August 30, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop August 30th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

James' Picks:

Copperhead Vol. 3, by Jay Faerber, Drew Moss, Ron Riley and Thomas Mauer, Published by Image Comics.
Copperhead is a book that I think has gone a little under the radar, but it's a great read for anyone looking for smart, fun, entertaining comics that also thoughtfully deal with complex social issues. It's a future-set story about a small-town sheriff named Clara Bronson, who's also a single mom...and who also happens to be sheriff of a town called Copperhead, on an alien world. Her deputy is a member of a species that fought against humans, she has a complex relationship with an android. The story deftly mixes crime solving with broader social issues, and this third arc doesn't miss a beat. The art changes from Scott Godlewski to Drew Moss, and while Godlewski is a fantastic artist, Moss ably steps in and brings a similarly fun, dynamic style to the book.

August 29, 2017

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Quick Hit: A.D.: After Death

A.D.: After Death
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics

A.D.: After Death ("A.D.") is a story that will make you want to grab a warm blanket, or hug your loved ones (or maybe a puppy). Writer Scott Snyder and illustrator Jeff Lemire have created a terrific, ambitious, haunting, story - something that will stay with you well after you read it.  A.D. was originally told over the course of three oversized issues (and is now collected in hardcover), and there's a lot to unpack not only with respect to the story itself, but also with respect to how the story is told. 

A.D. is focused around a man named Jonah Cooke, born in the 1970's, and alive over 800 years in the future. A.D. tells the story of Jonah's childhood and growth into adulthood, along with chronicling events that led to the end of civilization as we know it (and Jonahs role in those events) and the transformation of what was civilization into something new and different. 

Going into the book as a potential reader, it's helpful to know a little about the format of A.D. Broadly speaking, there are the prose parts of the book and the comic parts of the book. The comic parts of the book resemble traditional comics, with sequential art, panels (sometimes) and word balloons. By contrast, the prose sections of A.D. have a little more variation. In some cases the text may not have any accompanying illustration or may be accompanied by a color or a drawing of an object. By contrast, other pages of prose are (such as in the immediately above and below pages) are accompanied by detailed illustration of a moment from the story. 

A.D. really feels like two creators at the top of their game, working in real partnership to create something interesting. This is a story that's sad, moving, emotional and introspective. It's also a mystery which you get to see unfold over the course of the series; it's not a "whodunit" mystery, it's much more engaging than that. It's more of a "what exactly is going on here" kind of mystery, and you see different parts of the story come together.  It's a satisfying read that I think will reward repeat readings.

A note about pacing on this story. If you think of A.D. as primarily a prose tale with comic interludes, it actually helps as far as pacing is concerned. Because if you're expecting this to primarily read like a modern comic (i.e., fairly quickly), then this will feel like a very slow, dense read. The "comic" portions of the story read like typical excellent Lemire comics, which is to say that they're very low on dialogue and narration and Snyder doesn't get in the way of Lemire telling that portion of the "present day" story visually. However, if you're thinking of this more as a comic, then Snyder's prose sections will read a lot more slowly. It's beautiful, haunting prose, but it's a more involved read.

There's a lot to A.D. and I someday hope to revisit it and give it the detailed review it deserves. For now, I'd say if you're looking for something weird and beautiful and sad and different from typical comics, I'd recommend A.D.

August 28, 2017

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Kirby Centennial- Happy 100th Birthday, Jack!

It occurs to me that I’ve written a lot about the comics that Jack Kirby has influenced but I’ve written very little about his own work, other than calling Fantastic Four #51 a near perfect comic (and I may have just done that on Twitter.) That’s something that I want to rectify in the future because Kirby was a cartoonist that I spent a long time rebelling against. I was one of those kids who got into comics with Neal Adams and John Byrne and couldn’t see Kirby for what he was back then. And it’s weird to me because I read a lot of his Fantastic Four thanks to all of the different ways that Marvel was reprinting FF back around 1982.

Honestly, I don’t know if I have any idea how to write about Kirby. While once upon a time, his artwork seemed old and unsophisticated to me, now it’s everything I love about comics. To me, he is the foundation of comics. It used to be that you could look at every Marvel, DC and even Image book and see only second, third, and fourth generation riffs of Kirby but today’s comics have moved beyond the homogeneity of Kirby to see more artists like Kurtzman, Toth, and others in the act of drawing today. But what we still see from Kirby in most comics is the language of storytelling that he developed. That’s Kirby’s influence. As much as it’s the defining of how superheroes look, Kirby schooled everyone in how to tell superhero stories. And it’s not just superhero stories but all stories. 

