October 31, 2017

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Halloween Horror: Nameless by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn

I seriously think that Grant Morrison is trying to rewrite our OS the same way that Apple or Microsoft upgrade their operating systems every couple of years. In his DC Comics, it books like The Invisibles or even Multiversity which try to upgrade our perceptions of reality, colored by the action/adventure adrenaline of those heroes. His X-Men stuff was all about rewiring how any why the X-Men worked as a mirror of the real world even if Marvel was quick to backtrack on it once he left. His Annihilator with Frazer Irving (published concurrently with Nameless) was a fantasy horror book that tried to upgrade us on multiple reality levels. His most recent attempt at introducing a new operating system to mankind happened in Nameless, a book which one of the characters in it describes the plot as “The Exorcist meets Apollo 13.

Nameless complements the work done in Annihilator as both books give Morrison a far darker and sinister level to work on but in the end offers are a far more complete reboot of our systems of perception than Annihilator did. In tech terms, think of Annihilator as a final beta of this system while Nameless is the full, ready-for-prime-time release. (You could even make an argument that Multiversity is an add-on for this os but that’s a piece for another time.) But what’s odd about this golden release is that it’s a virus. Nameless isn’t something that you download and wait to see what kind of groovy new features will be included in this release. It’s a worm that sneaks into your system through the trojan horse of this comic.

Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn are equal partners in this latest virus/update of Morrison’s operating system. Together, this trio creates a haunted house story that stretches back to before the dawn of mankind and into a recognizable future of rich, industrial men really running the world through their technological breakthroughs. Their story tries to disguise itself as one thing at first, a haunted house in space story, before revealing a second possible aspect. About midway through the book, you’re faced with the possibility that the first half of Nameless is really just the main character’s way of processing a far more horrible reality and fate than what we’ve been shown up to this point.

As a horror story, Nameless plays with our perceptions of reality, dangling possible ones in front of us without ever completely revealing a truth to us. The main character, known as “Nameless” because he won’t give that power of his name to anyone, may either be the hero of the villain of this comic. Morrison and Burnham show him trying to rescue our world from an impending collision with a chunk of a long-lost planet while for all we know his greatest sins were committed years ago and all this story is really trying to do is just make sense of the world he now lives in.

A lot of Morrison’s comics ultimately fall short because the artists aren’t able to keep up with him. It feels like no matter how clear he tries to make his scripts, the artists sometimes aren’t able to make heads or tails of it and that ultimately impacts the reader’s experience with the story. I’m thinking parts of his Batman run and even his Action Comics where there were often unintentional disconnects between what was happening narratively and what was happening visually. In Nameless, those disconnects show up but it’s far from unintentional here. Burnham’s artwork doesn’t obscure the story as it reveals the complexity of the existence that Morrison is trying to encode into us.

Even as Burnham artwork hints at the things that go bump in the night in this haunted house of existence, Nathan Fairbairn’s colors provide an almost candy-colored light to these horrors. As Morrison and Burnham bounce back and forth between the possibly true elements of this story, Fairbairn makes it impossible to look away from what’s happening. His vivid and solid colors help create these images that burn into your brain as you’re reading them. The colors are just another part of this system rewrite that these creators are trying to accomplish in our brains.

Nameless and Annihilator both deal with invasions of higher realities into our own. As multiversally primal creatures, maybe even gods, try to inject themselves into our level of being, the disruption is cataclysmic. Nameless is basically about the prisoners of war of an ancient war between angels once again being introduced back into our space. It’s this collision of reality and myth that begins the task of rewriting us to believe in the power of these ancient legends. Morrison refuses to let us accept reality on its surface level. The magic he wants us to experience exists as the basis of reality and it’s pissed that we ever lost sight of it in the first place.

This book produces a visual translation of this system upgrade (another more Morrisonian term for it may be magic spell) that functions as our installation manual. But it’s not some easy step-by-step manual that you would get to put together an Ikea FJÄLLBO entertainment unit. Morrison and Burnham's operating system instruction manual is more like an arcane religious text that references gods and monsters that mankind forgot about millennia ago. If this upgrade works, it accomplishes its goal on some subconscious level that you possibly don’t even acknowledge when you’re done with the book.

Nameless deals with ancient threats recontextualized for our times. The true horror of this book may just be how small and insignificant mankind is compared to the true forces that Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn speculate may be out there. At some point during Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Nameless, you have to wonder what is real in this comic. It’s a bit in that classic Morrison way where his stuff is just so outrageous that you question the reality of what he’s actually writing. Is this a story about a man trying to stop an Armageddon-like haunted asteroid hurtling towards the earth or is it the story of a man who lost his mind during an alien invasion in a spooky haunted house? Probably the correct answer is probably “both” with a side of “it doesn’t really matter” thrown in.

Written by Grant Morrison
Drawn by Chris Burnham
Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Published by Image Comics

October 30, 2017

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Understanding Kirby #2: Tales of Suspense #15
"Goom! The Thing From Planet X"

For Jack Kirby's Centennial year, I will be taking a dive into his comics and trying to figure out what a Jack Kirby comic really is.  We'll continue this monthly series with a look at a Jack Kirby monster comic, perfect for Halloween.  "Goom! The Thing From Planet X" can be found in Monsters Unleashed Prelude from Marvel Comics.

In the early 1960s, before he would revolutionize superhero comics with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby returned to Marvel comics and drew their monster comics. In titles like Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense, Kirby, Lee, and Lee’s brother Larry Lieber would begin to create something that looked more like comics of the 1960s than like anything that had come before but it still wasn’t quite the comics that would make Kirby the King.

These comics would tell tales of monsters invading helpless and unsuspecting towns. They had names like Grottu, Gorgilla, Groot, Vandoom, and Rommbu plastered over the covers. This short span of Marvel Comics would basically feature a monster-of-the-month on their way to having some kind of morality tale about both healthy doses of acceptance and fear. Sometimes these monsters looked to take over the world from space. Sometimes they were man-made, a folly of our own scientific mistakes. And now and again, they were misunderstood creatures, an evolutionary step that existed for our own protection.

One of the otherworldly invaders was Goom, from Tales of Suspense #15. In a quest for hidden planets, a scientist from our world broadcast signals into space and discovered planet just behind Jupiter. There, Goom received the broadcasts and found a world that he could conquer. This orange, bulbous-headed creator threatened the world with his technology to destroy mountains and his powers to de-age people. He was set to become Earth’s newest dictator until others from his planet came, far more peaceful and benevolent, to take their rogue madman away.

