27 02 2012
<To my (three) blog-readers. Forgive me for not posting in a while. -cough-cough- Here’s hoping I get back into it. Here’s a fawning letter I just sent to the Hellboy/BPRD editors at Dark Horse, and it rants a bit about the rest of the industry as well.>

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - The Long Death #1 - Click thru to read a preview and see the eyeball!!

Ladies and Gentlemen of Dark Horse,

What did I do to deserve you? No, seriously. BPRD: Hell on Earth-The Long Death #1? James-mother-lovin’-Harren? (“How do I like the artist, huh,” Scott? HOW DO I LOVE HIM, YOU MEAN!!! GEEEZ!) Eyeball-tooth monster in Johann’s suit!?!?!! Freaking blood red wendigo thing ripping the agents to shreds? I am beside myself with joy. Apoplectic. Breathe, Kris, just breathe. MAN! Page 3, panel 2, the gruesome miasma flowing up into Johann’s helmet; I literally grimaced in pain. Turn the page. THAT EYEBALL!!!! I’m looking at it right now and it turns my stomach and quickens my pulse. All this, and then followed with that great line “I was sleeping!” HA! Oh, good it was only a drea– HOLY CRAP A BLOOD WENDIGO IS KILLING EVERYONE!!!! And. It’s. The. Best. Comic. All. Year. So just what did I do to deserve this? Thank you so, so much. (And if I haven’t made it clear, I want James Harren to do every possible issue of BPRD from here on out.)

Having been SOOO let down by the New 52, (tried THIRTY of them, kept one: Wonder Woman.[edit: kept TWO: also Batwoman.]) I’ve been really depressed about the state of the industry, where the big two almost seem to be actively trying to drive floppy periodicals to extinction, if not the entire action-adventure comic medium. Sure DC/Vertigo has Unwritten, (sweet, sweet Unwritten!) and American Vampire and Marvel has Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales Forever!) and Daredevil, (sweet god, Daredevil!!!) but otherwise? Ugh. But then I get to the shop, (Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn,) for the first time in a month and come home with a luscious looking stack, little knowing just how great it is.
–OK, quick sidenote. Dark Horse and IDW know how to do ads. I want to tear every DC and Marvel comic to shreds when my damn story is interrupted every other page by boring full page ads for their own books with SIX-month-old cover images! ARGH! But Dark Horse and it’s brethren compose quality ads highlighting their amazing creators telling me about upcoming books in time to place an order. Their Horsepower columns and the like help me connect with the creators and gain a deeper reading of their comics, (Vertigo often nails this one too,) and it all adds up so that I actually look forward to flipping through the back of the book after reading to see what’s coming next! How do those other boneheads not get this!? —
Sidenote done, but it’s WHY I was looking forward to this stack of comics. I was blown away at the Cloonan/Wood Conan ad a couple months ago and added it to my pulllist immediately. (btw, Dave Stewart’s coloring in that first issue was a masterpiece.) Likewise with the ads for The Strain before that. Also in my stack is Severed 7 and Prophet 22; even Image seems to be enjoying a renaissance of creativity these days. So I guess it’s just superheroes that are dying an ignominious death. That’s sad, and it pains me and makes me worry about comics. But you Dark Horsey folks and your peers really remind me where good comics are at. I checked out your website today, and I LOVE your How a Comic is Made feature and your flipbooks (but fullscreen, please!) and your Zones- you really prove that you’re trying lots of different things and are seeking to engage, cultivate, and GROW your new digital audience, rather than just bilk them for a few bucks. Very impressive.You’re what, 25 years old or so now? You ARE the future of American comics. You’re so many light years ahead of what the competition is doing. Keep it up. It can only get better from here.
(Oh, and that’s two years running for you, by my reckoning anyway: Best Comic Last Year: Hellboy: The Fury #3.)
Thank you.

Chew on this!

25 07 2009

I just put down Chew #1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory and couldn’t get to my keyboard fast enough. This is a comic that needs to be reviewed, NOW!

Tragically, I never picked up Chew when it first came out on June 4, and needed to be tricked into it by Image Comics putting it out in a third printing on the back of Walking Dead #63, one of my regular monthly books. Truth be told, I somehow never found the premise that interesting: the main character is a cop who gets psychic impressions from the food he eats. Big deal. Sounds like just another twist on the quirky television cop show trend, a la Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer or some such other drivel. Well, if you felt this way as well, lemme tell ya, sister! You were dead wrong! And I knew it after only the second page. If this doesn’t hook you, nothing will.

It was the beets that really got me. Well, first it was the “something else entirely” line. It’s timing and the arresting image by Guillory hit me just right. And then the beets made me laugh out loud. So now I knew this book had something going for it- a cool and quirky take on a rather dry genre, with some appropriate leavening humor thrown in. But can it sustain? Well, the next page certainly indicated more of the same. So that was good. Then the book started getting into the plot, slowly revealing the absurd situation that the United States finds itself in, (I’m trying not to give it away here- the reveal is too good to be spoiled by the likes of me,) which adds yet another layer of excellent humor to the book as well as some fine political commentary. Can this book get better? You bet it can! The first issue’s plot ends with our protagonist being forced into an extreme situation- one which gives the premise one final twist and one which made me yell out loud in shock and excitement!