Kirby redefined the narrative architecture of comics. Whether it’s his work with Stan Lee in the 1960s or his own solo work in the 1970s, Kirby created a visual language of drama and tension that still works today. We see this language in comics from Sean Phillips to Tom Scioli to Mike Mignola. While these cartoonists are all very different and tell their stories in unique and personal ways, you can trace the ways that they create their comics back to Jack Kirby.

Today is Kirby’s 100th birthday and I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about it all day. At one point, I wanted to have all kinds of pieces done this month about Kirby, his work, and his influence but he intimidates me. There are so many comics that he drew that I don’t know where to even begin with his stuff. And looking at what people have been posting to Twitter today about Kirby, you can see the love for Kirby but I don’t know if I’m seeing the genius of Kirby. And that’s due much more to a 140 character limit than anything else. It’s actually been great just to scroll through feeds today and just drink in the artwork. 

Jack Kirby means so much more to me in 2017 than he did in 2007, 1997, 1987 or 1977. But I don’t know if I could say why. So for the next year, I’ll be celebrating Kirby’s centennial by exploring at least one Kirby comic a month. During this Kirby Centennial, I want to spend some serious time with the man and the creator, doing a deep dive into his work and trying to figure him out. His work is so natural to me because I’ve always experienced it but I can’t really articulate why it’s important to me. I don’t know if I’ll know Jack Kirby any better by the time of his 101st birthday but I can think of worst ways to spend a year.

So Happy 100th Birthday Jacob Kurtzberg, Jack Kirby, The King, Jolly Jack Kirby, and Jumping Jack Kirby.

August 27, 2017

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SPX Spotlight 2017: Close Your Summer with the 2D Cloud Kickstarter

It's another entry in Panel Patter's not Patented SPX Spotlight feature! We're ready to provide you with some great pre-show coverage for one of the best comic shows in the United States! In a show with nearly 700 exhibitors, we'll help you find some of the best! You can read all our SPX Spotlights from 2017 and prior shows here.
To everything there is a season, and it's Summer right now, if only for a few more weeks. It's also time for the latest 2D Cloud Kickstarter, and as of this writing, it's just made it over the finish line! Yay! But there's still time for you to add your name to their backer list, and also pick up some of their great comics at the Small Press Expo in September. A win-win!

At Panel Patter, we cover quite a few of the really small presses, which often use their status to publish books that might not otherwise see print. The problem is, because they're on the margins of the comic world, it also makes it a bit harder to keep going, year after year.

Of all of those publishers, 2D Cloud really stretches the envelope. They are constantly one of the most experimental publishers, putting out work that stretches boundaries. We've covered quite a few of their books over time, and their authors include Mari Naomi, Noah Van Sciver, content/editorial work by Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer, Will Dinski, and many many more. Their books are of the highest quality (Mirror Mirror II is simply a joy to look at, even before you get to the content inside the cover), and they're never afraid to publish books that others might not, such as Someone Please Have Sex with Me.

For the Summer lineup, you can pick up the following books:

Architecture of an Atom  by Juliacks, another of 2D Cloud's experimental books, which look to pus the boundaries of what makes a comic a comic just that much further.

Retreat  by Jaakko Pallasvuo is probably the one I'm most looking forward to in this batch. Look at the coloring, how the panels blend together and yet there's a very specific narrative structure going on, even as the colors bleep across the wavering lines! Plus, it's about gay artists surviving an apocalypse. What more could you ask for?

Lost in The Fun Zone  by Leif Goldberg is a debut comic from a creator already well-schooled in visual media. I'm not quite sure what to make of it upon first meeting. That's a good thing, and it's just what I expect from 2D Cloud. Their preview info on the KS promises some Garfield riffing, and that's always a good time.

Kindling by Xia Gordon is another great example of 2D Cloud's willingness to experiment. The comic looks amazing, but it's unlike anything you'll see, even on the shelves of most indie-friendly comic shops. It's the type of flowing, challenging work that really needs our help when it comes to pre-funding.

So before you do anything else, go sign up to get one or all of these book at their Kickstarter now!

At SPX, 2D should have some of their existing titles ready to go for your reading pleasure. One of them, Yours by Sarah Ferrick, is an Ignatz nominee for Best Promising New Talent! Here's the cover and a few sample pages:

I'm sure they'll also have the other more recent books, such as Virus Tropical, Mirror Mirror II, and others as well as some older books, if they've still got copies. 2D Cloud also has an ongoing magazine, Altcomics, which is a love-letter to the type of work they've grown to be best known for publishing.