Kirby’s work here presages some of his greatest creations of the Marvel age. The story (unclear if it was written by Stan Lee or Larry Lieber) also provides glimpses of what’s to come. Goom himself looks like a prototype Ben Grimm while acting like an otherworldly threat that the Fantastic Four or the Hulk would be battling in just a few years. After almost a decade of working on romance comics, Kirby’s art here plays on the fears that Americans lived with throughout the 1950s before it would transform into the heroes of the Marvel age.

This in-between storytelling of the past (romance) and future (superheroes) shares the sense of melodrama that Kirby could do so easily. Inked by Dick Ayers here, Kirby is already a master at getting his characters to “act.” From stern, disapproving glances to ultimate fear of Goom’s powers to even the relief that Goom is an anomaly among his people, Kirby sells his characters actions and emotions in his very dramatic fashion. For all of the talk of Kirby’s power, it’s his character work that’s maybe his greatest strength. And that character work is fully on display in these pages. 
The monster designs, particularly that of Goom, are pretty ridiculous. An American’s take on kaiju, Kirby’s monsters are actually pretty soft and non-descript. There’s only a handful of these monsters who have had any staying power like Groot (and the current incarnation of Groot is quite different than the original invader) and Fin Fang Foom. And while Goom’s son Googam shows up a few issues later, there’s not a lot to set these characters as timeless designs. Instead, Kirby’s generic designs lend even more credence to the monster-of-the-month schedule these stories must have been on.

The charm of these comics is in seeing our hopes and fears of that time translated into these tales of monsters and aliens. Kirby, Lee and/or Lieber’s tale of Goom preys on both the fears and hopes that we have of the unknown. While other stories are either more pessimistic of mankind’s fare while others have a remarkably hopeful beat at the end, Goom’s story straddles the line in its visions of the future. In what we don’t know exists both monsters and allies. It’s a remarkably even-keeled conclusion that leaves its reader feeling as unsettled as it leaves them reassured in the goodness of existence.

In Tales of Suspense #15 as well as all of these monster comics, Kirby and his co-creators start laying the groundwork for the Marvel Universe. In the next couple of years, Kirby and Stan Lee would take these fantastic creatures and make them humans. Instead of Goom and Gooram, they would become Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom. Spider-Man and the Hulk are just humanized versions of these monsters. Of course, when they do that, the monsters become teenagers and citizens of the United States. The otherness of these threats become metaphors for how we live and act in our society. These monster comics lay the groundwork for the very human stories that they would begin telling in Fantastic Four #1.

Next month I'll be looking taking a slight step back in time with  Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown comics.

October 26, 2017

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Interview with Jorge Corona and Jacob Semahn (No. 1 With A Bullet by Jorge Corona, Jacob Semahn, Jen Hickman and Steve Wands)

No. 1 with a Bullet is the newest book from artist Jorge Corona (Feathers, We Are Robin) that sets itself up as an antithesis to the (mis)information age. With the "fake news" circulating the web and the recent increases in occurrences of online harassment, he and series Jacob Semahn have decided to hit back.

At the beginning of the series, its protagonist, Nash, lives her life online as much as anyone else - sharing her most intimate moments with her followers in the hope of making a dent in the onslaught of social media. However, she is about to discover the first stumbling block to the most burgeoning of fame: everyone knows exactly how to find you.

Panel Patter: Was there a single triggering moment that inspired the series’ cautionary tale for technology? If not, how did the project come together?

Jacob Semahn: I feel that it’s been a series of triggering events - whether that's Celebgate or Facebook/Twitter’s role in spreading misinformation in the recent U.S. Presidential election. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that it’s beginning to show the sharp teeth behind that welcoming smile.

While the series does slant towards warning about the all-consuming nature of technology, there’s always the interactions between Nash and her girlfriend that lean the other way. Do you plan to land the series on either side of the fence?

Jacob Semahn: We wanted this book to show the realism of our current day-to-day. There will always be those you let in close to you. We’re not quite to the point of social media and our digital lives completely controlling the facets to our lives, but we’re certainly closer than we’ve ever been.

Jorge Corona: This decision affected the art side of the book as well. Even though the main theme had to do with technology, the human aspect needed to remain at the center of it. This meant that, visually, I didn't want the book to feel cold and synthetic. It ended up a more exaggerated style that felt hand drawn, almost a living sketch.

Have the two of you worked together on previous projects? Either way, what made this a story worth pairing up for?

Jacob Semahn: Yes. Jorge and I worked previously on Image Comics’ GONERS. Jorge and I have a great shorthand on our creativity as we think relatively in the same way when it comes to story and structure. Also, we’re really good friends to boot, so it makes it all the more fun and when it comes to indie anything… fun means everything.

What was the thinking behind the Direct Messages to our protagonist, Nash, on the credits page, arguably out of the realm of the usual place for storytelling?

Jacob Semahn: We were striving for exactly that. That background feel. When you’re circling the pack of celebrity, you get the outpouring of letters, offers, and messages. Background noise that most don’t even look at. Though, our main character Nash isn’t a super famous celebrity… she’s an assistant for one. So checking messages and communications is part of the job. We figured this would be a good way to introduce her No. 1 fan into the mix. 

Starting seemingly small and innocuous like all stalkers do until it builds into a terrifying crescendo as the days wear on.

The first few pages are disorientating with their quick-switches of perspective and clashing colour schemes. What made you want to begin the series in this way? Do you plan on continuing the series with this tone?

Jorge Corona: This first scene was very important to set the mood of the book. This does not mean that the whole book will look this way, rather than this breaking or distortion of reality will pair with later moments in the story where, as Nash's mind start cracking under the pressure and the horror of the events, the grasp of reality also starts crumbling down.

One component that I love about the art is the exaggerated body proportions and body language: Nash’s boss Jad Davies and his large shoulders, his wife’s a-little-bit-too-perfect hourglass figure commandeering the panel space from our protagonist. What aspects of the storytelling play into these decisions?

Jorge Corona: Even though it may seem contradictory, I feel like there's an easiest way to convey and relate to character's emotions when you allow the art to be more abstract and stylized. Another reason for the final look of the book is that the events depicted were meant to be real and disturbing; not trying to rely on over exposure to the nature of these, we wanted the world to be stylized and not realistic.

There’s brusqueness to the reactions between the characters that we see (e.g. Jad Davies, Travis Martindale and even Nash Huang herself to an extent). Is this a statement on the show-business industry or the effects of technology?

Jacob Semahn: I think it’s a bit of both. Show biz is quite to the point when it comes to overseeing a particular project. Sure there’s stabbings of backs, but for the most part being self-assured is the name of the faking-it-till-you-make-it game. Technology definitely hasn’t helped matters in the ways of communicating complex thoughts or feelings in a 140-characters.

