My Trouble with Comics boss David Alan Doane contributes a review of Seth's latest volume of Palookaville to World Literature Today.
Nostalgia is Seth’s stock-in-trade. It is evident in every ink line he draws, an aching for an unreachable yesterday so palpable that it creates a similar longing in the reader. Through this signature nostalgic style, he transports us to the fictional town of Dominion, Ontario, home of the Clyde Fans company. (Seth has even created a 3D model of the town for his own reference that is so detailed it not only has gone on the road as a museum exhibit but is the subject of a recent documentary film, Seth’s Dominion.) This depiction of a time and place that is no longer accessible, if it ever existed at all, paradoxically creates a verisimilitude in almost all of Seth’s work, and it finds its ideal expression in Clyde Fans. The charming architecture, clever signage, vintage clothing, and classic cars all tell us something about the world in which the Matchcard family was created, nurtured, and ultimately broken. Simon and Abe inhabit their home, their business, and their lives like genteel squatters, refusing to acknowledge the present and bitterly ruminating on old hurts and ancient defeats that they can’t—or won’t—escape.

February 22, 2016

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Geek in the City Celebrates Upcoming New La Brujeria Issue with Free Downloads, Release Party

A few years ago, Panel Pal Aaron Duran, along with artist James Sinclair and letterer Jennifer Alvin, worked on a series called "La Bujeria," which they described as follows:
A supernatural comedy about Althalia Cabrera, a gifted temp who gets a job at the Golden Bought Pawn Shop, a profitable front for Fairy Tale Maintenance. With Werewolves, Elementals, & a diminutive Chupacabra as co-workers; Althalia learns the Golden Bought Pawn Shop is anything but typical. With old powers and even older adversaries waking up on and under the streets of Portland, nothing will ever be the same.
The story ran four issues, which is pretty darned good for any indie comic, but it's been a long time since we've seen more of the characters. Duran has gone on to write a prose novel and  successfully Kickstarted a new, Lovecraftian Pirate comic in the meantime, but now he's back working on La Bujeria again, with a release party set for  Saturday, March 12th, 2016 at Bridge City Comics in Portland, Oregon.

It's been awhile since I read the original four issues, but one of the things I remember was that Duran, Sinclair, and Alvin were ahead of the curve in terms of presenting a positive character of color in a lead role. What really became a force in 2014/2015 for mainstream comics was already happening in indie comics (part of why I like them so much), and La Brujeria not only told a good story, but also created its main character with respect. Sinclair's art uses thick ink lines to define his characters, and his creatures are a lot of fun to see move across the page. It's very similar to the work you might find from one of the smaller indie publishers like Alterna.

With Dark Anna, Aaron has really leveled up his storytelling as a writer, and I'm looking forward to seeing that applied to his first major comic series. But in addition to having a new issue, Duran and company are giving away digital copies of the original La Brujeria series, leading up to the new release. That means that new readers can try the series without having to pay anything. It's a great idea to kickstart interest again, and you can find them from the Geek in the City Homepage. The first two issues are available, with the other two on the way between now and release day.

If you like comics like Princeless and have a soft spot for horror like Duran does, give La Brujeria a chance. Odds are you'll dig it and be ready to find Althalia and her pals in new adventures soon.

February 21, 2016

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Spiral Kickstarter Spins a Solid Promise

Written by Magnus Aspli
Illustrated by Emerson Dimaya
Letters by Nic J Shaw
Self-Published (via Kickstarter)

I love crime comics, and I especially like crime comics that get into the heart of noir storytelling, where characters are drawn in complicated shades of grey and decisions made have unintended consequences. It's clear that the creative team behind Spiral, a Kickstarter project that's successfully funded but is still open to pledges, understands the magic that makes noir work.

The Kickstarter is designed to fund the first issue, which is already completed, meaning backers won't have to wait on a promise of having the story they've pre-ordered being crafted, one of the main issues with comic-related Kickstarters. That was one of the things that made me interested in this one, beyond the premise. I was able to actually read the first issue, thanks to a copy for Aspli--and it's quite good.