Here's the thing--a lot of experimental comics are very personal. You either dig them, or you don't. At first glance, these previews may not wow you, especially if you're more used to comics that have a strict narrative flow, even if they're outrageous in their execution. But one of the things I encourage people to do is go outside their comfort zone at least once per show and pick up a book they'd normally pass by. You never know what you're going to like until you try. At 2D Cloud, you'll find some of the best experimental comics out there. Backing their KS or getting their books at SPX could open a new world of comics for you. Why not give it a try?

Can't make it to SPX? 2D Cloud's website is here! Go buy their books!
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Who's Got the SPX Spotlight? We do! 2017 Edition is a Go!

Hey look, we've managed to get almost to September of 2017, the year that's bound and determined to be as horrible to everyone I love as possible, thank to politics in both the United States and abroad! I'm so happy you're reading this, I'm so happy to still be here, and as long as I'm here, I'll both struggle to make the world a better place--and to promote good comics!

No one can live by just anger alone--we need a way to recharge, and comics is part of how I do that. If you're a Panel Patter reader, I bet that's true of you as well. Even if it's reading the amazing comics at The Nib, which are political as hell, it's still a great way to remind yourself that even in a shitty world, there are good things.

And one of the best of those good things is the Small Press Expo, or SPX. It's the show that changed how I read comics forever, starting with comics from Joey Weiser and Sean T. Collins and Rafer Roberts, and progressing right though to publishers like Ad House and Koyama. It's where I bought my first Oni Press books. It's where I first learned to actually set a budget when attending a show.

It's honestly why Panel Patter exists, and I'm forever grateful for that.

For those who don't know, SPX is the premiere small press and indie comics show, and by this, we're referring to Fantagraphics on the high end of Small Press and indie as self-published work, whether it be minis or full length graphic novels. Someone like Valiant, which is indie by technical definition, would be unlikely to show up at SPX. It's really not that type of show. This is more for those who want to explore the side of comics that isn't going to get featured in most major articles.

In other words, it's the kind of comics that are Panel Patter's bread and butter. And if you're here, probably yours as well.

Located in Bethesda, Maryland, the show will be held September 16th and 17th, at their usual location of the Marriott North, which is not too far off a Metro line, if you're able to commute. It's from 11-7 on Saturday and noon to 6 on Sunday, because people need to sleep in from the Ignatz Awards Ceremony, which is voted on at the show and announced on Saturday night.

There will be a ton of programming, and I encourage you to sit down and listen to people discuss comics, as it will be some of the best paneling you'll see anywhere. But really, SPX for me will always be about finding the latest comics from old friends and discovering new work from people I've never heard of before. The act of browsing the aisles and picking up material that might just be a future star's first mini (we still have one from Kate Beaton, which we got in a zine trade!) is something that SPX provides that's really special to me. There's almost 700 people in the list this year!

Sadly, I can't make the cross country trip--San Diego was my big thing this year--but we are hoping to have a member of the team on site this year, returning to the show to provide extra coverage. Regardless, over the next three weeks, we'll highlight some of the creators we think are must-sees at SPX this year, both old friends and new.

I don't like to brag too often, but this Eisner nominated site has for many years done all we can to provide one of our favorite shows with as much coverage as possible, and I don't think anyone else does it quite like we do. You can see it all (both past and current) using our SPX Spotlight tag.

If you live within a 4-5 hour drive of SPX, you owe it to yourself to go. Odds are, you'll make that trek, year after year, just like I did--and hope to do again someday. Tell everyone Panel Patter sent you!

August 22, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop August 23rd, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

Today we introduce something we're extremely excited about: Guest Catchers!

No, not this guy:

As part of the flowing nature of this feature, we'll be asking Panel Pals of all kinds to drop by and offer this picks to you. We hope you'll enjoy seeing their varied perspectives mixing with ours.

August 21, 2017

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Dad Comics and Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Denied #1

Mage: The Hero Denied #1
Written and drawn by Matt Wagner
Colored by Brennan Wagner
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Published by Image Comics

Mage: The Hero Denied #1 opens up paying tribute to the very first issue of Mage back in the 1980s. But instead of walking down a city street and encountering a bum, Kevin Matchstick is now strolling through a park, trying to catch up with his young son Hugo. It’s weird seeing our Kevin Matchstick as a family man. I mean, he started out a bit of a loner in the eighties, walking down a street one night before meeting some street vagrant who would end up changing his life. Since then, we’ve seen Kevin make all kinds of allies and friends on his journey. We’ve seen him be a fighter, a warrior, and even a leader but this is the first time we’re seeing him be a father. Instead of singing “Teenage Rebel! Rule! Rule! Rule!,” this older man is now singing “My spirit gets soooo downhearted… sometiiimes.”