The page structure switches between more standard layouts (e.g. 3x3, 5x1) to pages where the panel borders are crooked and we see small moments captured in tiny, unconnected panels. What is the thought process that goes into selecting these layouts?

Jorge Corona: This comes back to the distorted reality aspect we were mentioning earlier. Since some, if not most, of the moments in Nash's story boil down to her grasp of her surroundings, we wanted to use as many elements as we could to augment the storytelling of the book.

This is also why, Jen Hickman's colors come into play in such a big way. We weren't aiming to depict a “by the numbers” visual narrative, instead we wanted the reader to be emotionally immerse in the world that we created.

At the end of each issue, you have a platform that you’re calling “Here for the Comments”. Can you tell me a little bit about your aims for that going forwards?

Jacob Semahn: We wanted to build a platform for people who have gone through stalking, harassment, or doxxing to speak out. As two guys, we felt that as a story it rubbed us the wrong way to comment on something that we’ve never personally gone through. Sure, research, thought, and talking with close friends/professionals gave us a ton of insight…but the more we heard, the more we were grossed out by the very real threats/harassment that women have faced at certain points in their lives. 

This is all the while compounded by the recent news regarding Hollywood and its practices for decades. Jorge and I reached out to Casey Gilly and Sara Sanders… two well-respected advocates for women’s rights and top notch journalists in the community to moderate this space. Each month we highlight a professional to talk about their experiences or advise on the matter. We will also be opening up to the community by creating a letters page in future issues.

With the hope of building a supportive community out of the ashes of some of the worst parts of the internet, the first issue of No. 1 With A Bullet hits stores on 1st November 2017. With such a tremendous creative team behind it, this is a book that you'll want to grab as soon as you can. 

To tide you over in the meantime, take a sneak peak at the series trailer.

October 25, 2017

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The Restrained Explosions of Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt's The Wild Storm Volume1

Jon Davis-Hunt’s artwork in The Wild Storm Volume 1 is an interesting beast, especially paired with Warren Ellis’ writing. For a large portion of this book, Davis-Hunt is a utility player, a hired-gun set to execute this revamping of Jim Lee’s old Wildstorm universe. In many ways, it looks familiar. If you’ve read any 1990’s era Image and Wildstorm comics, Jacob Marlowe is still a dwarf, Grifter still wears a bad-ass bandana instead of a mask and Henry Bendix is still a bald bastard. If any of that means anything to you, well I guess you’re probably almost as old as I am. And can we be honest for a moment? Character design has never been Jim Lee’s strongest points so Davis-Hunt has a lot of room to take those “classic” designs and improve on them.

Davis-Hunt’s work largely does what the story requires of it; it allows us to know who we’re looking at and what they’re doing. Occasionally Davis-Hunt’s character modeling slips and people suddenly have grotesquely large foreheads but it’s only momentarily distracting. For a tale of spies and covert activities, Davis-Hunt’s art along with three different colorists- Steve Buccellato, Ivan Plascencia, and John Kalisz— doesn’t try much to hide or obscure anything that we’re seeing. In fact, it’s surprisingly clear and maybe just a bit too crisp for the darkness of the story (more on that in a bit.). Davis-Hunt is very Jim Lee-like, without really getting lost in the details or even his own head like Lee’s artwork is capable of doing all on its own.

For most of this book, Davis-Hunt’s art feels like an instrument that Warren Ellis is wielding but that’s something that you can say about most Ellis books. There’s a very surface level-only approach to the artwork in this book. That is, until the moments when Davis-Hunt has to go deep into his images and sequences and really peel back the layers of this story. We see it early in the book, where an anxious scientist has to reveal the alien-tech armor that she hides within her own body. And we see it late in the book, where one of the wetwork operatives is ambushed in his apartment. In both of these sequences, Davis-Hunt slows the world down and delivers some character defining moments for Angie Spica and Michael Cray, characters we knew in other lives as The Engineer and Deathblow.

It’s in these moments that Ellis and Davis-Hunt’s work starts to look like something as narratively revolutionary as Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s The Authority or, dare we say it, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen. While not constantly in a widescreen format or slavishly devoted to a 9-panel grid, The Wild Storm Volume 1 finds inspiration in both works visually with call-backs to those comic storytelling methods without ever reaching the story development grandness of either of those previous works.

It feels like there’s some narrative misdirection happening in this first volume as Ellis lays out what feels only like the most basic of possible conflicts in this world. In the first few pages, he and Davis-Hunt introduce us to a world where all of the players are isolated but crossing paths. In what may be comic’s closest approximation to a single-cut panning shot (think the beginning of Robert Altman’s The Player,) agents of secret organizations International Operations, Skywatch, and Halo cross paths on the street of New York City without ever crossing into each other’s story yet. Everything’s connected but we’re going to have to wait to see just what those connections are. Ellis and David-Hunt are showing us how we have to read this story without beating the audience over the head. In fact, this reading lesson is probably only apparent on a second or third reading of the book.

Everything and everyone are connected and while Ellis drops some hints about the pasts of these people and organizations, he lives in the present. These characters are defined by the here and now, by the moments that they are living in. In his writing for the past 10-15 years, Ellis has grown to be very lean and economical with his words. The stark clarity of Davis-Hunt’s artwork lets Ellis pare back what he needs to put on the page. In this creative partnership, it almost reads like the artist and the writer are holding something back, concealing a narrative momentum which could make this a very bland story.

But when they need to, they stop holding back and the story and its darkness explodes. It’s those moments of Spica’s armor coming out of her body or Michael Cray fighting for his life when The Wild Storm becomes more than the words and pictures on the page. It’s in those moments where the page-structures which echo past, great works that the book starts to reach for greatness. Ellis and Davis-Hunt hold those moments back in reserve, only unleashing them when they’re ultimately needed to propel the story forward.

Those are the “Image” moments in this book and maybe that’s what differentiates this incarnation of these characters from Jim Lee’s original. Every page of Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. was full of sound and fury. That was/is the Image style of Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri and Todd McFarlane. Every page was cranked up 11. And Ellis and Hitch followed that model on The Authority as well. In The Wild Storm, Ellis and Davis-Hunt allow the story to simmer for long periods of time as they work on plot, theme, and character. Pages and pages coast along at a comfortable volume until the moments where they try to out-Image Jim Lee and blast out pages as a blaring 111. And as quickly as they turn up the volume, they pull back down to a more comfortable level and start the slow march to the next moment that will blow out your imagination.

As re-imaginations of old concepts go, Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt are clued into what made Jim Lee’s creations some of the hottest properties circa 1995 while creating a story that’s firmly planted in 2017. And it’s also completely an Ellis book, complete with his fascination for “tough” men and the ways that technology has shaped our society. It’s far from a perfect book but it is an ambitious work from its creators. That ambition has a lot of charisma that makes this a more interesting comic than it has any right to be.

