Monthly Archives: November 2010

For Sale: The Ruins of Comico

Comico: The Comic Company was something of a publishing force in the comic-book market in the 1980s. Though perhaps little more than footnote in industry history now, it was noteworthy for the talent and properties it fostered. Perhaps best known as the home of the Robotech licence at the time, it was also noteworthy as the original home of Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel, as well as Bill Willingham’s The Elementals. Among its editing talent are two of the most respected figures in comics today: Bob Schreck, formerly of Dark Horse, DC and IDW; and Dark Horse’s Diana Schutz.

I was browsing the original comic art auctions on eBay the other day, and I happened upon an unusual listing dealing specifically with Comico’s history.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 29, 2010

Variant coverBatwoman #0 (DC Comics)
by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder

J.H. Williams III has been wowing comics readers for years with his inventive layouts and haunting, detailed style. Interest in his work spiked last year when he signed on as the regular artist on the Greg Rucka-penned, Batwoman-starring stint on Detective Comics. Here, the artist returns to the character, sharing not only the artistic duties but the writing chores as well. Again, he impresses with his novel layouts, splitting many pages with artist Amy Reeder. Each artist handles a different aspect of the script — Williams illustrates the Batwoman bits, and Reeder the Kate Kane segments — and despite their different styles, the end result is a surprisingly seamless exercise in storytelling.

DC missed a great opportunity to experiment with format. this zero issue contains only 16 pages of new story and art. The rest of the comic is filled out with preview art and a teaser from another Batman family comic. It’s a shame that DC didn’t just publish the 16 pages on their own and price this promotional/introductory issue at $1.99. Others have experimented with the format; Image Comics published Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell and Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s Casanova that way, and they were well received. DC has made an important step away from the $3.99 price point and format. A cheaper, 16-page comic might’ve been another step in the right direction. Oh, and the logo… definitely a misstep as well. 7/10

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Creation Conundrum

The Canadian channel that carries Batman: The Brave and the Bold seems to boast an erratic schedule for the show is far behind when it comes airing newer episodes. As a result, I watch episodes of the show online, as I quite enjoy the campiness and the spotlight on the diverse and weird array of characters in the DC stable. Recently, I was watching an episode in which I had a particular interest: “The Mask of Matches Malone!” The reason I was so interested in this Batman/Birds of Prey episode (which has yet to air in the U.S.) was that it was penned by long-time Birds of Prey comic scribe Gail Simone.

The concept and execution were a lot of fun, and aside from a somewhat forced and pained musical number, I enjoyed it a great deal. But the aspect of the episode that I found most intriguing was a nugget of information that flashed on the screen through the credits:

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Bat in Business

Now that Bruce Wayne has made the full return to active duty in the DC Universe, writer Grant Morrison establishes a new direction, not only for that character but the extended Batman family as a whole, it would seem. This week marked the release of two new #1 issues — a one-shot and the first issue of a new ongoing series — that set the stage for the ambitious alteration to the Batman’s status quo. The changes as outlined in Morrison’s scripts are intriguing, but the artwork on both comics sometimes falls short of the novelty and cleverness of the writing.

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Kitchen Party

The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen
Artist/Commentary: Denis Kitchen
Essays: Neil Gaiman & Charles Brownstein
Editors: John Lind & Diana Schutz
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Price: $34.99 US

Like a lot of comics readers — not all, mind you, but a lot — I discovered the wonder of the medium through the super-hero genre. I remain a fan of both the medium and the genre today (obviously), but as an adult comics reader, I’ve enjoyed discovered different corners of the medium and industry, different applications, different histories. I’ve been aware of Denis Kitchen as a publisher for decades, but I really knew little of the man as an artist. My tastes tend to run a little more mainstream, so I never really happened upon his work before or chose to seek it out. Though this is billed as an art book, it’s really much more. It’s a history of an important and vital aspect of the comics industry from years gone by. While the art featured in this book is reproduced from originals in Kitchen’s own files, just as interesting as the images are Kitchen’s own commentaries on the selected pieces. The ease with which Kitchen moves between different roles in the creative and business processes is impressive, as is his apparent comfort with moving between different sectors of the industry and society. Kitchen somehow manages to embody respectability and rebellion at once, and while he helped to push comics into the future with his underground comics and publishing savvy, he also built bridges with the medium’s past in the form of friendships and partnerships with the men who helped to establish it in the first place.

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A Study in Scarlet

Oeming variantScarlet #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Maleev/Michael Avon Oeming
Editor: Jennifer Grunwald
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Icon imprint
Price: $3.95 US/CAN

I wrote and published a post on this website a couple of years ago posing a question in which I had some interest: Will the Real Brian Bendis Please Stand Up?. In that editorial, I suggested that the Brian Michael Bendis — who’s proven to be such an integral cog in the Marvel machine over the past decade — really wasn’t the same writer who offered up such strong, independent work such as Jinx, Torso and Fortune and Glory.

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Quick Critiques – Nov. 8, 2010

Avengers #6 (Marvel Comics)
by Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer

I have to admit that Marvel has done an excellent job with its Avengers line, even with the recent retooling and relaunching of a number of Avengers-related titles, including this one. It was clear from the start that this Avengers title was meant to harken back to the more cosmic adventures of the team from the 1970s and ’80s, and Bendis succeeded in that regard. While I enjoyed the arc when it began, this concluding chapter proved to be thoroughly frustrating. At times, I had no idea what was going on. I also realized that I had no idea who a featured character — the woman over the future Hulk’s shoulder on the cover — was. What I could piece together is that the arc ended as it began, and nothing really happened in the end. This was a setup for a larger story down the line, it seems, and six issues at $3.99 US a pop seems like a lot for a prologue. I’ve also come to dislike Marvel Boy/Noh-Varr’s role in the story. He’s an easy plot device for a time-travel story, nothing more, and to that end, Bendis transforms him into far too powerful a figure. It’s a shame that in the process, he wasn’t transformed into a more interesting figure. Judging from a single panel in this comic, Bendis has also engineered circumstances that bring Killraven into mainstream Marvel continuity, though I can’t imagine why this was a necessary development.

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Bright Fights, Big City

Superman: Earth One original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Shane Davis
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Barbara Ciardo
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Davis & Hope
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Adam Schlagman
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $19.99 US/$23.99 CAN

I’m back from a much-needed week’s vacation, and while I was away, I brought some graphic novels to read to pass what little down time I had. Superman: Earth One was among them. Despite what anyone says about this book, J. Michael Straczynski can truthfully say that he succeeded in his effort to something new and novel with the Superman mythos. I was surprised by several of the choices he made through the graphic novel. Sometimes, they were pleasant surprises, others not so much. The best thing the writer does for Superman here is that he ditches the selfless boy scout image that’s been such an integral part of the character for decades. But transforming his alien origins into a murder-mystery plot seems like a major misstep. Furthermore, while the creators do deliver a self-contained story in this graphic novel, there are enough plot threads to make it seem as though the next episode is right around the corner, and we don’t even know for sure if there will be a followup.

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Halloweek – The Walking Dead on TV

The Walking Dead television series premiere
“Days Gone By”
Director/writer: Frank Darabont
Actors: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Chandler Riggs, Sarah Wayne Callies, Lennie James & Adrian Kali Turner
Network: AMC TV

Halloweek comes to an end in the early-morning hours of the day after Halloween. The reason: I didn’t have access to this review subject until the end of the day Oct. 31. I’ve been looking forward to the series debut of The Walking Dead more than any other new show to hit the air this fall. In fact, there were surprisingly few new shows that caught my interest this fall season. My interest in this new AMC series stems not from the network’s solid track record with original shows. I don’t watch Mad Men, Breaking Bad or Rubicon despite all of the positive buzz that’s arisen and the awards they’ve earned. The only other original AMC show I tried was the remake of The Prisoner, and I found it dreadfully dull (not that I’m suggesting the cable channel’s other fare is). But The Walking Dead, penned by Robert Kirkman, is one of my favorite ongoing comic titles these days, and I believed it would translate incredibly well to the small screen.

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