Part of this weirdness admittedly is my own relationship with Kevin Matchstick and Matt Wagner. I came to Mage through the collected version of Grendel: Devil By the Deed and the Pander Bros. issues of the first Grendel full-color series. Most of the first Mage series was done and I think I only ever bought the last two issues of it off of the new comics rack. Everything else was from back issue diving. But in one form or another (ah, those Starblaze/Donning editions that I still worry about falling apart every time I open them,) Mage: The Hero Discovered has been in every house and apartment I’ve lived in for the past 30 years. It’s one of those formative books to a young Scott Cederlund. The second series isn’t nearly as burned into my brain but it still ranks up there as some of my favorite comics because of character and creator.

So, I was just a young man, a bit younger and maybe not as cynical as Wagner was when he introduced Kevin Matchstick to the world. When Mage: The Hero Defined came out, I was married and trying to figure out things like responsibility and purpose in life. It’s probably a bit nerdy to say but I feel like I can trace my life along the run of these 30 or so issues. So now it’s 2017, I’m still married, have a son and a house in the ‘burbs. Until recently, life seemed pretty good and safe out here in the western suburbs of Chicago but now the world seems to be going mad and this once safe world is now pretty threatening. Funny how once again in Mage: The Hero Denied #1 that fiction seems to be an eerie mirror of reality. 

Walking through that park, singing Elvis Costello's “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” Matchstick seems to be enjoying the idyllic state of his life even as he’s aware of the constant and looming danger. That’s the weird state that seems to be becoming the norm lately-- looking for peace while knowing that the world around us is tuned for war. Brennan Wagner’s colors reflect this dichotomy of nature and destruction as his father’s story treats the violent world as a monster-filled allegory. The monsters in Matchstick’s world are quite literally monsters, things that have stepped out of a nightmare and try to take us down every day.

But Matchstick doesn’t flinch from these fights. Stepping into the mystic realm to battle, Matchstick recognizes his foes for what they are; a mere diversion. “Your master must be kinda desperate. Sending the likes of you against me,” he chides them. This fight isn’t so much the war but a skirmish or maybe even an opening salvo. It’s an indication to Matchstick that the safety and peace that he thought he had isn’t quite as secure as he hoped.

More so than in the previous 0 issue (reviewed here,) Wagner lets us know what this story is going to be. It’s not about the warrior but it’s about the family man, the father who has to think about his wife, son, and daughter. That was the lesson that Matchstick had to learn in the last series; to think and make decisions with other people in mind. As this Matchstick is about 10 years older, those lessons have become his normal, everyday thoughts and responsibilities.

Wagner’s original story hit me all those years ago because it was about this weird, superhero-ish rebellion of our hero as he discovers that there is more in the world than were dreamt of in his philosophies. The second series didn’t have that same effect on me but maybe I was a bit too close to Kevin Matchstick to see the story that Wagner was actually telling. But right out of the gate, Mage: The Hero Denied #1 takes me right back to that first series, only 30 years later. Once again, it’s easy to project myself onto Matt Wagner’s own semi-autobiographical avatar and instinctively understand where Wagner and Matchstick are coming from.

August 20, 2017

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Sparkler Monthly Kickstarter Needs a Final Spark

It's hard to believe that Sparkler Magazine is entering its fifth year. It seems like only yesterday that I was giving readers an overview of the site, but it turns out that was back in 2014! Wow!

At that time, Sparkler was about a year old and looking to get to 200 members via subscriptions. Now, as with most publishers, they use a Kickstarter model. Unfortunately, this version of the Kickstarter is coming up a bit short. With only about 2 days left as of this writing, Sparkler is still a little over $5,000 short of its $25,000 funding goal for a new year of issues. Given how important I think Sparkler's role in the comics world is, I wanted to give them a push here at the end and make sure Panel Patter readers were both reminded that Sparkler exists and also to encourage you to back their Kickstarter, if possible.

Why do I think Sparkler is important in comics? It's right here in their mission statement:
The primary audience for Sparkler Monthly is girls and women aged 15 and up, or anyone interested in the rough ballpark of Female Gaze. Our four founders and most of our staff identify as female and are committed to promoting inclusive, fem-positive, and ridiculously fun content. We welcome creators of any gender and are particularly interested in entertaining, engrossing stories that tap into the variety and diversity of fandom.
Unfortunately, no matter how much better things get, there's still entirely too many comics out there that focus on the male gaze, even if they're telling a story that's got a positive vibe to it and/or strong female characters. Sparkler makes a point of ensuring that their content avoids this problem.

Sparkler's content is OEL manga, primarily, reminding me quite a bit of the best of Tokyopop's material before it imploded. However, Sparkler is far more than just comics. It's an entire smorgasbord of content types, providing content for an English-reading audience that is probably more typical for fans of Japanese comics in their original language. That includes comics, light novels, and even audio dramas, the latter of which really impressed me with its content quality. All of this is in the realm of shojo/josei, making it the perfect thing for those who are looking for English-language work that's in the same vein as publications in translation from Viz and Vertical, among others.