John Layman tells a really well-crafted and balanced story, squeezing quite a lot into just 22 pages. Chew bends the rules in a satisfying way, truly giving the reader something new and rather unlike anything else on the stands. I’ll be anxious to see if he can keep me guessing like this throughout the series. If so, he’s got me hooked. As with the Zombie craze of the past few years, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing quite a few imitators in the months to come. Rob Guillory’s art is the perfect complement to Layman. Guillory has a quirky, humorous style, which is not at all inappropriate for a book with as many good laughs as this one. But this isn’t a humor book- it just needs frequent lightening of the mood, or else it would get too bogged down in what becomes some pretty chilling stuff. I was enjoying his art throughout the first issue, finding him to be incredibly solid in his style and draftsmanship, (perhaps this comes from his background in children’s book illustration?) but I wasn’t getting a strong impression as to his storytelling talents. And then I turned to the book’s double-page spread and was blown away. To be honest, it certainly had a lot to do with Layman’s scripting of the moment, but Guillory did a fine job supporting it. I’d be remiss not to mention Guillory’s self-coloring, except I didn’t really get to see it- the reprint I read was in black and white only. From what I’ve seen however, the coloring is top notch, with really ubiquitous and defining pallette choices. I don’t know much about Guillory, (or Layman, for that matter,) but I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for more of their stuff.

(Oh, one other note about Guillory, and a bit of a side-rant. I noticed several moments in the book with repetitive imagery, the kinds of panels that you too frequently these days see simply photocopied or otherwise artificially duplicated. And yet Guillory never resorted to this sort of cheap cop out. (Aside from the obvious photoshopping of the double-page spread. Except here was an instant where the technology was actually appropriate to the effect.) It just drives me nuts when comic artists photocopy panels over and over again; Mark Bagley did it all the time in Ultimate Spider-Man! “Identical” panels are supposed to represent two separate moments in time, and therefore should be drawn separately as well.)

Chew #1 is available in a third printing, (black and white only,) on the back of Walking Dead #63. The first two color printings are extremely hard to find. Chew #2 is already into it’s second printing as well. I’ve no doubt Image will be collecting the first few issues of this book in a trade, but I strongly urge you to try to find them in the single issue format.

To that end, here’s some exciting news from Guillory’s blog:

“On August 5, the first 3 issues of CHEW will be in stores. This is a PERFECT opportunity for new readers to jump on, and for others to catch up. So again, on that date, we’ll be releasing:

CHEW #1 Third Printing
CHEW #2 Second Printing
CHEW #3 First Printing”

Bon Appetit!

Chew is published by Image Comics.

What the %^&# is up with Marvel covers this month?!

30 04 2009

I don’t know if you noticed, but it seems that most of Marvel’s books this month have a second alternate cover. I’ve been noticing more alternate covers on books in the last year or so and it unnerves me to no end. I hear the publishers’ age-old rationale that they are just offering a choice to the consumer, but I don’t trust it and I’m incredibly nervous of the speculation cycle returning. (But seriously, in this world, NOW, they’re trying this shit?! What kind of morons are they?) Marvel’s covers are very eye-catching, mostly because they don’t look like traditional comic book covers. They exhibit a wide variety of artistic styles and are even billed as something like “alternative art appreciation covers.” Which on the surface seems like a cool idea. Comics are dying to get recognized as a valid art form in this country; what better way than they themselves recognizing other art styles and drawing in new readers. Except it’s all a crock of shit.

The alternate cover of Spider-Man has an image of Wolverine. Not with Spider-Man, just Wolverine by himself.

OK, so maybe Wolvie appears in this issue, and the art appreciation rules are very loose. On the alternate cover of Daredevil is also Wolverine. Wow, Logan’s busy this month. Same with Hulk. And Hercules. And X-Men. In fact, ALL the alternate so-called “art appreciation” covers exhibit Wolverine. Why ever would they do such a thing? CAUSE THEIR DAMN WOLVERINE MOVIE IS OPENING THIS WEEKEND!!! What the hell!?? They’re co-opting art appreciation as a mere marketting gimmick? That is low, man, even for Marvel. It’s bad enough that they’re saturating the stands with tons of new one shot and mini-series Wolverine comics this month. I flipped through several and they’re as lousy as you might expect. Just out to make a quick buck off the poor saps who, inspired by the big Hollywood movie, decide to buy a comic book for the first time in 15 years. And boy, will they be disappointed. Potential new comics readers probably won’t have been this disappointed since they picked up the copy of Spider-Man with Barack Obama on the cover. Ugh. Boy, there’s a surefire way to hang on to new readers. Give them crap. And just to add an extra layer of vile ooze across the whole debacle, the alternate cover versions, (at least at my comic shop,) are $10 a pop. For that price, who can afford to appreciate art!!!? Ah, it’s like 1993 all over again!

OK, I just did some checking, and it seems the covers in question are actually part of a “Wolverine Art Appreciation Month.” And in fact, the images are pretty cool looking. But whatever, it still stinks of cynical marketing tactics rather than just putting out good product. I should also point out that I’m quite anxious to see the Wolverine movie, (I know, I know, it’s real title is X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, or something, but that’s just dumb.) I’ll let you know what I thought of it next time. Till then.. Peace!

Facebook, Facebook, how do I hate thee?

19 04 2009

Let me count the ways: One Two Three Four Five…. well, we could be here all night. Blessedly, John Kovalik, the cartoonist of my FAVORITE dorky comic strip, Dork Tower, summed it up quite nicely: