BARCELONA: PROLOGUE

Barcelona: Prologue

By Joseph Rybandt

So, I get back from C2E2 (ed note: read CWR’s own con report here), tired and still hung over from the previous day’s debauchery to a wonderfully unexpected email from old friend David Macho. David is an artist’s rep/agent that I’ve worked with previously… but this wasn’t an email containing a pitch for work for one of his stable. This was something else entirely.

“As you probably know, I’m the guest manager for Barcelona International Comics Festival. As you possibly know, Barcelona Con is the biggest comic con in Europe, alongside Angouleme, and the fastest growing one, with more than an average of 100,000 people attending every year. The dates of the festival this year would be May 6th to May 9th, 2010. Normally, we bring creators one day before so they can rest from the jet lag and meet with the other guests…”

Now, I did not in fact know that David was the guest manager for the Festival, but what I quickly realized was that he was inviting me. Essentially, “Work schedule would be 11:00 am-2:00 pm portfolio reviews in the morning and 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm afternoon. We’ll set an office for you, and will take care of all the list of people you’d see, since all the pros in Spain receive a mailing been asked which editors are they interested in seeing.”

So yeah, I made a couple of quick phone calls to make sure I could actually do this, reminded myself I did have a passport, and with a metric ton of work drama sorted out, I confirmed my acceptance to David later on that night.

Next morning, I sent a text to good friend and CWR E-I-C Marc Mason, telling him that I’d like to write it all up as a travelogue for him and his fine site (Like I don’t have enough to do…). I suppose if I were more ambitious, I’d go get an HD Flip or something and vidblog the whole thing, but this seems easier, if slightly less exciting. I write better than I talk anyway, trust me, this is better for all (though don’t judge me solely by this, I’m not totally happy with it, but for an intro to this whole thing it works fine).

With ticket in hand, armed with a handful of sedatives and booze for the plane (those things mix, right?), I am away to Spain…

 

7 FROM IMAGE

7 From Image
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Huge stack of graphic novels piled up from the folks in NoCal. Time to take a look at them, yes?

The crowning jewel of the set has to be VIKING VOL.1: THE LONG COLD FIRE from writer Ivan Brandon and artist Nic Klein. The individual issues of this book are printed at golden age size, and accordingly, this magnificent looking hardcover is 13×9. The format allows this brutal tale of Viking brothers on a spree of crime and killing to breathe in ways the smaller page doesn’t, and Klein’s color work leaps off the page and punches you in the face. The story focuses on the eventual clash of three groups of people, including a set of royals, but what you take away from it is the way Brandon keeps the dialogue spare and the pace moving briskly. The storytelling satisfies in ways that too many comics don’t, and the book rewards the reader that takes his time and absorbs what is happening in stead of crashing through the pages. VIKING is one of the most unique books being published; check this out and find out why.

Next in the hardcover department comes SPAWN: ORIGINS COLLECTION VOL.1, which reprints the first twelve issues of the book that allowed Todd McFarlane to build an empire. That said, what you get here is more than a bit of a mixed bag. The earliest issues of this series were rife with artistic “showiness” and not so great on the actual writing and storytelling. Yet McFarlane would address that in issues 8-11 by bringing in Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim, and Frank Miller to handle writing chores. The Sim issue is reprinted for the first time ever in this collection, which should thrill completionists very much. I think fans of the classic material would probably like this very much, but a couple of aspects in the book’s design really baffled me. One, McFarlane’s name isn’t anywhere on the front cover. Regardless of those other four guys, Todd wrote the other eight issues and drew them all as well, and it is his name that will sell the book. Also- Greg Capullo drew the cover! Why reprint this stuff under a cover by someone other than the book’s creator? Curiouser and curiouser.

On the other hand, the most recent trade of the series, SPAWN: ENDGAME VOL.2 is actually pretty solid stuff. McFarlane has grown as a writer, and he handles inks on all of his artists (While Portacio, Greg Capullo, Rob Liefeld, and McFarlane himself) which shows off how far he has come as an artist as well. In an attempt to shake up the proceedings, McFarlane had Al Simmons, the man who has been Spawn since the series began, take his own life at the beginning of this storyline, and has introduced a new Spawn. In return, the book has gained a fresh feel to it as Jim (new guy) attempts to find out who he is, what he has become, and why everyone seems to be out to kill him. Unlike the 90s phenomenon where companies killed off their heroes and had new people step into the role, this doesn’t feel like a desperation move. Instead, I think McFarlane had it right: Simmons had reached a natural end. I realize that he has come back in IMAGE UNITED, and it remains to see how that affects the main Spawn book, but for now, the book has become something surprisingly readable and interesting. Kudos on that.

On the other end of the spectrum we have THE AMORY WARS VOL.2: THE SECOND STAGE TURBINE BLADE. Rocker/writer Claudio Sanchez and artist Gabriel Guzman deliver the second part of Sanchez’ sci-fi saga and well… Look, volume one of this series was completely incomprehensible. I read it twice, and I couldn’t explain it either time. I read this one, and it was almost comprehensible, actually putting together something resembling a coherent plot in the final act. The art is serviceable, but at times it looks like Guzman didn’t quite understand the story, either. Characters are introduced without proper identification or with so much purple prose narration that it’s painful. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. If you’re a fan of Sanchez and his band, Coheed and Cambria, you’ll likely want this and maybe even get it. If you aren’t, save your money.

