AISLE SEAT 2.0.79: BEST OF SDCC 2013 – THE GODZILLA ENCOUNTER
By Marc Mason
Flashback to 1998. My excitement was at an all-time high, because the guys behind INDEPENDENCE DAY had been granted the rights to make an American GODZILLA movie. I am close to being an obsessive when it comes to the subject of the big guy, so I was damn near hyperventilating by the time the film was to be released. I bought a ticket to midnight screening at a theatre a couple of miles from my house, and I had no transportation but my feet. That didn’t stop me; it was Godzilla, it would be worth it. The film was a long one, and I had to work in the morning. Didn’t matter; it was Godzilla, it would be worth it. I’d still get three or four hours of sleep before getting up for work, and I was 28. No big deal.
The lights went down. The screen lit up.
Two and a half hours later, if I’d had a flamethrower, I’d have burned the entire building to the ground.
After watching the adventures of GINO (Godzilla in Name Only), I was filled with nerdy despair. Thankfully, Toho went back to doing what they do so well and put out the Millennium series of the big G’s flicks, and they were amazingly fun. But I felt so burned by that midnight screening that I waited fourteen years to go to another one. I turned down multiple opportunities to go, but I remembered that sensation like it had just happened. It took my faith in Marvel and Joss Whedon to get me back to the midnight shows. Thankfully, THE AVENGERS paid off.
Flashforward to now. Another attempt at an American-made Godzilla film announced. Director Gareth Edwards, who made the excellent MONSTERS, announced as the man behind the camera. Dare I hope that this time they will do it right?
Legendary Pictures, the production company behind the film, rented a warehouse off-site at this year’s SDCC in order to give fans like myself a taste of what we would see when the flick hits next May. And the good news is, after spending time at what was called “The Godzilla Experience,” is that my faith feels like it has been restored. There was love in this place, and respect for the character and his history. There was also a glimpse of what he will look like in this new film, and this time, he looks like… well, like Godzilla.
That may be the most important part.
So next May, will I be at a midnight Thursday night screening when the new GODZILLA hits movie screens? Or will I demonstrate that I have learned my lesson?
What do you think?
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Avril Brown
Oh CHEW, I do heart you! The latest issue opens with a glimpse into the latest twist in John Colby’s love life, and it is so CHEW. Poor Colby, forever trapped between a rock and a hard place. His professional life hasn’t been the kicks either; Chu’s new dark persona has made it difficult to stay loyal to the guy, not to mention Tony has been working alone more often than not. By the end of this final chapter in ‘Book VII: Bad Apples’ we will see yet another side of the multi-faced John Colby.
Another fun new food power, another tense situation requiring the aid of the FDA, another way to demonstrate how kick-ass Tony Chu is when on a mission. However, even the mighty Chu was a little thrown after receiving a vague and ethereal message from the High Priestess of the Church of the Immaculate Ova, who seems to have a personal interest in our favorite foodie.
Hands down the best ‘What the shit?’ scene of the issue was a CHEW-level bizarre bonding moment between Tony and his daughter Olive. Tony was never ‘father of the year’ but he clearly wants to try and forge a better relationship with his progeny, and his olive branch, pun intended, is so CHEW.
The Evil Genius Creative Team, also known as Layman and Guillory, continue to shock, amaze and present creative feats of extraordinary weirdness. This issue has an abundance of background hilarity, and Olive’s t-shirt is a shout out to one of the most beloved characters from my other favorite ongoing series: SAGA. Quite the excellent ending to this game changer of a chapter.
AISLE SEAT 2.0.78: SDCC 2013
By Marc Mason
Comicon has come and gone. Long live Comicon.
This was an unusual San Diego for me. Many of the people I hang out with at the show didn’t go this year. I wasn’t entirely on my own – I had plenty of friends to hang out with, and I did – but it had a different flavor to it. I wound up changing my approach to almost everything I did, right down to how I set my social schedule. Yet the end result was fairly common: I was insanely busy, I got a wealth of material for CWR, and by the time it was over, I didn’t have a major body part that didn’t hurt like a bastard.
My busiest day, I wound up walking over six miles. Not bad for an old man, but that sort of thing takes its toll, you know?
One thing I did this year that I was really happy about was devoting extra attention to the comicbook aspect of the show. I didn’t stop at any of the big media booths (and I’m not sure I could have gotten close enough to them anyway, thanks to lines) during my time on the floor. I focused on the “comic” in comicon, and here is what I will take away most from this year’s show:
It is time to stop the bitching about how comics are being pushed out of SDCC. That is nonsense.