There are now 24(!) series on the comics page, 4 audio dramas (plus an RPG and podcast), and 6 light novels, along with a short story section. It's a lot of content, and while most of it is free already, the only way that this content can continue is to have financial backing. Sparkler prides itself on paying its creators an advance(!!) and working with professional editors to get content that is just as good as what you'd find from the biggest names.

Some of the series currently running include (all info from the Kickstarter Page)
Old friends reunite to deal with a literal demon from their childhood in Yellow Hearts, the LGBT+ fantasy by Keezy Young.  
Eli & Viv's gorgeous romantic mystery Heart of Gold will pull you into its dramatic exploration of faith, love, and lies.  
In Knights-Errant, the LGBT+ war drama by Jennifer Doyle, revenge is all fun and games until someone loses a limb(s).  
In Decoy and Retrofit, Bell and Hazel's sci-fi boy's love light novel, post-apocalyptic survival gets complicated with the arrival of a childhood friend, an ice cream truck, and a whole lot of guns.  
Why commune with the deceased when you can commune with some coffee (or booze)? Unfortunately for Cailen, ghostly trouble finds her whether she likes it or not in the light novel series Dead Endings, written by Jessica Chavez and illustrated by Irene Flores.
 So what do you get with a paid membership to Sparkler? Here's their explanation:
The vast majority of Sparkler’s series are free to read on our site, with new comic pages posted on a weekly update schedule. Paying Sparkler Members don’t need to wait for new pages, though - they get monthly DRM-free downloads of all new pages weeks or even months before they’re released online, as well as special bonuses to download to their computers and e-readers. With a paid membership, you help support the creators of our stories and get to keep your downloads forever.

We have two types of memberships depending on the Sparkler experience you want:
Normal: Get DRM-free downloads of the current issue(s) a month or more before the pages are available online, all Member Exclusives (21 and counting!), and early releases of the Sparkler Podcast. See all downloads here!
VIP: Everything in the normal membership, plus series-specific ebooks of everything running in the magazine (so you don't miss a back chapter), plus our entire steamy Cherry Bomb line recommended for ages 17+. See all downloads here!
As a final note, if you're already a subscriber, backing the Kickstarter extends your membership. A nice touch for those who already support Sparkler, but want to do a little more, especially since Sparkler plans to cease publication if the Kickstarter fails.

So what are the rewards? Well, most of them, quite naturally revolve around membership, including getting a full year of the access above for $50, which is cheaper than subscribing on the website. You can also back getting downloads of year one for $35, pick up certain trades in digital or paper form, and of course, go into higher, combo levels if your budget allows.

Again, as I write this, Sparkler's a little behind the 8-ball. It's had an amazing run filling content you can't get elsewhere, and doing it in such a way that the creators get paid. If you like shojo and haven't checked out Sparkler yet, take a moment to browse the free material. There's quite a bit! Then come back to their Kickstarter page and pledge. Let's get this one over the finish line and keep good comics coming out on a regular basis.

August 19, 2017

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Why Supporting Good Comics Matters: Mech Cadet Yu Promoted to Ongoing Series

Here at Panel Patter, we believe strongly in promoting good comics and, just as importantly, good comic book creators. With so many options out there, taking time to hate-read things makes no sense to us as a general rule. (Though we're only human--sometime we do it, too.)

But there's a larger factor at play. Comics are a business. If a comic doesn't make money, it won't continue, no matter how good it is. Even though comics fans and creators are tied more closely than ever before, thanks to Kickstarter, Patreon, and other systems of funding, people ultimately vote with their wallets, deciding which projects keep going, and which ones don't.

Unless you're a mega-rich comics fan, you have a budget. Which means that every dollar you spend to complain about Comic A after reading it, that means Good Comic B you might like better isn't getting enough support. Worse, if comic A's creator is a jerk, you're keeping them employed.

I can't tell you how much that annoys me personally. I've seen it for decades now. Which brings me to the absolutely delightful news I just got in my inbox, namely that strong support for Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa's new comic from Boom! Studios, Mech Cadet Yu, was just promoted from a limited series into an ongoing.

Here's some of the text of the press release from Boom!:
August 19, 2017 (Los Angeles, Calif.)  – After selling out the week of release at the distributor level (copies may still be available at local comic shops) and drawing rave reviews from all corners, BOOM! Studios is excited to announce that the MECH CADET YU limited series has been upgraded to an ongoing series. 
The superstar dream team of writer Greg Pak (Hulk, Weapon X) and artist Takeshi Miyazawa (Ms. Marvel, Runaways) reunited to deliver the story of Stanford Yu, a young janitor who is unexpectedly chosen to join the sacred ranks of the mech cadets at Sky Corps Academy. Once a year, giant robots from outer space come to Earth to bond with the cadets to defend the world from terrifying aliens known as the Sharg. After he unintentionally bonds with his robot, Yu is thrown into training, hoping to prove he is worthy of being there at all.   
“I’m hugely thrilled and so grateful to all of the readers, reviewers, and retailers who showed the first issue so much love and spread the word about the book,” says Pak. “That kind of word-of-mouth means all the world to an underdog book about an underdog hero and his underdog robot, so thank you so much! None of this would have happened without you, and we're doing our best to make every issue the best and most fun it can  possibly be.”
“I feel like we would just be getting on our two feet with the first four issues, so it’s going to be amazing to see where the story goes and watch Stanford and Co. face bigger threats and become even bigger heroes,” adds Miyazawa. “Stanford has come such a long way already. I hope everyone keeps rooting for the kid!”
I couldn't be happier about this announcement and it's why I'm posting about it. This is exactly what we need to be doing as a comics community. Greg Pak is not only an amazing writer (I loved his work on Hulk and Herc), he's also an activist, working hard to use his status as a well-known creator to bring attention to causes that are trying to make the world a better place. He's extremely talented and a good person. Greg acknowledges the challenges faced by people of color in comics (he's Korean American), and does his best to elevate voices on a regular basis.

Greg and his comics are exactly what we need to be rallying around. Announcements like this give me hope that we're slowly moving in the right direction.

Mech Cadet Yu issue #1 is out now, and issue #2 comes out September 13th. You can pre-order it now at your local comic shop or digital device, and I highly recommend you do!

August 18, 2017

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Juggalos and Bricks (Weekend Pattering for August 18th, 2017)


Young Romance #103 (December, 1959), pencils and inks by Jack Kirby

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Javier Pulido is a fantastic artist. I love how in this variant cover to Josie and the Pussycats #9 that the leopard print is the filling the negative space.This is the type of cover that if I saw it on the comic racks, I'd stop and just stare at it for a while.  But thanks to the magic of the internet, I can just look at it on my computer screen.  That's the same thing, isn't it?

This and That

*** SPX Ignatz Award nominees: Books tackling bigotry top ‘the Spirit Awards of comics’ (Comics Riffs)-- Micahel Cavna has the rundown of this year's Ignatz nominees, the small press awards that are part of SPX weekend, which is just about a month away.
“This year, we had nearly 600 submissions, which is pretty incredible,” Ignatz director Dan Stafford tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “About one-third of the print submissions are self-published work, which shows the vibrancy and strength of the indie comics community.”
There are some great comics nominated this year but, as these kinds of nominations always do, this list reminds me that I've got a pretty hefty and constantly growing to-read pile of comics.  

*** Pro-Trump Rally Set to Clash with Juggalo March in Washington, D.C. in September (Metal Sucks)-- So September 16th will see small press cartoonists, alt-right wingers and Juggalo's all converging on Washington DC.
Also scheduled to storm the National Mall that day is the Juggalo March, a collective of I.C.P. fans seeking equal treatment, which we first reported on here last summer. The Juggalo March “aims to bring national attention to the ongoing discrimination and profiling that Juggalos continue to be subjected to following the group’s inclusion in the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2011 National Gang Task Force report.” Which is a ludicrous classification, to be sure: while we may enjoy making fun of ICP and their fans, they’re not inherently bad people.
Can you just imagine what that would be like?  I kind of think it would be like The Odd Couple to the millionth power.

*** Comics (Critics) Should Be Decent: Yet Another Discourse About Discourse (Loser City)-- I always enjoy a good discussion on criticism and Nick Hanover and Kim O'Connor provide the latest discussion.  
Kim: One of the first comics pieces I wrote was about the anxiety of coming correct, which I see as a balance of interrogating yourself and the trying to muster the confidence you’re talking about. Confidence is seen as an asset in white men in comics crit; in the rest of us, it’s framed as irrational or aggressive, so coming correct can be harder to calibrate. The spirit of real criticism requires doubt more than conviction or certainty. And I guess there’s a vulnerability to that project that Comics as we know it not only fails to inspire, but also actively seeks to destroy. I don’t get around to as much of the pure comics crit (as opposed to toxic culture stuff) as I’d like because I feel like my role is to stand up to that in my own small way, writing about the people who are pissing in the talent pool. You’re on a wholly different path, nurturing new talent. People see those strategies as, like, spiritually opposed…but we’re both working toward the same thing. Not that I’m holding myself up as some paragon of do-gooding in The Community (lol); I’m just leveraging my bad personality to fight fire with fire. Work with what you got.