The Wild Storm Volume 1
Written by Warren Ellis
Drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt
Colored by Steve Buccellato, Ivan Plascencia, & John Kalisz
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Published by DC Comics
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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 25th, 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:

The Goddamned Book One HC by Jason Aaron, r.m. Guera and Giulia Brusco, published by Image Comics.
For anyone who reads the book of Genesis, this is the comic that answers the question "how bad was the world such that God decided to destroy it not that long after its creation?"  Well, the answer is, pretty terrible. The Goddamned is a brutal, ugly, dirty comic, and I mean all of that in the best possible way. What good existed in this world has long since passed, and what's left is sort of like Mad Max, Biblical-style. This is a great, dark, compelling work.

October 17, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 18th, 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.

Mike's Picks:

Scrimshaw #3
Scrimshaw # 3 by Eric Borden and Dave Mims, published by Alterna Comics
If there is a complaint to be made about Alterna Comics, it’s that they tend to cluster their releases together. You can’t go wrong with anything from Alterna this week, though I’m partial to Scrimshaw, a sort of cyberpunk noir with strong art from Dave Mims, whose Sean Murphy-esque style lends itself perfectly to this type of tale.

October 16, 2017

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Trapped in Mourning- a review of Jeff Lemire's Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin

The Pike family looks like an all-American family, with its aging parents, a son who has written a best-selling book, an ambitious daughter with plans of saving the city even as she transforms it into something unrecognizable, and one son who is the black sheep of the family, willing to steal his father’s stuff to pay off a debt. By no means is it a perfect family but when does Jeff Lemire ever give us one of those. For everything they’ve done with their lives, the death of Tommy, the son who died in an accident in 1993, is all that really defines this family. Every surviving member of the PIkes is followed around by their own personal ghost of Tommy.

Many of Jeff Lemire’s recent books have been about family. Sometimes it’s about a missing family like his recent work on Secret Path, or about the family we find ourselves in as in Black Hammer or even what our responsibilities to family are in Roughneck. Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin continues that fascination with family but this time, it’s about a family that’s been lost in mourning for over twenty years. Royal City gives us a family who is trapped in their loss that is so rooted to their hometown. From his earliest independent comics through to his most recent Marvel and Image work, Lemire’s characters are shaped by family and home even as they’re incredibly damaged by their past. 

This family’s ghost is a pastor to the mother who’s looking for absolution from her own sins. He’s a teen to the author who looks to his brother for authorial inspiration. He’s a child to the sister, who herself remains in a loveless and childless marriage herself. He’s a criminal to the other brother, his own worst instincts made into a guardian “angel.” And to the father, he’s a kid, possibly the most honest image of who Tommy really was. In these ghosts of Tommy, Lemire mirrors back to the family their own faults and sins even as they’re too wrapped up in them to even recognize them.

Lemire’s characteristic line here is thinner than usual, allowing his lightly applied watercolors to give this world a pale semblance of life. But the artwork is very thin, very anemic in a way that reflects this family’s place in this world. While Lemire’s images are bold, his gestural line in Royal City shows that these characters are barely anymore present in this world than their dead son and brother. This allows Lemire to traverse this veil of the afterlife and merge the living and the dead into this purgatorial state.

Royal City itself is a factory town on its last leg. The family has always been rooted there so as the town goes, so goes the family. Tara, the real estate agent sister, is trying to revive the town but it’s through a method that would totally rewrite what the town is, profiting off its past while making it something completely different. And maybe it’s that kind of workover that the Pike family needs as well. In this first volume, Lemire is so focused on showing us who and what the family is the cliffhanger ending totally rewrites who this family has been since Tommy died. For all of their visions of Tommy, it turns out that he probably was something completely different than any of the ghosts that they so tightly cling to.

With so much recent work about family, Royal City feels like Lemire’s finally figured out the ways that family doesn’t work, or at least he’s willing to accept that there are ways that family can’t recover from tragedy without ever accepting them as a lost cause. In Lemire’s cartooning and his writing, you can see him searching for something to hold this family together. While he’s willing to accept that there are ways that family can’t recover from tragedy, he refuses to accept them as a lost cause. On the surface of Royal City, it’s the heart attack that the father suffers that’s the catalyst for this family coming back together in the smallest of ways. Lemire’s writing lately has been about the ways that families come together after some kind of event, whether it’s being trapped in a parallel universe (Black Hammer) or siblings finally bonding after both separately ran away from home (Roughneck.)

So in Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin, a father’s heart attack calls them all back home. This volume provides a catalyst for each of them to face up to their own pain. While today it may be a father that brings them together, it’s still the loss of a son and a brother over twenty years ago that keeps them apart. Tommy may be the ghost that haunts them but each of them moves like a ghost through this world, barely interacting with it or making a true impression on it. A family in disarray, the Pikes themselves may have all but died along with Tommy. Even now, each acts like that was the end of the world and they’re just waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Royal City Volume 1: Next of Kin
Written and Drawn by Jeff Lemire
Published by Image Comics

October 13, 2017

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Harassment in Comics (Weekend Patter for October 13, 2017)

I need to drop the usual link format of this column for a week and just try to get some thoughts down about recent events and news.

With all of the news about Harvey Weinstein's alleged harassment and assaults making the news, it's important to remember that this isn't just a Hollywood or an entertainment story, but it's a story that reveals a lot about all aspects of our lives and culture.  Just because it's much smaller than the cinema, it's important to acknowledge that comics are not any better just because we may want them to be.

Over at The Comics Journal, Katie Skelly writes about an experience she, unfortunately, had to live through a couple of years ago at a comic festival.

Sleep-deprived and ropey, I did what I was supposed to do before I could talk myself out of it. That morning, I told. It was my first time ever reporting harassment beyond a frenzied phone call to a friend or spilling it out in a session with my sainted therapist. And for as ugly as the entire experience had been, a light did shine back at me: I was believed. The festival did everything they could and should have done to right the situation as per their harassment policy. I would file a complaint against my harasser, in which I would be asked over the course of several different essay questions what I may have done to provoke the situation.
In comics, some of comics' most infamous alleged harassers are DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza, freelance editor and writer Scott Allie (recently of Dark Horse,) CBLDF's Charles Brownstein, creator Brian Wood, and even comics legend Julius Schwartz but there are so many others.  Dark Horse and DC Comics both released statements last year about the accusations against their employees even as Allie and Berganza remained employed by the publishers (DC's statement, Dark Horse's statement.)  The accusations against Berganza go back to 2010 but came to light again last year after Shelly Bond was let go by DC while Berganza was the head of DC's Superman office.  Heidi MacDonald has covered this many times at The Beat, including a piece in October 2015 where she wrote about the long history of abuse in the comic industry:

So it is that I find some of the harassers more pitiful than anything else. I pity their victims more, but all of them are part of a system where an old man who gropes a teenager in a car is made an Ambassador of Comics without anyone questioning if this is a good idea [emphasis are MacDonalds.] As one of my friends says, “It’s in the DNA.” DC and Marvel go back to the pulps, an industry of backroom pornographers who were little more than lowlife cheats and grifters themselves. It was no more sensitive to individual dignity than that fishing boat. Aside from a few places like individual art shops, that attitude has been passed down through the ages. It chewed up and spit out lots of men and women 
But mostly women.
Reading MacDonald's piece from two years shows just how little progress we've made since then.  And this isn't just a comic book issue or a movie issue, it's a society issue.  But we're a comic book site and we have to address this as it pertains to comics.

Google "harassment in comics" and it gives you a long list of articles and posts to scroll through.  Go look at Twitter and see the abuse that female creators and critics have to live with, whether it's about having a character wear a shirt with the saying "Ask me about my feminist agenda?" or a critic calling out a comic festival for being too white in its guest list three years ago (original piece here and apology for harassment here.) Harassment takes all kinds of shapes and forms and it's important to see and call them out.

As we see almost daily on Twitter and other social media, harassment comes in all shapes, forms, delivery mechanisms and languages.  Sexual predatory harassment is up there but there's also racial harassment, social harassment, and bullying (which might just be ultimately a catch-all word for what's happening here.)

Weinstein is the biggest example of a serial harasser and predator in pop culture but we need to make sure that we stay vigilant and examine all aspects of our culture and entertainment to stop these hurtful actions.  Harassment and these predatory acts exist in comics, both at the professional level and at the fandom levels.

October 11, 2017

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Working Class Criminals-
a review of Declan Shalvey and Phillip Barrett's Savage Town

Jimmy Savage believes that he’s in control and that he’s in charge but Declan Shalvey and Phillip Barrett undercut their character’s self-image at every chance they get. A third-rate crime boss in Limerick, Ireland, Jimmy wants everyone else to believe in his elevated status. The esteem of his wife, his friends, the kids of his gang and even the other crime bosses means a lot to him but on some level, he has to know that they all look down on him one way or another. He’s not a crime boss; he’s another street thug who has dreams of being more. Savage Town, Shalvey and Barrett’s first book about crime and class, delivers a story about a guy who ends up being more lucky than tough.

Caught between two larger, warring gangs in Limerick, Savage is trying to carve out space where he can exist. As the book opens, that space is slightly more than being an errand boy for both sides; at best, Jimmy is a go-between between the Hogans and the Dawsons, the real muscles in this Irish city. But it’s enough for Jimmy to portray himself as something more than just a wannabe gangster. Whether it’s the wife who run the house, the old friend who has been callously used one too many times, or the friends who are his wingman in crime who wants more, Jimmy thinks he’s in charge of every situation that’s happening around him but blind to the nascent backstabbing.

In telling this story, Barrett’s artwork and Jordie Bellaire’s colors paint this picture of working-class crime, of people just trying to be noticed by those above them. Barrett’s cartoony naturalism shows a city and its population on the wrong side of prosperity. While there are police in this town, they hardly have a handle on the crime that’s running rampant so gangs like the Hogans, the Dawsons, and to a much smaller level the Savages really run everything. Barrett’s artwork depicts this lawless town with a matter-of-factness that weighs down people like Savage who are looking to make something out of themselves.

Shalvey’s writing and Barrett’s artwork have a natural a natural flow in this comic. There’s not a lot of moral questioning here; Jimmy is a villain but he’s just not a major villain. At least as this story begins, he isn’t. His life is about conflict and violence except for one odd character in his life. If there’s anything that Jimmy shows true love and affection toward, it’s a horse that he keeps in his backyard. More than friends and family, the horse may be the only creature on this earth that truly loves Jimmy and that he loves back. Among the rest of the book, there are incongruous moments of contentment when Jimmy is able to be with his horse. Those moments are important because otherwise, Jimmy would either be a complete fool or a complete monster.

In some odd ways, Savage Town feels like an Irish Love and Rockets but leaning more into the crime elements without any evidence of the romance. That’s an odd statement but the way that Shalvey and Barrett create this sense of time and space is similar to how both Hernandez brothers create a community in their comics, whether that’s Palomar or Hoppers. Savage Town hangs together because of emotional and locational geography that it builds. While some of the power-grab maneuvers that Savage and his rival gangs make get unnecessarily convoluted in the storytelling, the creators make up for any confusion by making the story more about Jimmy’s emotional turmoil at trying to be the man he wants to be than about the actual acts of crime and violence that he perpetuates.

Savage Town wraps up one episode of Jimmy’s climb up the criminal ladder but Shalvey and Barrett leave the story open for more. In fact, the ending demands more as last-minute unresolved elements are introduced mere pages before the end of the book. The ending doesn’t leave you so much wanting more as it leaves the story feeling incomplete. Exploring crime as a way of life, Declan Shalvey, and Phillip Barrett show how love and friendship in this world are always tempered by violence and betrayal.

Savage Town
Written by Declan Shalvey
Drawn by Phillip Barrett
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

October 10, 2017

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Catch it at the Comic Shop October 11th, 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:

Retcon #2 by Matt Nixon and Toby Cypress, published by Image Comics.
Real-life genies and mystical creatures?  Military forces working to capture and/or use magic and monsters? Possible rewriting of reality?  I'm here for all of this. Issue 1 was a great read, with incredible art from Toby Cypress, whose psychedelic style really works well with the subject matter. I'm excited for this one.

Dark Nights: Metal #3 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, published by DC Comics.
This is a bonkers, weird book and it's been a lot of fun to see Scott Snyder channel Grant Morrison. I love Capullo's art here, and I love that this series has this sort of crazy feel where anything can happen. That's a little rare in comics these days. It's a very fun book.

Star Trek The Next Generation: Mirror Broken #4 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K. Woodward, published by IDW Publishing.
I just love the "evil mirror versions of people" stories in Star Trek It's just so much fun to see evil versions of your favorite characters running around and doing terrible things; the best of these stories still retain some core quality of those characters even when it's the dark mirror version of them. This has been a really enjoyable read so far and I'm curious to see where it goes.