The premise is a world in which there was a street-level hero who eventually disappears. It turns out he's the father of a scrappy, loose-canon type cop in the mold of Dirty Harry, Olivia. The hero doesn't want her stepping into his shoes, because he's worried she can't control herself and will get killed. Meanwhile, one of his former rogues is trying to hand the family business off to his son, and that's not going well for anyone involved. When Olivia discovers Dad's secret, she decides to take things into her own hands, at which point, things begin to...spiral.

It's a great introductory issue, grabbing the reader right away by showing Olivia'a character, then her conflict with her father, right down to the awkwardness of a cop learning her pop was out there taking the law into his own hands. It adds another layer to the already strained family dynamic, which is mixed in as the issue moves along. Similarly, the idea of how a new generation of villain wants to push the envelope and how that impacts on their life is compelling. The two storylines have echoes, and it will be interesting to see them play out across future issues, which hopefully will occur now that the first KS is about to fund.

The biggest problem Kickstarter comics projects have is that sometimes the art isn't up to what might be traditionally published. That's not the case here--Emerson Dimaya's work is perfectly aligned to do a noir setting. The establishing pages where we meet Olivia are covered in heavy black lines, but the individual figure work is clear. Olivia, her partner, and the perp all stand out against the backdrop that's meant to be more Gotham than Metropolis, to drop a superhero reference. When we move to Olivia's father, the same mood is retained thanks to the inks, but the coloring shift gives it a different light, casting him in pale pink instead of blue. It reminds of the work done by Lee Loughridge on Deadly Class, where the colors shift based on setting instead of the objects. Yet at the same time, the red of the villains' glasses pops, ala Dave Stewart's Hellboy. Dimaya clearly has influences from great artists, but uses them for his own purposes.

Circling back to the linework for a moment--it's interesting to see Dimaya again look at the work of others and use it to his liking. I can see some of Steve Lieber and Sean Phillips in the construction of the panels, but it doesn't look like a person trying hard to be one creator or the other. His layouts and movement of characters from panel to panel is as good as any professional working for the mainstream publishers (often better, frankly), and his characters emote along with their dialogue. When someone is angry, we see it. That should be storytelling 101, but it's getting to be a lost art. 

I really enjoyed Spiral issue 1, and I hope that there are more to come. The biggest problem for an indie comic is sustaining momentum. Buying in now, when the goal is only "fund issue one" is that we don't get the rest of the series. However, the professionalism of the creative team, the willingness to complete the issue before the KS started, and the premise, give me a lot of hope and make me recommend taking a chance on it. But you need to hurry--the KS only has a little over two days left to go.

February 20, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: Alison Wilgus Talks About Her Elderly Cat

Sure there are lots of cat pictures on the internet, but today's Graphic Nonfiction entry is all about telling a story about a cat--on the internet. Big difference!

Joking aside, this is a very touching story by Alison Wilgus about what it's like when your cat that you've lived with forever grows older. Anyone who has adopted a cat from a young age can really relate to this. Our own eldest is nearly 14, and Erica's had him for almost 11 years. Every day we both kinda watch him, to ensure he's okay. Though not human, a cat you've had that long becomes a part of the family.

Here's a sample from Alison's story:

You can read the rest of Elderly Cat here.

February 19, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for February 19th, 2016-- The Return to Zombie Riverdale


** Just a week after the birth of his son, Marvel artist Reilly Brown's apartment was damaged by a fire in the building next door to his.  

As luck would have it, the flames themselves had little direct effect on our building, thanks to the hard work of the Hoboken Fire Department on the coldest night of the year, as well as my landlord’s foresight in installing a firewall between the buildings. However, yesterday we learned that because of the firefighters doing their thing, and the amount of smoke that got into our apartment, there will be months of renovation to fix everything and repair the smoke and water damage in the building, particularly our apartment, which was on the top floor where the fire was the strongest. Almost all of our belongings were saturated in smoke, and although some things can be cleaned, a lot of things can’t be, like most of our clothes, books, and anything that belongs to the baby. It’s not healthy to have a newborn in contact with that kind of third-hand smoke.
Honestly, when I saw the fire burning only feet away from our own apartment, I’d written the whole place off, so anything that we can recover I count as a blessing. Shawna and Will are safe, and that’s the most important thing.
In the post on his Tumblr, Brown lists the ways you can help his family, by buying original artwork from his dealer or getting commissions directly from him. He's even opened up a Gumroad site and is selling his convention sketchbooks though there.