I can hear some of you screaming bloody murder in response to that, but a look at pure numbers says otherwise. To wit:
Starting with aisle 400 and stretching to aisle 2800, it was a mass of comics retailers and publishers. That also includes the Small Press Pavilion. Friends, that is a LOT of comicbooks. 25 aisles worth of them!
Honestly, if Comicon organizers would move Artists Alley to aisles 100-300, it would be just about perfect.
The shopping with the retailers was plentiful. The publishers had amazing books to offer. Twenty-five aisles of comics. That’s incredible! Thousands of square feet filled with our floppy friends and their cousins in book form. I spent untold hours going through it, and still I barely scratched the surface.
Now if you want to complain about Hollywood news and panels drowning out comics, I’ll grant you that. A new Walt Simonson Artist Edition from IDW isn’t as sexy a newsbyte as Tom Hiddleston showing up as Loki and performing for the crowd. But does it need to be? In this information age, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get any information you might have missed while walking the floor. The people who want to know? They’ll find out.
Instead, let’s think about what we really know: comics as an industry are as strong as they’ve ever been. Marvel and DC are doing their thing, as usual. But below them, everyone else is upping their game. Image is better now than it has ever been in its existence. Dark Horse is going strong. Boom’s merger with Archaia shores up its output. Dynamite’s addition of several A-list creators shows that it is right behind Image as the place to be right now with a creator-owned book. And Valiant appears to be quietly surging as well.
Comics are okay. Comics may be better than okay.
And that goes for their place at Comicon. More than ever, I was impressed with the variety of what was available and the quality involved. So when someone bitches about comics being pushed out of Comicon? It just rings hollow to me. Comics are there, and they are there in force. They’re even pretty easy to find.
So you won’t see any Hollywood interviews here at CWR over the next couple of weeks, but you will see interviews with some terrific folks who put their hearts and souls into making comics. And that is what Comicon is really all about.
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Some intriguing new stuff from Image…
It’s 1951, and the TV show SATELLITE SAM is rising in popularity. Unfortunately, the star of the show is highly unreliable, which is an even bigger problem when the money men arrive to see the show in person and perhaps take it to the next level. But this time around, he might not be missing because he’s drunk; no, this time it is far worse. That’s the premise that writer Matt Fraction and artist Howard Chaykin are working with here, and it’s executed to damn-near perfection as this book gets going. A sprawling cast, snappy dialogue, gorgeous art, a whip-smart MY FAVORITE YEAR-style look behind the scenes of a television program of that era… there was nothing here that I didn’t like, and like a whole lot. This era seems to get the best out of Chaykin, and the level of detail in his art is a step up from his recent BLACK KISS sequel, making the pages look sumptuous. For his part, Fraction keeps the script tight, not a word out of place and never over-writing; he knows when to step back and let Chaykin’s art do the storytelling, and he knows when his dialogue needs to carry the moment. Overall, just an excellent piece of work.
Matching that book in excellence is LAZARUS #1 from writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark. Again, here we have two guys who really know what they are doing teaming up to create something fresh and great. It is the near future, and rather than nation states, the upper echelon of wealthy families have taken control and returned the world back to feudalism. To maintain control, the families employ basically unkillable assassins to protect them and their interests. In the Carlyle family, she is named Lazarus, and we meet her after a recent mission as she heals from multiple gunshot wounds. From there, we follow her through her day, taking her through a number of experiences that are unpleasant for all involved, including her. It’s gripping stuff, and it’s also remarkably clever; by using this day-in-the-life approach, Rucka’s script builds this new world for us and makes it easy to understand. It’s one of the simplest introductions to a sci-fi concept I’ve seen in recent memory. Then you add the art from Lark, who I have been a fan of since I first read TERMINAL CITY last millennium, and you have a comic that really delivers the thrills.
Both of these books serve as a stark reminder of just how amazing the medium can be when people are turned loose and given free rein to create and own their own work. The passion… the outcome and quality… is undeniable and wonderful.
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Random new stuff that came across my desk…
NBM delivers another lovely Euro-sized graphic album with ZOMBILLENIUM by writer/artist Arthur de Pins. The setup is a corker: a man named Aurelian, upon discovering that his wife is cheating on him, decides to rob a bar. It does not go well, and it only gets worse when he steps out into the street and gets run over by a car. The occupants of the car just happen to be a vampire and a werewolf, and they both bite him to resuscitate him. Now confused, and turning into a supernatural creature, Aurelian winds up working at a theme park with a dedicated horror theme. Strangeness, oddities, death, love, vengeance, and a lot of confusion follow. ZOMBILLENIUM is a hoot from start to finish, with funny situations, great characters, witty dialogue, and art that is utterly gorgeous. de Pins drew the entire thing in Adobe Illustrator, and the large format the book is printed in really enhances the work. This is the usual great-looking package from NBM, and it does a stellar job of introducing another French superstar to North American readers.