Current Mood

August 15, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop August 16th, 2017

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates this picks three single issues and one trade for your consideration, with a little bit about why we like it.

Scott's Picks:

Mage: The Hero Denied by Matt Wagner, Published by Image Comics.  
Wagner is one of those creators that I'm an unapologetic fanboy about (and, yes, I'm one of those still waiting for him to return to The Aerialist) and the real first issue of this series starts asking all of those old questions again.  I plan to have a full review of this up later this week but if you've been waiting for this third volume of Wagner's semi-autobiographical series to begin, this issue demonstrates just how personal this story is for Wagner as Matchstick has to protect his family.  So that makes the colors by Wagner's son Brennan Wagner that much more special.

Southern Bastards #17 by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Published by Image Comics.
In some future history of Image Comics, Aaron and Latour's Southern Bastards may just be considered one of the companies' greatest books of this decade.  Especially in this 2017 political environment.  I want to say that they continue to make Coach Boss a sympathetic villain but let's just face it, he's simply a villain.  After this past weekend, it's harder to read this book other than as some kind of indictment not just of the south but of our country that lets these crimes and hatred continue without calling them out for what they are.

Dark Nights Metal #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Published by DC Comics.
I know that there are all kinds of spoilers out there right now about this comic but I'm trying to avoid them all.  I was about to click on a link last night that promised a last-page shocker but I stopped myself and showed some restraint which is something I hardly ever do when spoilers are involved.  Don't click on any of them.  Wait until Wednesday to find out what's going on with this comic.  If it's half as nuts as those prologue books were, this is going to be some kind of trip.

Sh*t My President Says by Shannon Wheeler, Published by IDW.
I don't know what more to say about this book other than point out this attack on a black CEO that resigned from one of Trump's worthless commissions.
That gets to be one of the tweets that Wheeler gets to include in the inevitable second volume of this book.  Remember, we're just over 200 days into a 1,460 Presidential term.  There's only more of this to come.

James' Picks: 

Sexcastle by Kyle Starks, Published by Image Comics.
Sexcastle is the baddest dude ever. Do not mess with that guy. Seriously, he knows a lot of ways to kill you. Are you a fan of 80's action movies (any answer other than yes is unacceptable)? If so you should absolutely pick up Sexcastle from Kyle Starks. It's an outrageous, hilarious, ultra-violent homage to over-the-top 80's action from Arnold, Sly, and a zillion other movies (Image Comics is releasing a new edition of the book). Stark's deceptively simple style works perfectly here, as he's a master of quick sequential storytelling. He's also really hilarious. I highly recommend this one.

Divinity #0 by Matt Kindt and Renato Guedes, Published by Valiant Comics.
Valiant has put out some terrific comics since it started up again in 2012, and if you've been interested in learning more about the Valiant universe, Divinity #0 seems like a terrific way to get started. Divinity is a super-powered being in the Valiant universe, and his stories (also written by Matt Kindt) are some of my favorite comics from Valiant. He's a weird, interesting character - a Cosmonaut who went into deep space and came back fundamentally changed. He's sort of like Doctor Manhattan, but with more clothes and nicer. Anyway, this issue promises a tour of the current Valiant universe through Divinity's eyes, and should be worth a look.

Silver Surfer #13 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred and Laura Allred, Published by Marvel Comics.
The Slott/Allred run on Silver Surfer is coming to a close soon, and I'm really going to miss it. It may eventually end up being on of my all-time favorite comics. I just love everything about it. The Allreds' art is more gorgeous than I've ever seen it, and that's saying a lot. And they and writer Dan Slott are telling a funny, thoughtful, sweet, romantic story about love and loss and exploration. It's worth your time to go back and read this one from the beginning, it's worth it.

Southern Bastards #17 by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Published by Image Comics.
Southern Bastards is a story full of complex, terrible people. There are no cheap and easy villains in this story. Their complexity may explain why they're terrible but it in no way excuses it. This is an absolutely compelling story that really gets into the dirt and grime of people living in a small town in Alabama where football and organized crime are king. Latour's stylized, beautifully ugly art perfectly tells the story, and this really does feel like it's created and illustrated by people who know what they're talking about when it comes to Southern culture.

Rob's Picks:

Spy Seal #1 by Rich Tommaso. Published  by Image Comics.
Quietly one of my favorite creators, Rich's work usually features human characters looking sharp as he shows off his spectacular page layout chops and love of good old pulp crime. This time, he's moved into the animal kingdom, with Spy Seal, a book that returns to his thriller themes but adds a new dimension, playing with matching animals to their characteristics in a noir world where every step is treacherous. Yes, others have done this quite a bit, but they aren't Rich. If you like his work or the idea of using animals to demonstrate human vices, give this one a look.

Haunted Horror #29 by Various Creators. Reprinted by IDW.
Anyone who reads Panel Patter knows my love for horror, and while sometimes these comics are horrific for entirely unintentional reasons, I love it whenever there's a new issue of this series, which digs deep into the many comics that featured anthology horror. They'll never be as good as the EC books, but they sure are interesting, especially when you look and see a creator name you know, like Mike Esposito, pop up out of nowhere, spilling bloody corpses at you. It's very much niche, but if you love old-school, free-wheeling comics, understand you'll hit at least one racist clunker, and want some obscure horror, this book's for you.

Adventure Time Comics #14 by Various Creators. Published by Boom! Studios.
I love that after the success of the variant covers (ugh, but yeah, they were awesome) and backup stories, Boom! and Nick got together and put out this comic, which lets creators run amok in the Adventure Time world. This time around, Fred Van Lente heads the show, along with Steve Seeley and several others I'm not familiar with by name. Each issue features shorts by iconic folks having entirely too much fun, and if you enjoy the show, indie comics, and/or the main Adventure Time title, give this one a try this week.

Fantasy Sports 3 by Sam Bosma. Published by Nobrow.
My trade pick is a layup, if you'll pardon the pun (or even if you don't), as Sam Bosma returns with a third volume of his unbelievably fun series that mixes magic with physical exertion. Bosma's style incorporates some of the best artistic tricks from manga while not feeling like he's trying to copy shojo whole cloth. It's very free-flowing and almost explodes across the page. I love this series so very much, in which an enthusiastic young character partners with a bombastic older character, periodically clashing with each other while trying to stop the bad guys. Amazingly, the bad guys all want to play sports, from basketball to volley ball to...oh my god, this time it's MINI GOLF. Hold on, if you need me I'll be at the comic store camping out to pick this up tomorrow.
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All-Ages or Small-Ages #40 (Zeros #1 by Martin Eden)

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

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

When a creator is heavily influenced by a piece of media, something will inevitably creep its way into the work that they produce. Whether it’s the surname of the original creator or the more blatant direct rip-offs produced by Robert E. Howard at the beginning of his Conan the Barbarian work, the through-line is always interesting to unpack; the aspects that remain and the ones that are cast to the wayside reveal a lot.

Zeros sets up a status quo where there is a school that teaches its super-powered population how to function in the real world. While the parallels to Marvel's marvellous mutants are plain even from that initial description, creator Martin Eden inserts a twist that keeps the concept feeling fresh. The series follows those who haven't received powers, the titular Zeros, as they struggle to find a place for themselves in a world that appears to have left them behind.

Although this book is definitely still finding its legs, there is already a distinct effort to give this fledgling world a depth that implies it has existed before what we see on the first page. Characters move in the background that are unremarked on, without descending into the distracting efforts of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, inviting you to ask questions about them and drawing you deeper into the rich narrative of the universe.

Martin Eden is a creator that thrives on adding ancillary details to panels for the keen-eyed. This might be the subtle demonstration of a secondary character's power, or a portrait of a certain telekinetic that makes the connection to the X-Men even stronger, but it demonstrates an attention to detail that makes a book more suited to multiple re-reads.

There's a palpable energy in this book that begins to swell as soon as the large group of Zeros gather in the classroom. The considerable cast bounce off each other effectively and the quick language and switching perspectives create the impression of a hectic classroom; the specific dynamics between students are yet to emerge due to the perhaps oversized set of characters, but the degree of youth and enthusiasm really bleeds through.

There is a slight lack of nuance in the facial expressions, preventing the book from landing in the realm of reality. Fortunately, the power sets, the energy projection and the youthful characters make it clear that Eden isn't trying to achieve that. The extremity of emotions feeds into the sense that these are young people who don't know how to control their emotions and that they are experiencing the madness for the very first time.

In terms of the language of the book, it's clear that this has been written with a younger audience in mind. The style of narration makes the book feel like a bed-time story being read, creating the image in your head of a parent reading this alongside their child and allowing them to marvel at the accompanying pictures. Eden takes the time to explicitly define terms like "mental abilities", which would be necessary for some audiences, but makes it clear who is supposed to be reading this book.

Zeros drips with comic history and influence, but manages to do enough to permit the book to stand on its own and, given time, will allow it to evolve into something unique. While there is a complexity to the understanding of the cast, the language makes this a book that children will be able to more effortlessly relate to. There are rough edges to the plot progression and the art, sure, but there is no doubt that Martin Eden has a future in the world of comic book creation.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me: