Saturday, February 26, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I'm a huge fan of the Milestone books, as well as McDuffie's Marvel comics (Deathlok, FF) and animation work (Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien). I often read his message board, linked in the sidebar, where he patiently answers detailed questions from young "Ben 10" fans. His adaptation of "All-Star Superman" comes out on DVD today, and he approved new series of "Static" and "Xombi" coming from DC later this year. I was planning to review "All-Star Superman" anyway, so I'll probably have more to say then, but for now I'm blown away.
Edited to add: DC's official statement is here, and CBR is collecting memories from McDuffie's colleagues here.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
BIRDS OF PREY #7, 8, 9 (DC Comics) Gail Simone, writer. Ardian Syaf, penciler #7. Guillem March, artist #8. Inaki Miranda, artist #9. Vicente Cifuentes, inker #7. Nei Ruffino, colorist #8, 9. Travis Lanham, letterer #7, 8. Dave Sharpe, letterer #9.
“The Death Of Oracle” Part 1, 2, 3 of 4.
Having a little more discretionary income this month, I decided to explore some additional titles during my most recent stop at my favorite comics store (CBH). On my mental note of things to check out were some titles that other BC members have been praising, and BIRDS OF PREY topped the list.
Here’s the short review: “WOW! Everybody needs to check this out. Very, very good.” (Just doing my part to placate the time-management challenged reader as well as those who get the news in short ‘sound bites” and lack the patience for a more detailed commentary.)
To read more, start here: There is a very appealing style and tone to BIRDS OF PREY that I believe is very deliberate but not up front and in your face. It walks the fine line between light-hearted entertainment and insightful character development coupled with a sewing-in of long threads of more complex story-lines. I sensed it after reading just one issue, and immediately wanted more. Gail Simone is no slouch at scripting - - and is probably one of the most-underrated writers in comics. I’m glad I picked up 3 issues at once. I’ll definitely be back for the next issue, which wraps up this story arc. After that, who knows? - - I must consult my wallet. ( NOTE: There are some spoilers if you keep reading. It’s not always possible to avoid mentioning them. )
Despite the grim title for this story arc, “The Death Of Oracle” is not going to be some dramatic event that shocks and saddens DC Nation. Rather, it’s a turning point in the life of Barbara Gordon/Oracle. She realizes that now that some ill-intentioned criminals are aware of her existence and even identity- - that she has to take steps to protect herself and her loved ones/associates. So in a very calculated manner that is hinted at in Issue #7 and becomes confirmed by Issue #9 she plots her public departure, which will free her up to then pursue her mission undisclosed and under the radar.
The mad villain Calculator blames Oracle’s hacking into his system for his pounding migraines and hatches a plot to kill her by way of trapping her allies/team. He enlists Current, Mammoth, and a delicious new female - - Mortis - - to assist his armored assault forces in bringing them down. Mortis is a gloved and lacy gothic lass in a frilly dress whose deathly pallor and voice are feints to her main weapon - - a touch that brings a maddening remorse and self-deprecation to almost anyone she touches. They learn through alleged betrayal of the main area the Birds operate in, and break into a ladies club where Dove, Huntress, Black Canary and Lady Blackhawk are enjoying a birthday celebration complete with male pole-dancers.
Both Oracle and Calculator are engaged in a manipulative game of chess with the same pawn (Savant) acting as spy/informant to both sides. Oracle isn’t sure that Savant’s story has totally fooled Calculator, and that was part of her plan anyway. But is Savant really loyal to her? Mortis takes the gloves off and gets her hands on Black Canary, sending Dinah into a deep spiral of remorse and regret that puts her into a catatonic state while in her mind she battles all the guilt and bad decisions of her past.
The art is fabulous throughout all three issues, in spite of the changes to the production staff every other issue. My first exposure to the art style of Ardian Syaf came via a Dresden Files book from another publisher. While his work was competent and somewhat stylish, it didn’t impress me the way that it does here in Birds Of Prey. Maybe the inker Cifuentes should get some credit for using dark lines, shadows and depth to really bring out the detail in Syaf’s pencils. And Guillem March, who rarely disappoints, takes over in Issue #8, followed by some stunning work by Inaki Miranda in Issue #9. And while the artist, colorist, inker and letterers change from issue to issue - - you could easily not become aware of it unless you were checking the credits page as I was. The transition from issue to issue is fairly smooth and each style complements the other without affecting the look and tone of this book. Some credit for that should probably go to Editor Janelle Siegel who must have enforced some artistic adherence to the BIRDS OF PREY style that she wanted to be consistent, regardless of the art team.
The final scenes in issue #9 where Oracle sends in her armored helicopter to attempt a rescue of the hostage Birds sets the stage for the final act - - and it ends on a cliff-hanger. I’ll be back.
I really like the line-up of characters in this title, and even Batman Bruce makes a welcome appearance in this story arc. (One of the best panels in this story occurs as Batman billows his cape out to float to ground level while some gawkers eyeball and point to him from the upper floors of a parking garage.) All the characters have bird references in their names (and sometimes their powers), with the exception of Huntress. I’ll forgive that since she seems to fit so well into the group. And I like the inclusion of Hawk and Dove, in spite of Hawk being the only male in the Birds’ core team of heroes. It makes sense to include them, and I love Simone’s depiction of these characters - - sort of a ying/yang, passive/aggressive, black/white combo that finds a way to work together and shield each other’s back/emotions. I like it almost as much as the original Hawk and Dove team as created by Steve Ditko - - a band of brothers gifted with powers and in constant debate over anti-war versus war-loving sentiments.
Guess I better get my hands on the first six issues and/or first volume of the BIRDS OF PREY trade paperback.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
This week, still early in February - - the number of visits exceeded 15,000.
That's not a huge number - - however, what's more significant is the steadily increasing viewership. There's lots of sites out there with huge numbers - - don't know if this site will get there but the fact that we are picking up new visitors and hopefully returning readers is very encouraging.
Thanks to everybody!
Monday, February 7, 2011
. . . . . from the official press release . . . . . .
February 7, 2010
Atlanta, GA – Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Top Shelf Productions have signed a publishing agreement. Top Shelf Productions has agreed to publish the graphic novel MARCH, coauthored by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.
“I am very pleased to be participating in this effort,” said Congressman John Lewis. “This is something I really wanted to do some years ago and there is no better time to do it than now. It is not just a story of struggle; it is a story of involvement. It shows the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs of a movement.
“It is my hope,” said Congressman Lewis, “that this work will be meaningful and helpful to future generations to give many people here in America and around the world the urge, the desire, to seek, to build, their own world, their own future.”
A meditation in the modern age on the distance traveled, both as a nation and as a people, since the days of Jim Crow and segregation, March tells the first hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights.
The publishing agreement is an historic first, both for the U.S. Congress and graphic novel publishing as a whole, marking the first time a sitting Member of Congress has authored a graphic novel. Top Shelf Productions is the first and only graphic novel publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards.
“As a proud resident of Georgia, and a long-time fan of the honorable Congressman,” adds publisher Chris Staros, “this is truly a deep honor. To bring, not only his life’s story, but that of the Civil Rights Movement to the comics medium is truly exciting. This will make this historical and timeless message accessible to an entirely new generation of readers.”
An artist has yet to be named for the project though candidates are being actively considered.
JOHN LEWIS, is Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District Representative and an American icon widely known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement.
As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.
From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As Chairman, John Lewis became a nationally recognized leader. Lewis was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and at the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.
In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Hosea Williams, another notable Civil Rights leader, and John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since then.
ANDREW AYDIN, an Atlanta native, currently serves in Rep. John Lewis’ Washington, D.C. office handling Telecommunications and Technology policy as well as New Media. Previously, Andrew served as Communications Director and Press Secretary during Rep. Lewis’ 2008 and 2010 re-election campaigns. Andrew is a graduate of the Lovett School in Atlanta and Trinity College in Hartford, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University.
TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS is the literary graphic novel and comics publisher best known for its ability to discover and showcase the vanguard of the comics scene. Founded by Co-Publisher Brett Warnock in 1995, and partnered by Co-Publisher Chris Staros in 1997, Top Shelf has produced over two hundred graphic novels and comics that have helped to revitalize interest in comics as a literary art form. Most notably, Alan Moore’s FROM HELL, LOST GIRLS, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN; Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS; Andy Runton's OWLY; Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele’s THE SURROGATES, Jeff Lemire’s ESSEX COUNTY, and Jeffrey Brown's CLUMSY & UNLIKELY, all of which have garnered critical accolades from the likes of Time Magazine, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, Publishers Weekly , The New Yorker, and the New York Times Book Review.
IN PHOTO (FROM LEFT TO RIGHT):
Chris Staros, Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Saturday, February 5, 2011
LOGAN’S RUN: LAST DAY # 4 (Bluewater Comics, cover date April 2010) Paul J, Salamoff, Writer; Daniel Gete, Penciler; Joseph Baker, Colorist; Johnny Lowe, Letterer. Story – Jason Brock, William F. Nolan, Paul J. Salamoff. Cover by Matt Bellisle
Sadly, this is the last issue of this series to be penciled by Daniel Gete. Unfortunately, Gete will not be finishing out the final two issues of this limited series (More mini-series are still planned). We hope to see more of Daniel Gete’s work in the future. It’s still rather early in his career. In the meantime, rather than turn in a sloppy performance he appears to have cranked it up a notch. This final issue featuring his artwork is a real delight.
The opening two-panel splash page is all art with no captions. The imagery evokes a sinister shark-fin surfacing as the transporter holding Logan and Jessica breaks through the ice in front of a frosty enclave that they hope will turn out to be Sanctuary at last. Instead it’s an ice prison of sorts ironically named Hell. (I promise to skip the freezing jokes.)
When the “warden” lays down the ground rules (“fight or die”), Logan coldly declares he’s abandoning Jessica to her own fate. The look on his face seems grim and determined - - or is it deceptive and calculating? The uncertainty throughout LOGAN’S RUN: LAST DAY regarding Logan’s position is one of the things I like most about this book.
The fight is savage and brutal, revealing more of Logan’s feral inclinations all dramatically depicted in throat-ripping detail by Gete’s panoramic panel art.
Jessica remains a beacon of hope and optimism throughout the issue, later confiding to Logan beside her in bed that “ I knew you weren’t going to let the Warden have me. You’re not as cold hearted as you pretend to be.”, while Logan doesn’t comment and just stares stone-faced at the ceiling.
Before they leave Hell there is a narrow encounter with Box, the human/machine creation obsessed with creating glacial art. It’s a great depiction of this character (the Box in the movie version is best forgotten) and the form is creative, as if a display from The Human Body science exhibit was cross-linked with the Terminator.
As Jessica and Logan disrobe to pose for Box’s sculpture, Jessica asks about the myriad of scars criss-crossing Logan’s body and asks why he didn’t have New You remove them. “They remind me that I’m fallible,” he responds, and almost concludes “that I’m hum - -“ before she cuts his speech off with a quick kiss. Gete shines again in the ensuing fight scenes, even utilizing some diagonal panels most effectively.
A map leads them to what seems the actual location of Sanctuary only to learn that fellow DS Agent Francis has been tracking them and waits there. More surprises ensue as the purposes of both Logan and Francis are stated and seem in contradiction.
LOGAN’S RUN: LAST DAY #5 (Bluewater Comics, May 2010 cover date) Paul J. Salamoff, Writer. Jacob Bear, Penciler and Colorist. Johnny Lowe, Letterer. Cover by Erich Owens.
Jacob Bear does a fine job stepping in for Daniel Gete on artwork this issue. His style is interesting, but different enough from Gete’s to make you notice. No disrespect to Bear but I miss Gete’s touch here, especially on the close-ups. The facial expressions on the characters as visualized by Bear just don’t vary enough. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the neat link between dialogue and body language that was featured in the first four issues. However, it would be a mistake to dismiss this issue. Salamoff’s story really steps it up in this issue and carries the book forward. (Side note: the cartoonish looking cover art this issue could create the wrong impression of the contents: this is a mature title.)
There are so many surprises here including brothers, fathers, and the ancestry of just about everybody involved. The sepia-toned pages of “The Future History” that have been sorely missed these last few issues (rightly so, they would have gotten in the way of the story) are back to explain the origins of this coldly calculated modern society of genetic engineering, cloning, and nanotechnology. Ballard, the master of Sanctuary, has his own plan to change society again - - and it’s equally cold in its own way. Everything comes to a head in the next issue, the conclusion of the first mini-series.
LOGAN”S RUN: LAST DAY has been a great series. Unfortunately, the long delays between issues have seemingly crushed its momentum. I just don’t hear it discussed or mentioned enough in comics circles, and that’s a shame. Hopefully, the upcoming trade paperback of this first series will get it more deserved attention. ( It was one of my Pghhead Picks of 2010).
Friday, February 4, 2011
SCOTT KURTZ TO HOST HARVEY AWARDS
from the official press release . . . . . . . . . .
BALTIMORE, MD (February 3, 2011) -- The Executive Committees of the Harvey Awards and the Baltimore Comic-Con are proud to present the official Nomination Ballot for this year's Harvey Awards. Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry's most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art.
My notes: I’m including this information for those who are interested in seeing what’s on this year’s ballot. You must meet certain qualifications in order to be eligible to vote. See the second following paragraph for voting details.
Ballots can be downloaded from HarveyAwards.org and completed forms can be e-mailed to email@example.com. Ballots are due for submission by Monday, March 28, 2011. In addition to being available on the website, ballots will be sent to all major publishers and distributed at comic conventions.Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators - those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field. The Harvey Awards are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals.
Returning for his third consecutive Harvey Awards, Scott Kurtz will be the Master of Ceremonies for the awards banquet, to be held Saturday, August 20, 2011 as part of the Baltimore Comic-Con.
Scott Kurtz has been creating his own comic strips since he got hooked on Garfield in the 4th grade. In 1998, his comic strip, PvP, debuted on the world wide web (pvponline.com) with 700 daily readers. Over the last 10 years, PvP has grown into a genuine Internet phenomenon, growing in readership to an estimated 150,000 readers per day, a monthly title from Image comics, winning a Harvey Award in 2010 for Best Online Comics Work, and winning the Eisner Award for best digital comic in 2006. Scott co-wrote the book "How To Make Webcomics" and co-founded webcomics.com to help assist others in forging their own creative destinies.
This year's Baltimore Comic-Con will be held August 20-21, 2011. Convention hours are Saturday 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM.
About The Harvey Awards
The Harvey Awards are one of the comic book industry's oldest and most respected awards. With a history of over 20 years, the last 6 in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con, the Harveys recognize outstanding achievements in over 20 categories. They are the only industry awards nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. For more information, please visit www.harveyawards.org
About The Baltimore Comic-Con
The Baltimore Comic-Con is celebrating its 12th year of bringing the comic book industry to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. With a guest list unequaled in the industry, the Baltimore Comic-Con will be held August 20-21, 2011. For more information, please visit www.baltimorecomiccon.com.