The latest book from Graphic Classics is NATIVE AMERICAN CLASSICS. This volume delivers adaptations of work from some of America’s earliest native writers, and as usual, the book is a pretty solid package. The talent involved is very good, including folks like Toby Cypress, Afua Richardson, Terry LaBan, and Tim Truman. And unlike some of the earlier volumes, the best material here is the poetry. Not only is the original work really good, the artists illustrating the background for those words turn in some seriously incredible efforts. David Kanietakeron Fadden’s piece for James Harris Guy’s “The White Man Wants the Indians’ Home” is frame-worthy. Twenty-four volumes in and going strong, the Graphic Classics line has proven time and again that it has the goods. Always worth a look.
A bizarre beast lumbers out of the woods, his presence causing an accident that sends a school bus over a cliff. A speechless boy communicates with the beast, saving himself and his classmates. Suddenly, the world around the young boy is opening wide, his secret ability to communicate with creatures beyond our ken now known. That is the tale at the heart of Erik T. Johnson’s THE OUTLIERS #1, a gorgeous new effort that will see distribution from Alternative Comics in August. The story is intriguing, sure, but Johnson’s art is the real star here. His use of shadow is terrific, and by sticking to only one color on the page, he gives the work a mood that is palpable on the page. He also does an excellent job with detail on the page, giving the book more of a heft than you might expect. I was really impressed with the overall package here.
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Some new stuff from the folks at DE…
DE’s new line of crime books rolls out its second effort with UNCANNY #1 by writer Andy Diggle and artist Aaron Campbell. As it opens, we meet a man named Weaver, and immediately he is presented to us as something of a con man. But he is far from a common criminal; instead, he has the power to “borrow” people’s skills and memories for a limited time and use them for his own ends. Unfortunately, his secret may be out, putting him at risk in all kinds of ways. Violence, as you might guess, ensues, sending him on the run from… well, everybody. UNCANNY is quite a read. The plot is gripping, the pace is brisk, and Weaver’s talent is intriguing enough that you want to see how he’ll use it next. Diggle is a pro with this kind of material, and it shows. He knows precisely how to hook the reader and keep them coming back for more. Backed by Aaron Campbell, who may just be the best interior artist working for Dynamite right now, and you have a book not to be missed. Highly recommended.
We got a taste of what it would be like to pair them together in MASKS, but SHADOW/GREEN HORNET: DARK NIGHTS #1 gives us more than a taste – it’s a four-course meal. Brought together by FDR as the country edges ever closer to war in 1939, the pair are teamed up to stop a classic Shadow villain from helping Hitler’s Reich from achieving unbeatable power. It’s a simple enough scenario, and as executed by writer Michael Uslan and artist Keith Burns, it’s also a surprisingly entertaining one. Many crossovers feel forced, but this one feels very natural, and Uslan skips the part where they beat each other up and approaches it from a more intelligent direction: these two have a lot in common, and they act like it. Smart comic book, this one. There’s also an interesting twist when Hitler and the main bad guy decide to start looking for allies that I won’t spoil, except to say that it’s clever and it’s super-smart. The art gets a little shaky here and there, but overall, this was surprisingly good stuff.
The PROJECT SUPERPOWERS world has been quiet for a while, but makes its return with THE OWL #1 from writer J.T. Krul and artist Heubert Khan Michael. Attempting to find his way back into society after decades trapped in the urn that held all of the PS characters, the Owl is once again fighting crime, but also looking for a job, something plenty of people in the real world can understand. He also misses his absent love and partner, Owl Girl. But while in the middle of a firefight, it all comes to a head, as a new(?) Owl Girl shows up to brutally kick ass and take names. Just who is she? Welcome to the first mystery the book has to offer. THE OWL is certainly a well-executed comic; Krul’s script is solid, he does a terrific job of introducing the character and setting up his world, and Khan has been doing solid work for Dynamite for a while now. Yet I wasn’t fully sucked in, either. I was looking for that one moment that would lift this book to the next level, but it isn’t there yet. That doesn’t mean it won’t though.