Also disappointing is POPGUN VOL.4, the latest in Image’s flagship anthology series. Mind you, it isn’t as though the book is bad or anything like that; there is a lot her to admire. Some of these fresh artistic talents are really amazing, and some of the writers show some sparkle and creativity in their stories and dialogue. But what makes an anthology work at the highest level is that is has anchor stories that achieve greatness. Those balance out the duds, even cancel them out, and carry you forward through the page count. But as I read through the 500+ pages of this volume, I was struck at how no story really leapt off the page and reached great heights. One or two pieces are very good; but the rest ranges from “solid” to “okay”, along with the duds. That said, an anthology book is always the most “your mileage may vary” book to review, and what I find flat or mediocre, you may fall in love with. At $30 for 500 pages, I can at least tell you that you’ll get an unusually high level of value for your money here.

Picking up steam, we have JERSEY GODS VOL.2: AND THIS IS HOME from writer Glen Brunswick and artist Dan McDaid. This book got off to a lively start, and its second volume sees no signs of it slowing down. Barock, warrior from Neboron, has agreed to settle down and marry his Earthling girlfriend Zoe, but her expensive tastes force him to take up a new career walking the runway. That’s the sort of thing that makes the God happy when bad guys attack, as he’s far more comfortable busting heads. What makes this book so much fun is the strange way that Brunswick manages to balance the action with the comedy. The stakes are high, and we never back away from that, but the humor in the mundane still plays well. Plus, Zoe is written with just enough Jersey Girl stereotype to make her both adorable and eye-rollable. McDaid’s Kirby-esque art is the icing on the cake, mixing modern storytelling with homage to The King in equal measure. JERSEY GODS is just fun, and comics could use more fun.

Closing it out is GODLAND VOL.5: FAR BEYOND THE BANG by writer Joe Casey and artist Tom Scioli. This is a book I’ve had a complicated relationship with; in the beginning I absolutely loathed it. Casey’s writing came across as pretentious and Scioli’s art was so lifted from Kirby that it felt like grave robbing. But as the book passed its first year, something happened: both creators began straightening themselves out. The level of insane creativity coming from Casey felt like exactly that, and not like something he dreamed up while dropping acid. Then Scioli’s work began to develop a bit and the book looked more interesting, more vital. Now as we approach the end of the series, I regard GODLAND as a true pleasure. This latest volume sees Adam on his deep space mission to find his sister Neela, and as he travels he continues to meet more fantastically strange beings with their own levels of cosmic awareness and power. In the meantime, the supervillain he left behind and a new alien threat to Earth are both laying waste to his homeworld. To try and explain more would be pointless, so I’ll just say: this is great stuff. Casey challenges the reader to keep up with him as he produces more wild ideas in an issue than most writers do in a year, and Scioli keeps up with him nicely. This is also one of the few books doing cosmic in any way these days, making it even more of a precious gem. Can’t wait to see how it all ends.

IRREDEEMABLE/INCORRUPTIBLE

IRREDEEMABLE #12
Written by Mark Waid, Illustrated by Peter Krause
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Admittedly I felt IRREDEEMABLE was starting to slow down somewhat in terms of plot development, but damn if this issue isn’t completely on its game. Waid and Krause have put together an incredible one year anniversary issue by sampling a bit of everything in terms of story-telling and artistic layout.

Opening with a shiny bit of action the dialogue keeps rolling as Bette’s secret is revealed to her teammates. Orion delivers both as a worthy enemy and the much-needed dark comedic relief, particularly when the script becomes a touch too dramatic. Though his story takes the background in this issue, the Plutonian continues to be one of the most frightening comic book characters ever created given his unpredictability and desperation. Two unexpected cliff-hangers round the book out nicely, keeping readers completely in the dark as to the fate of the heroes. Krause offers readers exciting battle sequences as well as an excellent two-page spread. Though a year old, this issue proves IRREDEEMABLE is just getting started.

IRREDEEMABLE Special #1
Written by Mark Waid, Illustrated by Paul Azaceta, Emma Rios, and Howard Chaykin
Published by BOOM! Studios

In the first one-shot since the book debuted, the IRREDEEMABLE special is comprised of three short stories delving into the background of several characters from the Sky City universe. While each is a tale set in the past, two out of three give a tantalizing bit of extra insight into what could possibly come in the future of IRREDEEMABLE, and each are as exciting to read as the title books.

Quite possibly the most intriguing tale in the special is the first one which stars a superhero who died in the introductory issue of IRREDEEMABLE. The Hornet and his family were roasted by the Plutonian in one of the scariest opening sequences in a comic book series, and this short story offers more understanding as to why the Plutonian went for him first. The second reveals more of the mystery surrounding Keiko, also known as Kaidan, in particular the origin of her powers and the purity of her soul. The final tale is that of Max Damage and Jailbait and their explosive first adventure, giving the special a dash of lighthearted humor.

Each artist was well-matched for their chosen story. Azaceta’s art has a darker, edgier feel to it, ideal for a glimpse into a dead man’s past. Rios has a touch of Manga in her pencils, perfectly suited for a story surrounding an Asian woman who can wield ghost stories like a weapon. Chaykin’s art is like Max and Jailbait: sketchy and fast-paced. An excellent collection and a must-read for any fan of the IRRDEEMABLE and INCORRUPTIBLE series.

INCORRUPTIBLE #4
Written by Mark Waid, Illustrated by Jean Diaz
Published by BOOM! Studios

The fourth issue of INCORRUPTIBLE begins to delve into the mind and reasoning behind Max Damage and his decision to go straight right after the Plutonian went psycho. Max was there at ground zero ready to do his own version of mass murder when the world’s greatest hero descended upon Sky City and began roasting its inhabitants alive.

Quite frankly, there should have more gory details on what exactly happened that day. Readers already had a general idea of what went on the day the Plutonian snapped, but more specifics on what exactly Max witnessed the Plutonian doing to the innocent people of Sky City would help in understanding how a stone-cold bad-ass like Max Damage could do such a dramatic switch that he won’t touch his underage sidekick or even a drop of alcohol. If people are reading this book, they can handle the more graphic elements, so pile it on. The action and particularly the ending really made this issue, leaving the story open-ended for hell hath no fury as a teenage woman scorned. Several mysteries have been created in the last few issues while the story has kept up a fast pace, giving INCORRUPTIBLE plenty of momentum to carry it on through the next several issues.

ROGUE ELEMENT 51

ROGUE ELEMENT #51: Why C2E2 Rocked My World

By Avril Brown

You know when you are really looking forward to something and despite your loftiest expectations it still turns out to be better than you expected? Personally this scenario does not happen to me very often due to my attempt to keep my expectations for anything as un-lofty as possible, but I broke that tradition and was rewarded with an amazing weekend, courtesy of the first annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo hosted at the McCormick Place in Chicago, Il. This congregation of comic book companies, professionals and fans evolved into a magnificent miasma of social events and nerdy networking, leaving a smile on my face, an ache in my liver and my head filled with exciting ideas and the motivation to see them brought to life.

The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo is certainly not the first Comic Con to grace the Windy City. Wizard World Comic Convention has been rolling for years and used to be one of the largest annual gathering of nerds outside of San Diego. However a recent article in the Chicago Tribune quoted several comic professionals in the area, including Patrick Brower, the owner of Challenger’s Comics + Conversations, who stated that Wizard World Comic Convention (which moved the original Chicago Con in the ‘90s out to Rosemont aka The ‘Socially Dead’ Sticks) has not felt like a comic convention in a long time. Although my very first comic convention was a WWCC only a few years ago and I had an amazing time, I have to agree that last year was pretty much a bust. First off, Rosemont is a cramped incubator of a convention center, a long-standing complaint of exhibitors, professionals and patrons alike. In addition, Marvel and DC Comics did not attend which left a gaping void in the gathering which was impossible to ignore. The Big Two are by no means representative of the entirety of what comics have to offer, but they are the two largest comic companies in the world, producing dozens of titles which have lasted, and been loved, for decades. Without them, an incredibly large chunk of the non-local comic crew did not make the trip out, despite the Rosemont’s convenient (for out of towners, at least) proximity to O’Hare International Airport.

Enter C2E2 and the resurrection of the Cool Chicago Comic Convention which has saved my fair city from being black-balled by die-hard comics fans and professionals. As with any great gathering, a key ingredient is a point real estate agents have been harping on for years: Location, location, location! The McCormick Place is an architecturally aesthetic building which sits right next to Lake Michigan and just south of downtown Chicago, giving a stunning view of the city and the beautiful blue of our Great Lake. Although some of the building’s internal signage needs a massive overhaul (the Place is a bit of a maze) there is plenty of room to host a fledging comic convention and C2E2 took advantage of that fact. Artist’s Alley was spacious, well-lit (windows! Lots and lots of windows!) and ventilated giving everyone a chance to breathe deeply and not choke on the scent of unwashed nerd.

For a brand new convention, the brains and money behind C2E2 seemed to get a lot of things right, including offering a diverse array of panels and pros to pick and choose from. Neil Gaiman, known to many as one of the premier minds in the fantasy and fiction genre, hopped the pond and gave a two hour lecture in which tickets which were offered to Con attendees and ‘norms’ alike. BBC America had a screening of the first two episodes of the fifth season of ‘Doctor Who.’ The cast of the latest comic-turned-major-motion-picture ‘Kick-Ass’ turned out for a pre-screen premiere of the film based upon a Mark Millar comic book. Writers, artists and editors from many popular books sat in on panel after panel which included adapting comics to film, women in comics and how to be a successful retailer, patiently answering questions and offering insight into their particular field. Luckily I have captured some of their wise words:

“I think [all mythology] should be violated.” – Gail Simone, writer of ‘Wonder Woman,’ during the Comics and Mythology panel.
“Even the guys on the panel were looking at me like I farted in a synagogue.” – Peter David, writer of ‘X-Factor’ on people’s reactions to his insistence on waiting to see the first ‘Batman’ movie before judging whether or not it was going to suck.
“Once I started doing what I love instead of what I thought I should be doing, everything else just fell into place.” – Marjorie Liu, writer of ‘Dark Wolverine’ on switching careers from lawyer to professional writer.
“I got a lot of ideas shoveling horseshit; God’s honest truth.” – Ron Marz, writer of ‘Witchblade’ on how he comes up with new story ideas.
“I just want Magneto to wake up from his coma and kill a lot of people!” – an enthusiastic and well-received boy at the Marvel: X-Men panel inquiring about the future of the currently comatose Master of Magnetism.

Despite a popular and often true stereotype, women are not the only gender who enjoy a good shopping spree, and that is never more apparent than at a comic convention. People will throw down hundreds, even thousands, of hard earned dollars at booths in attempt to complete their collection. Some retailers will not accept credit cards in attempt to avoid patrons who overspend then renege on the bill (thank Jebus for that otherwise I would’ve been financially screwed). One of my favorite parts about shopping at a Con happens while rifling through half-off trade paperbacks: We all begin chatting with each other, asking our neighbors to keep an eye out for what we are searching for. We’re all in this together, and if one person finds a coveted book before another there is no arguing or resentment, simply a wistful sigh and a smiling reminder that if they change their mind, they know who to flag down. Comics are not the only fodder for sale, either. Movies, swords, toys and clothing are all for sale at Cons and are all snapped up with near equal intensity. I walked away from this Con with several trades, a bag of tea named after a ‘Firefly’ character, a TARDIS pin from the Doctor Who shop, a DVD collection of the ‘Gargoyles’ cartoon (you know you’re jealous) and a corset. That’s right, a corset. Admittedly it will take a bit of time for me to get used to an article of clothing which could crack my sternum if I laugh too hard, but hey, the Girls and I looked hot.

One of the best parts of the whirlwind that was C2E2 were the people. Anyone who thinks nerds are incapable of partying has never met my nerdy friends. From hanging in Artist’s Alley with some of my favorite talents, to walking the aisles with old buds, to chatting up the new ones, I was pretty much in a perpetual state of social giddiness. We talked comics, we laughed at jokes, we geeked out over, well, everything, and we essentially had a blast. I wasn’t the only one sporting a silly grin; the energy suffusing this weekend was something to behold. Everyone seemed happy. Veterans and newbies alike were wandering around with wonder and joy in their eyes, soaking up the atmosphere and cheerfully chatting with friends and strangers alike. I have yet to attend a Con where people on the whole were surly, but at C2E2 it seemed like damn near every person was making a point to initiate conversations with new people, eager to share stories, passions and recent acquisitions.

Thank you C2E2, for giving me and all of us other nerds something to sing about this weekend. Thank you weather gods for the beautiful, if somewhat nippy, climate we enjoyed. Thank you Chicago for once again raising the bar of Chicago Comic Conventions. And thanks to some of the best damn people I have ever met for making this a weekend I’ll never forget, and for giving me confidence in myself and what I am capable of creating.

 

BATTLEFIELDS, GREEN HORNET

GREEN HORNET/BATTLEFIELDS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Some terrific new stuff from Dynamite…

BATTLEFIELDS #4 is written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Carlos Ezquerra, and represents the first issue in the second arc of this new volume of BATTLEFIELDS. It’s also the first sequel, following up on “Tankies”, the closing story from volume one. This time around, we find the Tankies crew trudging through western Germany in early 1945 and facing off against a new enemy tank that is making mincemeat of the Allies’ own ground forces. At first I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see the Tankies return; their arc was easily the weakest of the initial three, but Ennis takes immediate steps here to rectify that. The humor is more subdued, the danger is heightened, and the story is clearer at the outset. Ezquerra’s work is top-notch as well, and some of the subtler things you’d have wanted to see in the first story are done well here. In particular, facial expressions are much improved. In short, volume two of this series is shaping up to be just as good as volume one.

How do you know a comic is going to be good? When you see the name of writer Matt Wagner on the cover. Along with artist Aaron Campbell, he’s writing GREEN HORNET: YEAR ONE, and it’s everything you’d expect from the man that has made ZORRO a must-read. Wagner tells his story across a number of years, beginning in 1921 and bouncing back and forth between ’26, ’31, and ’38. Along the way, we meet both the Hornet in his civilian life (Britt Reid) and Kato as a young man as well. Each man faces a series of choices in his youth that paves a road for him to follow that will lead to wearing the “costumes” and fighting the mob in an attempt to bring justice and order to Chicago. Wagner’s script is terrific, and Campbell’s art is moody and evocative. He also gets some sweet color work from Francesco Francavilla that makes the pages sing.

Not to be outdone, issues #1-2 of the regular GREEN HORNET title have rolled across my desk as well, and I was genuinely surprised at how much I liked them. Comics aficionados know that this series is adapted from writer Kevin Smith’s unused screenplay for GREEN HORNET, and he’s aided artistically by breakdowns from the great Phil Hester and full art from Dynamite stalwart Jonathan Lau. Smith’s modern take on the Hornet legend is well-conceived, as we meet an aging Britt Reid that’s long retired. However, his son is classic directionless slacker, just the kind of kid that winds up with an origin story. There’s political intrigue, action, solid dialogue… I was in to it. I realize that my take on the book could be a bit suspicious, having written for Smith’s online empire for three years (I miss the PoopShoot on occasion- it was fun), but I haven’t always enjoyed his comics work (don’t get me started on SPIDER-MAN/BLACK CAT). But we’re two issues in here, I feel the book working. I’m onboard.

(FORTY-FIVE) 45

FORTY-FIVE
Written by Andi Ewington and Drawn by Various
Published by Com.X

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Journalist James Stanley is about to be a first time father. Like most in that situation, he’s nervous, wondering what kind of parent he’ll be, what kind of world his child will be born into. But he also must face another fear: that his child will be born with the Super-S gene, resulting in it having metahuman powers. But like any writer worth his salt, he won’t face that future unarmed and without information, so he sets off on an odyssey to interview forty-five different super-powered people and/or their parents, hoping he can prepare himself for any eventuality. What he learns is far more than he could have ever bargained for.

FORTY-FIVE is one of the more clever books I’ve seen recently. It barely qualifies as a graphic novel, really; the book’s format is primarily comprised of text interviews written by Ewington detailing James Stanley’s work. Each interview is accompanied by a one-page piece by a different artist, and the list of artists is full of A-list talent: Charlie Adlard, Dan Brereton, Gary Erskine, Frazer Irving, Jock, Liam Sharp, and Jock are just a few of the names whose work appears here. Their material sets the mood for the text piece, and most are incredibly effective at doing so.

The stories range from comic to tragic. One story about a speedster’s child being born to a normal wife and suffering a horrible fate really got to me, and it’s moments like that when you know the book is working; Ewington is able to evoke an emotional reaction in the reader, and that matters.

This book won’t be for everybody; those without patience would be best off avoiding it. But for those that stick with it, I think it rewards.

MANGA FOR BEGINNERS: CHIBIS

MANGA FOR THE BEGINNERS: CHIBIS
Written and Drawn by Christopher Hart
Published by Watson-Guptill

Reviewed by Marc Mason

More than traditional American comics, manga relies on artistic effect for emotion and action. Superman may grimace as he punches Darkseid, or Captain Marvel may grin widely as he subdues Dr. Sivana, but their bodies remain standard in their proportions. But in a manga, that would likely be different. Their heads might grow, or fists might swell in outsized fashion. Bodily proportions might shift in a bizarre manner. This type of character in a manga is called a chibi- large heads, massively expressive eyes, highly stylized. They work to make a moment… well, cuter.

And they take more effort than you might think to draw.

MANGA FOR BEGINNERS: CHIBIS takes you inside the process of drawing perfect chibis, whether they’re people, animals, places or any other number of concepts that might be a part of your story. This book also includes instruction on how to perfect the “movement” of these characters in-panel.

I’ve read a few of Hart’s books at this point, and while this one is solidly put together, it is a bit workmanlike in comparison to much of his other work. While the material here could very much be helpful and useful to a beginner artist, what you don’t find here is much in the way of enthusiasm or excitement for the subject matter. I didn’t get the sense of interest in this book that I felt from Hart in some of the others. CHIBIS feels… perfunctory.

As I said, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be useful or helpful. But it definitely lacks some of the polish and energy of other books like this that I’ve reviewed, and that prevents me from being able to fully endorse it.

OMNIUM GATHERUM 55

Omnium Gatherum #55

By Vincent S. Moore

Day 2 at Wonder Con, part 2: 20 Years of Hip Hop in Comic Books Panel

I decided to continue my adventures in panel attending with a triple header on Saturday, Day 2 of Wonder Con.

First up was the Hip Hop and Comics Panel, which was to celebrate twenty years of the mixing of the two art forms. Of course this was the first I had heard of such a thing. Then again I have been told by my friends that I’m very ignorant of a number of cultural artifacts.

So I made my way to the panel room, only to find that what I thought was supposed to start at 11:30 am had somehow started some time before my arrival at 11:25. I’m still not sure what to think of this turn of events. In the back of my mind was my review of the Black Panel 2009. I worried about writing another cutting take on a bad mixture of black culture and the comics medium that I love. I worried as I sat down.

I shouldn’t have worried. This panel wasn’t anything like that one.

But I did have my doubts. And, as this column will point out, there were moments where hip hop and reality diverged.

As I moved towards my seat, the moderator Age Scott –- creator of Won and Phil and Super Hood — flagged me down to hand me a copy of his latest book Super Hood as well as one for the con staff member at the back of the room. Making my deliver, I found my seat. On the projector screen there played what I learned as pieces of a documentary by panelist Mike Hampton –- creator of Captain Asshole and Hot Zombie Chicks — on his adventures in hip hop and producing comics. The documentary featured footage from a previous Wonder Con, I couldn’t tell which one and I didn’t attempt to ask.

The documentary clips ended and Age Scott started the formal part of the panel.

I looked around the room to see what sort of crowd had shown up. It was a small but mixed crowd sat in the medium sized conference room. The panel attendees ranged from hip hop heads to punkers, from geeks to girls.

Age Scott said he wanted to do this panel to recognize the mix of hip hop and comics.

With that, Mr. Scott introduced the main participant at the panel Mike Hampton. Mr. Hampton, according to Age Scott, started with hip hop music and drifted into producing comics. Hampton spoke up to say that his current books aren’t as hip hop as they used to be, but he still uses the do-it-yourself flavor of hip hop in making his comics.

Keith Knight, creator and cartoonist of The K Chronicles and Knight Life, arrived late to the panel, as befit one of the aspects of hip hop and this panel.

This arrival allowed Age Scott to ask for a moment of silence for the passing of comics great Dick Giordano. However, with the relentless thrum of the hip hop music playing over the sound system, I found it hard to feel the moment completely.

After this, Age Scott gave a brief history of the term hip hop and how in the time since it was coined, the influence of the music and culture has spread around the world and back again, changing the face of popular culture forever. As he put it, who knew that hip hop would still be around 30 years later.

Mr. Scott continued, saying that hip hop is an attitude, particularly one of doing it oneself and working in what he called The Dungeon (not being familiar, I took this to mean one’s basement or any creative space one forges) where one creates the work before the money comes. He added that everyone potentially is hip hop if they are doing it for themselves.

With this, Scott turned to Mike Hampton to ask how does he keep going?

Mr. Hampton stated that he has a 9 to 5 job and keeps working until his comics can pay their own way and support him. He mentioned that he started out doing cartoons for Hood magazine, a hip hop version of Mad. Now his current work features zombies.

Age Scott interjected at this point by saying he and Hampton sell their books everywhere they can. Then he asked the question, can hip hop and its attitudes go hand in hand with comics creating?

Keith Knight tackled this question, saying that it is possible. He used his past with performing music in a band as an example. According to Knight, everything he learned about music could be applied to comics. He continued by saying what happened to the music industry 10 years ago with the rise of music sharing programs and the impact of the internet on music is what is happening to comics today. Knight mentioned a recent interview with a television station where he said it is easier now to get into comics. From there he pointed out that he’s been doing The K Chronicles for 18 years and he has learned and is learning from old timers and the youngbloods at the same time. Knight’s final point was that over time the major publishers have come along, interested in his work and he’s had to learn to balance between being a true independent and working with the majors.

Age Scott interjected again at this point to note that Knight hasn’t completely broken out into mainstream success and notoriety yet, the same for Mike Hampton, but such success is coming along and it depends on what one considers success. Then Mr. Scott gave big props to the spirit of hip hop innovation and opened up the floor to questions.

The first questioner asked if it was possible for hip hop comics to have the same impact as more serious hip hop songs have done.

Keith Knight pointed out “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was the first serious hip hop song, which is similar to the impact he has when he does a serious topic in his usually funny strip. He talked about the recent controversy one of his strips caused when he used a lynching joke as a way of pointing out the hypocrisy that occurs when some whites accuse blacks and other minorities of using the race card in some circumstances. Knight added that the great thing about the web is the immediate feedback he gets.

Age Scott interjected to offer big props to The Boondocks. Then he turned the topic of working out the ethics of hip hop and comics. He asked the panel what it takes to do their work.

Mr. Scott spoke for himself by saying his TV has to be gone.

Mr. Knight said he needs an editor to help keep him on track. He currently does a daily strip and 2 weekly strips. He added he would get fined if and when a daily is late, standard industry practice. Mainly, his approach involves breaking the task of producing strips down into manageable chunks. Knight figures that everyone can do a gag a day, which is what is needed to create a daily comic. He continued to say that the better any comics creator does it betters everyone’s situation. That’s why Knight goes to see even the crappy comics book movies so Hollywood won’t stop making films based on comics.

Mr. Hampton said having a day job can make one uninspired if one lets it. He finds working with other artists inspires him. So does going to comics conventions.

Age Scott interjected to say what these creators are doing is the new wave of comics. Then he attempted to open up for more questions. But he had to say that he is afraid to lose his spot in comics, his position, and that’s why he keeps going. To him, the panel itself was big in terms of receiving love from the people who run Wonder Con.

The next question was how does one bring hip hop comics to the masses, the mainstream?

Age Scott pointed out the influence of hip hop on culture as a whole is here already.

The questioner followed up by wondering when will there be more black culture and hip hop in mainstream comics, like Superman.

Age Scott interjected to say hip hop is not merely black culture, that it is urban culture and transcends race. He then mentioned his own book Super Hood. The basic premise of the title is what if one gains super powers but without all of the typical trappings and resources associated with superheroes. Scott mentioned both the X-Men and Kick-Ass, because even in Kick-Ass the kids have access to some resources. The characters in his book don’t and have to make do with what they have. Very hip hop influenced indeed.

Keith Knight said he is disappointed every time black characters show up in superhero comics, because the stereotypical characterizations show it is old white guys going their usual thing. What he would like to see from the Big Two is more black cartoonists doing anthologies like Strange Tales and Girl Comics; to bring the vision of the independent black creators to the heroes they grew up with. Then Knight returned to Scott’s earlier point about none of the panelists being where they want to be in comics, saying they may not be where they want to be but that simmering below the surface may be the best place to be. That it is better than being on top and then falling. Knight concluded by using They Might Be Giants as an example of what he meant. That the band has a huge following amongst adults and children alike even though they are not well known in the mainstream. That kind of solid and profitable success is where Knight would like to be.

The next question wondered what was the difference between being independent and working for a corporation.

Again, Keith Knight tackled this one by saying he currently balances between doing a syndicated daily and doing two alternative weekly strips. He is freer with the alternative strips but he likes the challenge of being clean and not blue in his daily. For example, he recently did a parody sequence of the infamous Danish Muslim cartoons featuring Kevin Smith that saw print the week of Wonder Con, the punchline being the person who would bring in the severed drawing hand of Knight would win entry into paradise and 72 virgins by earning a ticket to Comic-Con International. Knight tries to slip in hip hop references into his work, to produce laughs and knowing nods from the rap cognoscenti. He said he can work both ways, independent and corporate. For example, he recently signed a 2 book deal with a big publisher the proceeds of which has helped him to make a living in this economy but he still hustles. To Knight, it is important for independent cartoonists to think beyond the comics conventions, to find their niche and exploit it. Like going after arts grants. Knight has done so in the past and he wants to do a comic on financial literacy. The idea for him is to think outside the comics bin.

For Mike Hampton, there is a price to be paid for working with the major companies. That there is a curse for being on a major label. Being independent means no censorship.

Age Scott interjected saying there are no limits in being independent. Then he gave props to his colorist and tech guy Jesse who is a painter and has been working with Scott for 10 years on comics.

With that, a few more hip hop trivia questions were asked and answered, with free comics being handed out for correct answers.

Some final words were said and the panel ended early.

 

OMNIUM GATHERUM 54

Omnium Gatherum #54

By Vincent S. Moore

Day 2 at Wonder Con, part 1

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It can often feel like one is doing the same thing over and over again when one is attending and/or working at a comics convention.

To say this about the second day of Wonder Con 2010, however, would be to belittle it or to ignore the endless variety of people and events that can happen at a show.

For me, the second day began early with a hearty breakfast and a quick run to the Moscone Center to set up early ahead of the rushing crowds. At The Antidote Trust table, the set up was very simple. And since I didn’t arrive early enough to beat the crowds entirely, there was no time to walk the floor.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the show’s opening, I was glad to not be on the floor at all.

The second day of Wonder Con 2010 was packed to near San Diego levels.

This was good for some but not all of those companies and individuals looking to sell their wares.

This was also good for the convention officials putting on the show.

But it wasn’t very good for everybody as it was a little harder to get folks to stop at our booth to look at our products.

I would imagine this feeling was shared by a few of the folks trying to catch the attention of the many attendees on Saturday.

I’m not complaining, mind you, but I found myself wishing for a crowd more like Friday’s that wanted to stop and chat a bit before moving on. The hustle and bustle of the crowds both added and subtracted energy from the room. Such is the situation in the comics industry nowadays. Everyone is interested in all things comics and pop culture, from Hollywood to Wall Street to Main Street USA. The latest movies entertaining the masses come from genre novels and superhero comics. This means that everyone is paying attention to what happens and comes out of comics conventions in order to find the next big thing or to promote the new hotness in film and TV and books.

This means that ever larger crowds are going to be a permanent part of attending to comics conventions.

It is still difficult to see exactly how this increased attention is going to translate directly into the growth of the comics industry as a whole. There is some growth happening. But not all boats are rising at the same time with the flood of new folks coming into comics shops and conventions.

In the meantime, every company large and small has to make every attempt they can at growing with the rising tide.

So companies were pushing their product to passing masses as best as possible.

Naturally some companies found it easier than others.

Such as IDW using the announcement of the True Blood comic to have lovely young ladies handing out samples of the True Blood drink.

Or the very cool Scott Pilgrim t-shirts Oni Press carried. I didn’t make it more than the first 20 pages into the first trade and I still wanted one of those shirts. It didn’t help that I was staring at them from The Antidote Trust booth the whole weekend.

Or watching the vast numbers of people stop at the Image booth.

All of those bigger name companies had an easier time than some of the smaller booths on Saturday.

Not to say that everything was doom and gloom.

My best memory of Saturday was selling at set of Return Of The Super Pimps (go to Dial C For Comics for details on this fun series) to British talk show host Jonathan Ross. This was a great crossing of media and celebrity as far as I was concerned.

I did break up the day with two panels that I will feature in their own columns later. Once I finish processing what I experienced. Once you folks read about these panels, you’ll know what my meaning is.

In time, Saturday came to an end. Day 2 found its place in the history books. And I left the Moscone Center for a nice Chinese food dinner with friends and loved ones.

In the back of my mind were thoughts of Day 3 and the end of Wonder Con 2010. What would the last day bring?

That’s all for now, folks.

Namaste.

 

ROGUE ELEMENT 50

ROGUE ELEMENT #50: Why I Collect Comics

By Avril Brown

To understand why one is a comic book collector, one must first be familiar with the several types of comic book readers who exist in this colorful world, for not everyone who reads collects, and not everyone who collects reads (though this is rare). There are ‘browsers’: those who enter a shop with no specific book in mind opting instead to browse the shelves, flip through a couple and occasionally purchase the ones that caught their eye that particular day. There are ‘non-collecting readers’: people who keep up with certain books here and there but will drop out of the comic world from time to time, make no attempt to catch up on what they’ve missed and do not retain what they already have, re-selling them at shops, garage sales, letting them gather dust and water damage or giving the books away. Then there are the ‘avid readers/collectors’ (I personally fall into this category): someone who receives a certain number of titles every week and holds onto nearly every book ever purchased. My category, however, is by no means the top caste of collectors. The ‘hardcore, deep pocketed or I-don’t-have-a-budget-when-it-comes-to-nerdy-stuff comic book collectors’ take the top honor as readers who will throw down hundreds of dollars every month at their local shop, collecting dozens of titles along with their variant covers, re-prints and spin-offs. Of course there are ‘in-betweeners’: people who do not completely fit into the above classifications, such as a reader who waits until graphic novels of a particular book are released before purchasing (definitely cheaper than buying the individual issues), or those who occasionally have to quit collecting due to varying reasons but return with their wallet and a vengeance as soon as the opportunity arises.

Being an ‘avid reader/collector’ and a patron of one of the coolest shops in Chicago, Evil Squirrel Comics, means every week my books are pulled for me and set aside for up to a month for me to stop by and pay for them. Therefore I do not have to rush over to my shop every Wednesday to ensure I always receive the titles I want. Typically I cannot wait more than two, three weeks max before a mental cold sweat descends upon my brain, flashing images of superheroes in spandex saving the world or badass British warlocks turning people inside out, thus demanding I zip on down to my shop and collect my comic fix before I snap.

Some people can understand the attraction to comics and some can even comprehend how addictive they can be, but there are many who are unclear on the concept of collecting. Let the tutorial begin.

Investment – The value of comic books, like every other product, has changed over the years. Comic books purchased for fifty cents twenty years ago may be worth at least fifty times that amount today…or they could still be worth fifty cents, depending on the quality and content of the book. Usually the first issue of what turns out to be a landmark series is worth a pretty penny, but with so many titles out and so many re-prints of those titles available, more recent introductory issues are not a hot commodity. Personally,\ I do not often think about the long-term investment of comic collecting, but rather the short-term. It is nearly impossible to re-sell a comic book for the amount you purchased it, let alone for a profit, so you cannot simply buy a book, read it a few times and sell it a month later for the same $2.99 you paid for it. Thus you will have no money AND no book, neither which appeals to me (especially the later). Yet you never know what could eventually rise exponentially in value, therefore I keep almost every book I buy wrapped in its plastic sheath, supported by its solid board backing and nestled in a long or short box away from a heat or water source. However I’m also a bit of a pack rat, so there is little doubt this behavioral trait influences my decision to hold onto books I don’t particularly like and probably will never be worth any money.

Education – Though being unmarried, nearly broke and occasionally irresponsible all translate to ‘no babies,’ I have not ruled out the idea of someday being a mother, and like any good matriarch I would like to educate my future progeny. Comics are an excellent way to teach children about art, writing, friendship, love, responsibility and so much more. Naturally there are limits and one must use common sense (such as keeping books about badass British warlocks who turn people inside out away from the eyes of a six year old) but there is a great deal kids can take away from comics, and that includes good old-fashioned fun and parent/child bonding. I once read a children’s version of the Bible complete with lots of pretty pictures, and though I never jumped on the organized religion bandwagon I enjoyed the resulting conversations I had with my dad (the only one in my immediate family familiar with the Bible) about what I was reading. Someday I can read these comics along with my children, letting them enjoy the books for the pretty pictures or the invincible heroes but eventually enlightening them to the deeper meanings and subtle references I had to find on my own.

Fun – I buy comic books because I have fun when I read them. The story, the art and the layout is different for each and every book and I enjoy the surprises which await between the pages. I collect comic books because even after several readings, I still find them fun. Some books are at best mildly entertaining, some are better than average and some are stories for the ages, eternal in their ability to make me laugh, cry or simply render me speechless. These are the ones I keep near me so I may peruse them at any time, but unfortunately my collection has not been a cohesive whole for nearly ten years. About half of my books still reside at my parents house, and as my mother recently and cheerfully reminded me, that will not be the case forever. I long for my collection to be reunited, but as I live in a not-so-large studio apartment practicality dictates that the two halves remain apart. Thankfully I live only a forty minute El ride away from any book I have ever collected, should the need arise.

Memories – I remember my first comic book. X-Men #81, purchased at the Walgreens six blocks or so from my house in November of 1998. During my first reading I was caught up in the spectacular artwork and the tangible tension between my two favorite characters, Rogue and Gambit, the entire time fighting to keep my eyes on the page in front of me and not skip ahead to see what would happen. When I finished it I knew my life had just changed: I was now, and likely forever more, a comic book fan. Alas I cannot recall where I was and how I felt for every single issue I have purchased, but there are more than enough memories associated with the books I’ve collected over the years for me to want to keep them close.

There are undoubtedly many other reasons why people collect comics, for comics mean something uniquely special to each reader. We all enjoy reading comics, but how we started reading, why we continue to, our tastes and preferences and how we continue to evolve as comic book fans varies for every single one of us. Therefore we flock to Comic Conventions not only to expand our collection of books, but to also find other people to add to our collection of comic book friends, there to lend an ear to our tales and share their own in turn.