The Dying and he Dead #6 by Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim and Michael Garland, published by Image Comics.
Full disclosure, I'll read anything Jonathan Hickman writes. He's got stories that are big and intricate and reward repeat readings. Here he's working with one of my favorite artists in Ryan Bodenheim, who's detailed art style works great with the action and military violence and the totally out-there sci-fi elements in the story.  Michael Garland provides atmospheric colors with a limited color palate, that sets the mood perfectly. This is a big, exciting, heroic read.
Rob's Picks

Adventure Time Spooktacular 2017 by Various Writers and Authors. Published by Boom! Studios.
I don't know any of the members of the creative teams this year, but it's always fun to see different people play in the Adventure Time sandbox, and when you add Halloween into the mix, it makes it just that much more fun. I don't keep up with the comic adventures the way I did when Ryan North was at the helm, but I still like the comics I've read a lot, and I expect this one to be another treat.

Crime Destroyer #2, by Josh Bayer, Benjamin Marra, and others, Published by Fantagraphics.
The superheroes via Josh Bayer's thoroughly raw comics brain continues with this second issue of Crime Destroyer. Fearlessly taking on tropes from the comics Josh (and may of us around his age) grew up with, Bayer shows you can make comics in the Mighty Marvel Manner that are interesting, take chances, and aren't funding fascists.

Jack Kirby's Demon TP, published by DC Comics.

I don't know quite how anyone
Wouldn't have this book of fun
Filled with art only a King could provide.
If you don't have this yet
I think it's a safe bet
On its purchase you should decide!

[You can't fire me Scott, I created the site!]

Mike's Picks:

Mech Cadet Yu # 3 by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa, published by Boom! Studios.
This series toes that infinitely fine line between originality and homage. Pak and Miyazama are crafting their own original tale as much as they are writing a love letter to 80s mecha manga and anime – Gundam, Transformers, Voltron, and of course Robotech/Macross. It’s the undertone of reverence that allows the storytelling to flourish.

Mister Miracle # 3 by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, published by DC Comics.
It’s hard to tell with this series if the narrative is grand or minute. King seems to be out Morrisoning Morrison on this series, providing a trippy take that makes you wonder about long term continuity impacts. The tone and style of this book are reminiscent of 80s/90s Vertigo and proto-Vertigo superhero deconstructions.

Dan Dare # 1 by Peter Milligan, Alberto Fouche, and Christian Ward, published by Titan Publishing Group.
Titan is an interesting publisher. This week, they launch series for Dan Dare and The Fighting American, publish graphic novels starring Mike Hammer and Shelock Holmes, and continue series for Penny Dreadful and Wolfenstein. Not to mention, they also publish NCIS and Blacklist paperback novels. Dan Dare is an iconic, if somewhat dated British comics icon. I’d like to see what Milligan and company can do with him.

Terminator: The Original Comics Series – Tempest and One Shot by John Arcudi, James Robinson, Paul Guin, Chris Warner, Matt Wagner, Chris Chalenor, and Rachell Meshe, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Harken back to the glory days of Dark Horse’s licensed properties with the original Terminator series. I’m a mark for all things Terminator, and the franchise has waxed and waned with its commitment to an expanded universe, though the early work found in this collection provides some of the best examples.  

October 6, 2017

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Business As Usual (Weekend Pattering for 10/5/2017)


Will Elder (Mad #5, 1952)

Previously on Panel Patter

Cover of the Next Week

Jeffrey Brown's variant cover to Royal City #6 is an homage to Sonic Youth's Goo, which was originally created by Raymond Pettibon.  I know Brown has made a nice career for himself doing kid's books (my son and I enjoyed his Jedi Academy series) but I would like to see Brown do something in alt-comics again.  Maybe not the autobio books that he was doing but this cover makes me want to see what he could do with a slice-o-life comic.


from "Perfect Hair" by Tommi Parrish

*** What Does It Mean to Support Diversity in Comics? (Medium)-- Shea Fitzpatrick interviews new 2D Cloud co-publisher Kim Jooha.
KJ: That’s the thing, I wanted to help, but I also don’t want to just publish “good enough” stuff. I’m really snobbish, I’m really elitist [laughs], I hate good enough or bad books because I think it’s a waste of paper. I hate seeing wastes of paper, I want to recycle them [laughs]. Why would you publish mediocre books? It’s a waste of time, money, and energy. I want to publish the greatest in the comics scene, but at the same time, if someone has talent that I think could make really great work, when should I start asking about more practical stuff, like contracts? When should we start collecting for the book, or should we just publish a zine for now? At the same time, I think there are those philosophical thoughts about how to support. That’s why I wrote [about this issue] in an Instagram post and not on the blog. It’s everywhere, and it’s very complex, and I don’t have an answer.

*** Sex Criminals Creators Fraction & Zdarsky Invite Readers to ‘Fourgy’ (CBR)-- I appreciated the honesty from Fraction and Zdarsky about 10-month publishing hiatus they took between the last two arcs of the series.
Fraction: Difficult because the direct market is predicated on seven-day sales cycles. And we want to find a sweet spot between servicing our direct market partners, and keeping them healthy and fed and satisfied, and at the same time creating a product that can compete with titles that have been around for 80 years, because, I would think, of quality. But whatever it is about the book, it’s not going to get better if we do it faster. [Laughs] Unlike the Ramones, “do it faster” was not our solution.

This and That

*** Estate of Comic Pioneer Sues Over Milestone Media Revival (Variety)-- Just as a reminder as DC is announcing that the return of Milestone, that line's co-creator Dwayne McDuffie's widow is actually suing Reginald Hudlin and Milestone Media for McDuffie's share of the Milestone property.
Charlotte McDuffie alleges that her inquiries about the new company have been met with “stalling and stonewalling tactics.” According to the suit, the new company is seeking to expand Milestone’s relationship with DC Comics, and is talking to other publishers about new projects, “all the while utilizing the intellectual property rightfully owned by Milestone, without compensation to Milestone or McDuffie’s estate, and without the consent of the Plaintiff or McDuffie’s heirs.”
DC announced the 2018 return of the Milestone properties at NYCC, helmed by Hudlin and McDuffie's Milestone co-creator Denys Cowan.