** Jansson and Burgos elected to Eisner Hall of Fame; 14 more nominees (The Beat)-- Heidi MacDonald reports on the two cartoonists that this year's Eisner judges are automatically inducting into the Hall of Fame and the 14 other nominees that will be voted on during the Eisner voting process.
As is tradition, this year’s Eisner Awards judges have selected two cartonists to be automaticallyinducted into the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame for 2016: Carl Burgos(Golden Age creator of The Human Torch) and Tove Jansson (cartoonist of the internationally popular “Moomins”).
I'm always amazed by just where you can find Jansson's Moomins books.  They're practically everywhere.

And the other 14 nominees to vote on are pretty good as well: Lynda Barry, Kim Deitch, Rube Goldberg, Edward Gorey, Bill Griffith, Matt Groening, Jack Kamen, Francoise Mouly, George PĂ©rez, Antonio Prohias, P. Craig Russell, Rumiko Takahashi, Jacques Tardi, and Herb Trimpe.  Through the Eisner voting process, four of these cartoonists will be also inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame.  There are not many ways that you can go wrong by voting for any of these people.

** Two Long-Delayed Archie Horror Comics Series Will Return This Summer (Vulture)-- The first issue of Afterlife with Archie hit comic shops in September 2013.  The eighth and so far last issue #8 was published in May 2015.  It looks like the ninth issue will be hitting the stands in June.

The writer of both Afterlife with Archie and the also-returning Sabrina Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa offers an excuse even though he doesn't think it's an excuse.
After a too long delay, Archie Horror is back from near-death, with a new issue of Afterlife with Archie and a new issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. With follow-up issues already in process! There’s no excuse for late books, just apologies. It’s been a humbling — and busy — few months. I’ve been working on our soon-to-be filmed television pilot Riverdale, which will bring our favorite characters to life for the first time in … decades, maybe? Again, that’s not an excuse, just something that’s been taking up a lot of time and energy.
** Quotes About Comics is turning into one of my favorite Tumblr sites lately and this quote from Moebius really reveals a lot about how you can read his comics.

To go with this quote, Dark Horse has finally released some information on their upcoming Moebius Library.
The long out-of-print Edena Cycle from Moebius gets a deluxe hardcover treatment! Moebius’s World of Edena story arc is comprised of five chapters—Upon a Star, Gardens of Edena, The Goddess, Stel, and Sra—which are all collected here.
I don't believe the final part of the Edena Cycle Sra has ever been published in English.  I know I'll be in line for this book.

** The Making of Daniel Clowes and a golden age for comics (The California Sunday Magazine)-- There are so many great things about this article about Clowes.  First there's the portrait of that's drawn by Rotu Modan, Chris Ware, and Anders Nilson.

Then there's the opening description of Clowes.
Clowes is in an upstairs room of his Piedmont home, a lovely two-story 1912 Craftsman set along an equally lovely tree-lined street of this East Bay suburb, talking about how the book came to be. Six feet tall and slim, Clowes has a salt-and-pepper beard and sharp blue eyes. Despite possessing the most sardonic of wits on paper, he laughs easily and often in person, at his jokes and others’. This afternoon, he’s taking care of his beloved beagle, Ella, who has dementia and barks every 20 minutes or so because she forgets that Clowes is at home. Along one wall of the room, which doubles as artist studio and comics archive, collections of Peanuts and Nancy and Gasoline Alley share shelf space with Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library and the complete works of R. Crumb. An old-timey paperback carousel is stocked with Mad magazine reprints; in a nearby cabinet there’s a tin-toy knockoff of Fred Flintstone, his 5 o’clock shadow an eerie blue.

And they haven't even gotten to talking about his new comic Patience or his career yet. And this portion talking about how the cartoonists of the 1990s were kind of riffing on the same things:
Follow the arc of Clowes’s career and you’ll see how he and his peers have riffed on one another’s themes over the years, like the best of jazzers. Clowes’s angry young men are second cousins to those of Joe Matt (Spent) and Johnny Ryan (Angry Youth Comix); years before Enid and Rebecca appeared in Ghost World, Jaime Hernandez was chronicling the lives of two teen punk girls, Maggie and Hopey, in his masterful, decades-spanning Love and Rockets. You’ll see the same wistful nostalgia in the works of Ware and Seth (Palookaville) and Clowes.