*** Solanin Manga Gets Epilogue Chapter 11 Years Later (Anime News Network)-- I love projects like this (T2 Trainspotting may be my favorite film of the year so far) so if Viz ends up reprinting this, I may have to check out Asano's Solanin again.  I wrote about Solanin years ago and wonder if it holds up.
Shogakukan revealed on Friday that its new edition release of Inio Asano's Solanin manga will contain a new epilogue chapter labeled "chapter 29," 11 years after the manga concluded in 2006. The new chapter will be set in 2017, and will show the lives of Meiko, Kato, Billy, and Ai.
*** Whatever Happened to the Superhero Writers of Tomorrow? (Paste Magazine)-- Jakob Free poses an interesting question?  Back around 2007/2008, it seemed like there were a lot of creative voices ready to take Marvel and DC in new directions.  It's 2017 and the only one still around may be Brian Michael Bendis and I think he may have worn out his welcome with a lot of fans.  Now, I don't know if I really agree that there is a lack of ambition being seen right now.  I think it's there but the fanbase is far more diluted now and doesn't rally around it like a hivemind as we may once have done.
To attempt to answer why the current comics ecosystem hasn’t witnessed the ambition of decades previous, we should look at some of the factors that contribute to a writer’s ascendancy from obscurity to marquee billing on a cape comic. What do the most successful scribes have in common with one another? Is it simply sheer talent? Is it the business acumen and social media sway that comic writers are expected to have when marketing themselves and their work? Is it just cold, hard sales data? All of these components do indeed play a role. But after that new wave of writers arrived (Bendis, Millar and company), these factors alone were not enough to situate the next crop of scribes.

Your Moment of resignation

*** Former Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie Exits Publisher (CBR)-- CBR reports that late last Friday night, Scott Allie stepped down as Dark Horse's Executive Senior Editor to become a freelance editor & writer.  This comes almost 2 years after reports of Allie's harassment of Dark Horse employees and comics creators came to light in a piece at Graphic Policy by Janelle Asselin.
Allie, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics until September 11th, assaulted two people at a party during the convention. We’ll get to the SDCC incident in a moment, but before that, we should discuss the fact that Allie’s behavior there is not a one-time thing. Certainly there are people who make mistakes while drunk and do not deserve to be penalized for a momentary—and singular—lapse in judgment. Allie, however, has allegedly made such a habit of this behavior that there have been jokes about it internally at Dark Horse for years, although no whisper of it traveled much further than that. He was particularly known for two things: out of control behavior while drunk and biting.
At the time, Mike Richardson's response to these reports was mild, to say the least, without ever really mentioning Allie or his position in the company.  
I also want to make one thing very clear: Dark Horse as a company, and myself as an individual, take the kinds of inexcusable incidents reported by Ms. Asselin very seriously—doubly so when it involves one of our employees. In cases such as these, we have been proactive in our response, with a variety of professional services involved, all with the goal of changing behavior. Additionally, a number of internal responses are acted upon, including termination if such behavior continues. Under no circumstance is any individual “harbored.” In this particular case, action was taken immediately, though we did not, and cannot, perform a public flogging, as some might wish.
Allie continued to work at Dark Horse for two years after the allegations came to light and even more years after Allie's harassment allegedly began. Since then, Allie has continued to write BPRD and Abe Sapien comics for Mike Mignola and Dark Horse, including the current BPRD series.

And just for the record, Eddie Berganza continues to be employed by DC Comics.

Current Mood

October 5, 2017

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MICE Preview

One of my favorite things about the Fall is that it means that it's time for the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE).  MICE is going into its eighth year, and it's a wonderful (and completely free!) showcase of small press and self-published comics (think Small Press Expo, but smaller).

This past weekend I had a chance to attend a Preview Night event, and it's got me even more excited for MICE in a few weeks.  The Preview Night took place at a nice venue called Alley in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where guests had a chance to mingle and chat with comics creators.  The more formal part of the event consisted of four different artists (who will all be appearing at MICE) presenting their work and speaking about their creative process. 

Patt Kelley
Patt Kelley spoke about his funny horror comic Scout, and also brought a fantastic sculpture of one of the horrific creatures featured in the comic and used in a sculpture cover. He showed the process of turning that sculpture into the cover for one of the issues of Scout.

Ansis Purins
Ansis Purins showed examples of his comic Zombre which is part of a larger world called Magic Forest, and walked the audience through his drawing and creative process.

Ezra Rose
Ezra Rose spoke about Rose's new comic Six Songs, which is based on Rose's extensive research into Jewish conceptions of angels and other ideas and texts from Jewish Mysticism that we definitely didn't cover in Hebrew School.

Line Olsson
Line Olsson spoke about her new comic Happy Hour in the Temple of Love, which is a collection of short comics, all dealing with love in a critical, funny and sardonic way.

This year's special guests at MICE include the terrific lineup of Michael Deforge, Liz Prince, Jason Shiga, Kazu Kibuishi, Isabel Greenberg and Mark Siegel. These creators make up only a small amount of the talented creators that will be at MICE, along with panel discussions and a number of events for kids.

I think this will be my fifth or sixth time attending MICE, and each time I go I pick up something new and interesting and unexpected (and a few years ago had the opportunity at MICE to participate in a panel discussion on writing about comics). As I said, it's a completely free event, and a great chance to meet some wonderful comics creators. 


October 21-22

Saturday 10-6
Sunday 11-5

University Hall at Lesley University
1815 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

October 4, 2017

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Interview with Deniz Camp (Maxwell's Demons by Deniz Camp, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar)

You might know Deniz Camp as one of the winners of the 2015 Millarworld competition, and his subsequent piece "Duke McQueen's Greatest Adventure" in the 2016 Millarworld Annual. You might know Deniz Camp as the only regular contributor to the highly lauded critical analysis magazine PanelxPanel

What you will soon know Deniz Camp for is his upcoming series Maxwell's Demons from Vault Comics, featuring gorgeous artwork from Vittorio Astone and letters from Aditya Bidikar. Putting a darker twist on the unassuming story of a young boy and his toys, Maxwell's Demons is a series that already elicits parallels to the likes of Sandman, Calvin and Hobbes and the works of Gene Wolfe.

Deniz Camp chatted to me about his aims for the future of the series, the crucial contributions of mythology to the world of comics and series artist Vittorio Astone even dropped in to discuss his views on the importance of semiotics.
Panel Patter: The story begins in medias res as the confrontation with The Big Bad pends on the horizon. What do readers need to know about what happened before the story begins?

Deniz Camp: Nothing! That’s why we started it when we did! Life doesn’t really start - it is always happening in a never-ending-now. We’ll fill you in as you go, but I want the readership to be in a constant state of anticipation, and to engage in a process of revaluation. What Max, and his world, appear to be at the beginning of issue #1 may look different after you’ve read issue #2, #3, #4, and #5. 

Having said that, Maxwell Maas is the greatest mind of his generation, one of those towering figures who is destined to mold and define the age in which he lives. As most children do, he builds whole new worlds in which to play and escape. Unlike most children, his worlds are real, accessed through his closet-turned-interdimensional portal. He adventures in weird worlds with his best (and only) friends: sentient stuffed animal (also built by his own hands).

Max’s glasses are, for a lack of a better word, impractical in their shape and size and The Big Bad is similarly frighteningly imposing. Where did the design of the world originate and what aspects of the storytelling designs went into it?

Deniz Camp: For my part, I’ll just say that the best and clearest advice I ever got about working in comics was that making your characters look distinct -- making them recognizable even from their silhouette -- is one of the most important things you can do. All the best characters have some identifying mark. Max’s glasses are, hopefully, some part of that. 

I’m going to pass that one on to Vittorio, my collaborator and master of design, for a better answer. 

Vittorio Astone: I think Max's rectangular glasses are what I love the most of him! They were Deniz's idea and, I must say, a very good one from a design perspective. 

The rectangle will become the symbol of Max's portals to other dimensions and Max's glasses share the same shape; they are, in a sense, portals to his mind. Unfortunately, the mind of a genius is rarely fully understandable by others, so I often like to draw them opaque, as if the portals to his mind were inaccessible.

In general, I feel that the worlds behind Max's portals should have more alien designs, that really defy logic and contrast with  Max's 'normal' homeworld.

There’s an importance placed on Max’s relationship with his father and the subsequent lack of innocence. How do you imagine that evolving over the course of the series?

Deniz Camp: Well, if I told you that would give away the story! What I can say is that it DOES evolve, sometimes dramatically. We worked hard to make that a complicated relationship, one that looks different depending on the relative position of the viewer. Max, a young boy, even a very brilliant young boy, sees his father in one dimension. As we all did, as children. But I, as the writer, have grown up, and so my understanding of Max’s father maybe quite different.

How do you imagine the shape of the narrative evolving over time? Is it an ongoing or a miniseries?

Deniz Camp: It’s both. It’s neither. It’s a series of stories that are add up to more than the sum of their parts. We’ll start with five issues but, if the response allows, I’d love to get to 30-35; I certainly have it tightly plotted out to 35. 

But if we stop at five - or if the world ends in nuclear war just after issue 4, or 3, or 2 or 1 - you’ll have gotten a complete story. Every issue is self contained; you, as a reader, are rewarded for reading more, not punished for reading less. Every issue clarifies a complex story, but like a hologram, every piece contains the whole. 

We’re all pretty excited about the structure, and how it plays out for the reader. There aren’t a lot of comics that do this.

There’s a juxtaposition between the detailed sci-fi inflected armour worn by our protagonist and the round, brightly coloured characters that make up his crew. What was the process and thought behind this?

Deniz Camp: A lot of that was playing with who we are when we’re by ourselves and who we are when we’re free to BE ourselves, if you get my meaning. I don’t think any is necessarily a more privileged, or truer, identity, but the contexts necessarily transform you. Max is brilliant 100% of the day. But how that manifests changes according to the environment, his own age, and the events that surround him.

When we open, he is a boy. And when he’s with his father, that is felt acutely. Surely we’ve all had that experience, even as an adult? Going back home and somehow feeling - even acting - more childish. You slip into these roles, you can’t help it.

Or maybe you can. You’ll have to read to see.

Vittorio Astone: Max is a genius, but he's also still a kid. I think that the core of Max's personality has to be this duality (and often conflict) between his gifted mind and his humanity. This is why I like to use hard contrasts in my designs, because conflict is primarily inside our protagonist's soul. 

Max himself has a very round shape for his head, but his glasses are two, almost flat, rectangles. When I want to underline this conflict even more, I help myself with colors. For example I use saturated colors for the different worlds he visits in his journeys, while the atmosphere becomes really heavy and desaturated during the scenes with his father.

What are your plans surrounding the ambiguity about Max’s state of mind on his adventures - do we find out if he’s in Wonderland?

Deniz Camp: I’d prefer to leave that to the reader. There’s a careful balance, as a writer, between saying enough and saying too much. Myth tends to say less than does, say, drama. Myth tends to clear space in the receiver’s mind, lay down some foundations, and let the receiver build a lot of the structure themselves. 

This isn’t myth, but comics take a lot of cues from mythology: creating characters that outlive the complicated series of events envisioned by their single creator, characters that exist and act without being consumed by that action. We’re trying to do a little bit of that here, to create drama that nevertheless towers as myth. I want readers to see in it the Big Questions and venture to answer them in their own way. 

Asking good questions is all we’re really doing.

The scope of the book doesn’t focus on the specifics of Max's adventures and instead of their impact. What was the decision behind this?

Deniz Camp: Plot is so heavily focused upon in comics, and in writing, and I guess I don’t see why. Plot is an instrument to talk about characters, and to talk about ideas. That’s ALL it is. 

An event - and that’s all plot is, a series of events strung together by causality, a causal chain spreading it’s tailfeathers and presenting its genitals - is just a second, just a single moment, but the impact it has on you, the wake that it leaves, can last years. The wake that it leaves in the world can last centuries. 

Chernobyl wasn’t much more than an instant, or a short series of mistakes. It won’t be habitable for 20,000 years. 

It’s all in the wake.  

The first time I saw someone curse, I knew that this wasn’t an all-ages book. Was this a conscious decision? What aspects of this story prevented you from being able to do that?

Deniz Camp: Because the first issue opens with a young Max, there may be the tendency to believe it’s all-ages. While we’re making this a mature readers book, this is not Preacher or Sex Criminals or even a hard boiled Brubaker/Phillips joint -- we’re discussing mature themes. That doesn’t mean violence, language or sex -- although all those things will be peppered about the series -- it means wrestling with death, and love, and grief and existential darkness. 

I always wanted to talk about those things. I always do want to talk about those things. 

I do think that there’s a way to do some of that in an all-ages sort of way, and I’ve got something like that coming up, but I didn’t want to be hobbled by tight restrictions. And, frankly, I think kids can handle a lot, so long as the good guys make it out okay in the end. I just can’t guarantee that they will, in Maxwell’s Demons.

If you had to pin this book down to a single genre and a mission statement, what would you choose?

I’d say it’s a Science Fiction, and that we’re saying that people are much bigger on the inside than they are on the outside and that not only do people change over time, but how the world sees them does, too.

Everyone has the story of the comic that got them hooked on the medium. What’s yours?

The first thing I loved about comics was, probably, Superman. I had pyjamas and cakes and coloring books and all of that, and I loved all of them.

The first comic I can remember buying was an old, black and white New Gods reprint by Jack Kirby. I’d get on my parents infinite king-sized bed and read there, lost in sci-fi Shakespearean drama. It was the sort of thing you couldn’t, and can’t, experience in any other medium, even today. The scale and literacy and imagination of it.  Even uncolored, I thought it was the most incredible thing I had ever read. 

I’ve not looked back.

Maxwell's Demons will be released on Dec 27th, 2017 through Vault Comics and, with its combination of melancholic optimism and fantastical artistic spreads, is destined to take the comics world by storm.