** Framed! Meet the creators shaking up modern comics (The Guardian)-- The snarky part of me wants to say that Image PR did a great job getting this story placed.

And leave it to Mark Millar to proclaim superheroes are on their way out when he's done a lot of the work to show them the door:
“I suspect that heroes are going to phase out,” says Mark Millar, the Scottish writer whose early 00s Marvel series The Ultimates was the foundation for The Avengers movies and thus the entire Marvel cinematic universe. “If we’re not at superhero saturation point yet, then we’re very close to it. Those characters made a lot of sense in the middle of war and economic crisis, when fear and uncertainty draw you to heroic figures who can put things right. But that moment can’t last forever. Post-Star Wars, I think we’re going to see the return of upbeat, family-friendly science fiction.”

February 13, 2016

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Graphic Nonfiction: An Excerpt from March Book 1 by Lewis/Aydin/Powell

February is traditionally Black History Month, the time when people who don't give a damn the other 11 months of the year trot out things to pretend that they care about people of color. I'm a firm believer in the concept of 28 Days is not enough, a call taken up by many people, including Panel Pal Joel Christian Gill, to show that we need to be recognizing the work of African Americans year round.

If you'll allow a brief digression, here's a true story from my teaching days:

Me: We'll be using this excerpt from a speech by my personal hero, Dr. King
Student (African American): But it's September. We don't get this kind of stuff until February.


That doesn't mean we can't celebrate things in February, too, however. So let's get Graphic Nonfiction back into service with an excerpt from March Book 1, created by Rep. John Lewis, his aide Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell. I hope that you've already read the book (and Book Two, which came out last year), but just in case you haven't, you can find an excerpt here.

Here's one panel from the book. I wrote back in 2013 about how impressed I was with how Powell approaches the subject matter, and how well the whole comic works. Look at the way Powell makes the dialog balloons part of the art itself--those cries for justice are forcing themselves on the judge as though they had a physical force as imposing as any police baton. Just about every page of the book is portrayed in that manner.

In a time when it seems that people want to give lip service to the needs of people of color, let's make sure we're going back and looking at the real history this month--and in the months to come.

February 12, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for February 12th, 2016-- Post Decompression Storytelling

** PIPELINE: What Will Be Comics' Next Big Storytelling Technique? (Comic Book Resources)-- A couple of weeks ago, CBR's longtime-writer Augie De Bliek Jr. questioned what is the current state of mainstream storytelling?
Modern readers are seeing a new phase of storytelling, I think. As decompression was borne of manga, I think this new phase is borne of television and movies. Those are the media forms that dominate the landscape. Today's creators were raised on a steady diet of motion pictures and serialized entertainment on the small screen. We live today in a much talked about Golden Age of television. 
More and more of these productions use storyboard artists to help guide the visual look and storytelling style of the shows. More of those storyboard artists cross over into comics, and more comic artists can crossover into storyboards. We've heard plenty of times from Hollywood executives that the comics they base their movies on are like instant storyboards for the films.
While De Bliek Jr. goes on to admit that this isn't the best comparison to make, he follows through with it, using Charlie Adlard and Gabriel Hardman as his examples.  Now there may be some deliberate setting of the examples, using a comic book that has spawned a wildly successful television show (Adlard's Walking Dead) and an artist who has had a career as a storyboard artist (Hardman has worked on a number of movies, including Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2.)

I think it's bleeding over into comics. I think comic book artists are more and more using the medium to tell a story in smaller chunks. Rather than putting two characters in a panel with plenty of dead space between them to stuff a ton of dialogue into, they're more likely to draw that dialogue back-and-forth in a series of panels that show each action and reaction. Each speaker's turn might get a panel. The conversations spills out
over a whole page, as eachchange in direction or emotion gets a panel.
DeBliek Jr. makes the connection to storyboarding but on his Facebook page, Hardman isn't too sure that he agrees with De Bliek Jr.
But I think equating the pacing with storyboards is a real misnomer. Especially pacing-wise, boards and comics have little to do with each other. The pacing I do comics comes out of a desire to connect with the characters. I don't think that'sinherently cinematic. It's just about using the form to get the information out the way I like to. He does a great job of describing that in the piece but I disagree that storyboards are the root of it. But I appreciate the kind words!
And a bit farther down in the comments:
There's no direct connection between comics and storyboards. I have a lot of experience in both areas. I've been boarding films for 20 years now and making comics for 10 all together.People think there is a connection because both are drawn but really the only link is the underlying visual storytelling. There are core principals that comics and film storytelling share but many more they don't. And It's filmmaking that has some kin to comics, not storyboards. Storyboards are a filmmaking tool. A guide for what the director plans to shoot on the day. The aesthetics of boards are pretty irrelevant since they're not meant for public consumption, just to communicate potential shots and sequences to the rest of the crew. Though boards are about describing most every beat in much more detail that you could or would want to do in a comic. And I've been involved in boarding very specific, elaborate sequences that go way beyond a shorthand of shots for the director on the day. Particularly since shooting is so integrated with vfx now. I absolutely agree that in a sense in comics we're directing and acting on paper (though it can still be a misleading comparison) but I don't use storyboard techniques in making comics. At least not beyond core visual storytelling ideas like leading the eye across the frame. There are no camera movements or movements of any kind in comics (I'm not lecturing, I know you know this). Framing and lighting have been round long before storyboards of films for that matter. What I'm trying to say is I agree that equating comics with storyboards is lazy but I don't entirely agree with the way you frame it here.
In 2011, Hardman also addressed a lot of the same issues on an episode of the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast.  Fast forward to around the 28-minute mark to find Hardman talking about this.

Decompression was a writer-driven method of storytelling, really codified by Warren Ellis and his books like Planetary and The Authority.  But it became such a thing that decompression storytelling became the norm at both Marvel and DC, with everyone from Brian Michael Bendis to Grant Morrison to Geoff Johns writing stories that were thought of as decompressed.  Look at Bendis's Marvel output from Daredevil to any of his Avenger's titles to see Bendis in action.  There's definitely a cinematic approach to his writer-driven storytelling. (Of course, the cinematic approach is also enforced by Maleev's photo-influenced artwork.)

If decompression was writer-driven, that's what makes De Bliek Jr.'s argument a bit more interesting in that he defines it by the artists-- Adlard and Hardman-- primarily due to the artists control over the pacing of the story. Whatever De Bliek Jr. is seeing is in the art and not how the stories are written.  Now these two artists (and you could include Maleev, Michael Lark, Sean Phillips, Nicola Scott, Salvador Larocca and many other mainstream artists here) are fairly realistic storytellers.  The deliberate storytelling on display by a lot of these comic artists shares the same concern over realistic depiction and storytelling.  It would have been interesting and better supported his proposal if De Bliek Jr. had used looser and more exaggerated artists like Brandon Graham or Humberto Ramos as examples.

But De Bliek Jr. is getting at something in his piece, even if his concentration on storyboarding is a bit misguided.  As an offshoot of decompression, we're probably seeing comic book storytelling that is more influenced today by the best of television and cinema.  As the way that television storytelling develops and as the visual artistry in movies becomes more appreciated, we're seeing the best storytelling techniques of both entering the comic storytelling lexicon.  That's what we're seeing in all of these examples from Hardman to Maleev and even to Sean Phillips.  It's not just trying to mimic the way a camera captures a moving image but about the way that the panel is used as a frame of a story.

Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting video series is a great resource to understand visual storytelling.  Even though this series focuses on cinema, his video essays are really about telling a story through images.  His most recent video on ensemble staging is a brilliant piece of criticism about composition and the lack of it.  Samuel Jackson talks about the pains of shooting coverage, shooting the same scene many times to establish time and setting but forcing the actor to be basically acting by themselves.  Watching the scenes he's talking about is like reading really unskilled comic artists who think they're telling a story but all they're really doing is illustrating a script.

The Hardman sequence from Invisible Republic (the first example in this piece) is more akin to Joon Ho Bong's Memories of Murder, even if it isn't quite as kinetic.  But you can see how Hardman is building the scene and space by using all of the characters, as opposed to the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil example that shows us more of the same old storytelling that Bendis loves to do.  You can find a sequence like this in almost every Bendis comic where he feels that he's the love child of David Mamet and Martin Scorcese.

With a foot in both the world of cinema and the world of comics, Hardman is a fascinating artist to watch in action.  From just the way that his drawings capture light to the very distinct ways that he moves through his stories, you can see a lot of the influences of cinema on his comics and maybe this is what De Bliek Jr. is getting hung up on.  Hardman does storyboards for movies so can it really be that hard to imagine that he approaches his comics the same way that he does storyboards?  But it also doesn't give him the credit he deserves to understand the difference between the two visual arts.
People think there is a connection because both are drawn but really the only link is the underlying visual storytelling. There are core principals that comics and film storytelling share but many more they don't. And It's filmmaking that has some kin to comics, not storyboards. Storyboards are a filmmaking tool. A guide for what the director plans to shoot on the day. The aesthetics of boards are pretty irrelevant since they're not meant for public consumption, just to communicate potential shots and sequences to the rest of the crew. Though boards are about describing most every beat in much more detail that you could or would want to do in a comic.

February 5, 2016

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Weekend Pattering for February 5th, 2016-- 1994: The Year of Force Works!

** We were up to pattering about a few panels this week, including...

** First Second Books: a look back at ten years of world-changing graphic publishing (Boing Boing)-- Cory Doctorow has a nice retrospective interview with the key players at First Second Books.
Gina Gagliano, First Second Marketing & Publicity: Graphic novels are always going to be different to design and produce than prose novels or picture books because in them, art and text are so heavily integrated. Rather than having a page with a single image, or a page full of text, every page is full of panels of art -- and people tend to be talking in most of them! This means that all the pages have to be laid out and lettered individually, and therefore extensively designed, and that's a whole complicated process.

** Marvel. The first ever 3-D magazine cover (VanDam Clients)-- I think this was found via CBR's Albert Ching on Twitter but here's an interesting comic artifact from 1994, the 3D cover to Marvel's Forceworks #1.  I really don't even remember this being a thing even though I'm pretty sure that I have this comic buried in a longbox somewhere.

1994 was not a good year for covers at either of the Big 2 but that a design company still has this up on their website as an example of the work that they do is rather dubious.

** A Milestone (Todd's Blog)-- There's honestly only a very few comic creator blogs that I really pat attention to but Todd Klein's blog is must reading.  In one of his latest posts, he talks about how after Vince Colletta viewed his art portfolio, he ended up getting a job in production instead.

In 1977, on a whim, I put together an art portfolio and applied for jobs at Marvel and DC. The Marvel job was for Art Director in the magazine division, and I wasn’t close to being qualified for it. At DC, my portfolio was looked at by Vince Colletta, who told me I didn’t have the skills to draw comics, but he must have seen something in those air conditioner manual paste-ups.
I also love how this reminiscence is touched off by Klein showing off a logo for a forgettable comic he did back in the early 1990s.

** NEWSARAMA PREDICTS NEXT TEN COMICS CANCELLATIONS (Outhousers)-- (Conflict of Interest Note #1: I do semi-regularly contribute to Newsarama's Best Shots review column.) The Outhousers can be a very hit-or-miss site, doing a good job at covering comics but their snark really does get unbearable at times.  And let's be honest, taking shots at any list on the internet is shooting at an easy target.  But I guess that they do have a "Snark" category so "no harm, no foul," I guess.

But between all that snark is a very healthy perspective on fandom and comics, particularly what the audience should and shouldn't pay any attention to.  So, I'm just posting this quote from this article with no other commentary.
Today, Bleeding Cool is focusing on telling you all about what DC has planned for their big relaunch, CBR features weekly interviews with Marvel's Editor in Chief that serve as glorified sales pitches, and ComicBook.com regularly publishers press releases disguised as "exclusive" news stories, all in the service of promoting comic books, because the corporate comics establishment has somehow convinced the media that this is their job. Newsarama wants you, the reader, to save these comics from cancellation, but we have a more revolutionary idea: let them fail. And after that, stop paying for variant covers, super-mega-crossover events, and gimmick relaunches, and let the entire mainstream industry fail. Support books by smaller companies and independent creators instead, and let fresh new ideas replace the same old shit in a shiny new package. Maybe then, we could build something better that doesn't constantly need to be "rescued."
It's Consumerist Darwinism at work in the Direct Market.

** Art Spiegelman Asks ‘What the @#$% happened to Comics’ (PopOptiq)-- (Conflict of Interest Post #2-- I also do write regularly for PopOptiq, covering the Batman series for them [New issue out next week! Look for the review next weekend!  Note and plug are now concluded.])

PopOptiq's Logan Dalton writes about a talk Art Spiegelman gave this week at the University of Richmond.
He also talked about how Jack Cole’s Plastic Man stories where the titular character had the power to turn into anything (Basically, the power of comics.), including abstract art paintings and laundry baskets to catch crooks were his gateway drug to Mad,Spiegelman’s biggest influence, which instilled a love of parody and irony him. He said that Mad helped Americans survive the 1950s and led to all kinds of pop culture satire from The Simpsons to The Daily Show becoming a pop culture phenomenon that is still found on newsstands today after humble beginnings as a one page backup in the various horror comics published by EC under the legendary Harvey Kurtzman. Spiegelman observed that EC’s horror comics were the secular Jewish response to the Holocaust while their sci-fi comics, like Weird Science, were the same to the atom bomb.

** This One Summer Removed from Seminole County Elementary Schools (Comic Book Legal Defence Fund)-- The CBLDF chronicles some recent challenges to  Panel Patter favorite This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, which last year made history as the first graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor and subsequently was the graphic novel that CBLDF had to defend most frequently in 2015, has been removed from three elementary school libraries in Seminole County, Florida, after a parent complaint about profanity sexual references. To compound matters, local ABC affiliate WFTV covered the story in a biased and error-riddled report.

** Absinthe of Art Episode 1 - Brandon Graham and Troy Nixey Part 1 (You Tube)-- Kurtis Wiebe to an interesting place last week, broadcasting on his Twitch channel a session he hosted for Brandon Graham and Troy Nixey.  Here's the first part of it, now up on YouTube.  Hopefully there are more of these coming because this one was kind of fun to watch.

February 4, 2016

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Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart

Rosalie Lightning
Written and Drawn by Tom Hart
Published by St. Martin’s Press

A bit over halfway through Rosalie Lightning, as Tom and Leela Hart attempt to find some solace in the world after the sudden death of their young daughter, the couple try to escape reality for a short time by watching Fitzcaraldo, a movie about a man’s obsession to carry a steamship over a mountain. Instead of focusing on the meaning of the movie, Hart includes an almost inconsequential panel that’s a shot of the film’s director Werner Herzog saying, “If I end this now I would be a man without dreams.” The tragedy of Rosalie Lightning is that for the days and months following the death of their daughter, all Tom and Leela have are dreams of a daughter and they don’t want to let go of that dream.

The way that Hart includes that Herzog panel, without fanfare or much context, is such a strong indicator of why Hart continued to create this comic. The first few chapters of Rosalie Lightning were released as mini comics over the past few years, going back to 2012 (I wrote about it at Newsarama as one of the best comics of that year.) Hart’s cartooning is full of so much love and so much pain that you had to wonder why an artist would put himself the long process of creating a comic book about the death of a beloved child. And with a quote from Werner Herzog buried on page 147 of a 263 book, Hart provides answers of why he’s doing this even as he himself is asking so many questions of why did this happen and how are they supposed to live life after this tragedy?

In many ways, Rosalie’s life feels like a dream in this book because her loss is staggeringly evident already only pages into the story. Hart doesn’t hold anything back as he shares his grief with his audience as he’s showing these from her all-too-short life to introduce her to us. This beautiful child defines the book by her absence from Tom and Leela’s life. With her death, she becomes this dream of children and parents, of grace and loss, and of life and death that Hart cannot let go of at all. Rosalie Lightning becomes the dream of a child who should be laughing, playing, and filling her parents’ lives with all kinds of joy and wonder.

Hart’s haggard drawings reflect the cartoonist’s state of mind throughout this book. Like his writing, Hart’s artwork feels like it’s searching for something as well. You can see all of the emotions that Tom and Leela are experiencing but the pain they feel is manifested through Hart’s sometimes aggressive brushwork. From the joys of Rosalie, through the pain of losing her, and leading to the numbness that follows that pain, Hart allows the emotions of the moment to be reflected in his mark making. He even allows more a more cartoonier, more similar to his Hutch Owens art, to intrude into the book now and again to illustrate the more self-aware reflective moments of his storytelling.

The dream of joy fights against the depths of pain that Tom and Leela had to experience. Sometimes the joy wins and a kiss on the cheek of a mourning father is just what is needed to see a path out of the numbness. It is hard to imagine loving anything or anyone that much in your life until your life actually has that love in it so what happens when it’s gone? It’s impossible to understand if anyone can ever fully recover from that loss but it seems more like you redefine your life as being molded around the memory of that love. That’s the journey that Hart and his wife are forced take as they have to live through tomorrow, next week and next month without the joy of their daughter.

February 1, 2016

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Hass by B. Alex Thompson, Frederico Santagati and Russell Vincent Yu

Written by B. Alex Thompson
Art by Frederico Santagati
Colours by Russell Vincent Yu

Visual mediums are so varied in their capabilities that it’s always fascinating to stumble across a piece of media that couldn't be fully realised in any other form. Hass is so firmly rooted in the comics medium and makes deliberate use of what it has to offer; body language can be observed in TV shows or movies, but coupling that with caption boxes gives an peerless glimpse into a character’s true feelings. Following new student, Josh Jones, on his first day at college, he unfortunately gains some first-hand experience with disturbing bigotry and hatred after a brutal and harrowing attack.

One core part of the character for me, and this may sound like a negative criticism, is the decision to create a main character that is arrogant and unlikeable. As he attempts to, in his words, “court” the girl that he has his eye on, he’s projecting a very confident aura that, when coupled with the inner narration, combines to form someone who’s used to getting what they want. While his background reveals the source of this attitude, beyond the believable self-importance of a first year student, it doesn't attempt to sweep it all under the rug.

Beginning the character on this trajectory serves to show the height at which he starts his journey; the character that we see exploring his first day at college is the polar opposite of the one that we see after, and during, the hate crime. Although it's logical, it drives home the fact that this horrific situation can be inflicted on anyone, no matter their background, and it doesn't stop it from hitting just as hard.

Without the expressive characters constructed by Santagati, the fall wouldn’t have anywhere near as much of an impact. You can decipher exactly how someone is feeling from their facial expressions, with a certain smug satisfaction written all over Josh when he's talking to the girl of his dreams, adding an extra dimension to it all. It's worth noting that Maggie is never once portrayed as a hapless victim to his whiles; you can read the apathy and uncomfortable feelings from her stature in the initial stages but, as she starts to warm up to the advances, her body language softens and she makes her feelings very clear.

This high point in his life is built towards for the significant majority of this first issue; despite what you've already seen at the very beginning, you begin to hope that nothing will happen to him. Seeds are gradually thrown about over the course of his adventure, so that when the incident suddenly appears, it’s a believable progression of everything that we’ve seen so far. Portraying the act as one of circumstance, but still showing the blind hate that drives the confrontation, is a very effective way of showing that these kinds of people maintain an aura of acceptance in public but, when it comes down to it, they’re deeply ignorant and hateful people.

Even though the characters are individually not people that I would want to be friends with, they combine to create a compelling pair; two characters that are sparring to get the upper hand in the conversation somehow cancel each other out. Their repartee is strong from the very beginning, with natural dialogue making even the most mundane of conversations interesting. Deciding, at least noticeably, to not reuse panels in long talking-head scenes makes the entire story feel like it’s constantly moving forwards and prevents it from feeling like a static interaction.

At $5.99 for this bumper-sized issue, it might seem a bit steep; even though Thompson shows his hand in the first few pages, the build up towards the climactic moments is phenomenally done and it all feels incredibly dense. Both characters are three-dimensional from the offset and although your mileage may vary on their relativity to you personally, you will be able to identify someone that you know. At its very essence, that is what the core of this book comes down to: disgusting acts of hate, whether racially or otherwise motivated, can happen to anyone even if you try to convince yourself otherwise. Quite often, you don’t get advance warning and the situation might not be something that you can diffuse, so it’s important that, at the very least, you keep yourself safe from harm. This has been an extremely powerful book and its message is going to sit with me for quite some time.