Kick-Watcher: Interview with Home of The Brave’s Spencer Toyama and Jon Lewis

The Kick-Watcher chats with Hawaii’s own Spencer Toyama and Jon Lewis the creators of the soon to be successful Kickstarter project; Home of The Brave: Struggle & Triumph in a Broken America. [Read more…]

Alan Moore and Superfolks Part 1: The Case for the Prosecution


by Pádraig Ó Méalóid

In 1977 Dial Press of New York published Robert Mayer’s first novel, Superfolks. It was, amongst other things, a story of a middle-aged man coming to terms with his life, an enormous collection of 1970s pop-culture references, some now lost to the mists of time, and a satire on certain aspects of the comic superhero, but would probably be largely unheard of these days if it wasn’t for the fact that it is regularly mentioned for its supposed influence on a young Alan Moore and his work, particularly on Watchmen, Marvelman, and his Superman story, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? There’s also a suggestion that it had an influence on his proposal to DC Comics for the unpublished cross-company ‘event,’ Twilight of the Superheroes. But who’s saying these things, what are they saying, and is any of it actually true? [Read more…]

31 Days of Halloween: Scream Nancy

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This is frightening on so many levels. Jason is doing Nancy horror mash-ups., as reported by Mike Baehr. You can see more here, including Nancy CK and Nancy Lynch.

Marvel Now!: Deadpool meets Teddy Roosevelt

Although Steely Steve Morris couldn’t make it to today’s Marvel Now call we did get the artwork and it’s very nice.

Can Comics Become Legitimate Bestsellers? Chapter 3: Why Wimpy Kid matters

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I know, I know! We have been arguing for such a long time that comics aren’t just for kids but the problem is that a majority of the comics publishers have neglected to realize that this is and will always be tomorrow’s adult comics fan. With the acceleration of the Children’s and Young Adult categories, the traditional publishers are dominating a market segment that for some reason, still isn’t registering with the folks who made it possible in the first place. [Read more…]

31 Days of Halloween: Gary Leib’s Desert Island storefront

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We were stunned by last year’s spectacular Halloween display by Gary Leib at Brooklyn’s own Desert Island Comics, and he’s back for 2012 with an all-new display. Leib has lots more Halloween goodness at his tumblr. And:

New this year, I have loads of screenprints and stencil prints for sale in the shoppe.

Happy Halloween to the Comics Beat! Pull out yer Berni Wrightson comics and lots of candy!

 

PS: We’ve fallen way behind in our 31 Days of Halloween celebration but we will be catching up BIG TIME.

Halloween supplemental: horrific work areas

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Colleen Doran is rightfully horrified by the above photo of a work area—that belongs to an unnamed cartoonist. As a prescription, she offers a list of declutterizing resources, which I’m sure we could all do with a look at.

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Also, as inspiration, here’s a gallery from Sequential Workshop of more pleasing, clean well organized workspaces.

And for your ghouls out there, here’s a complete slideshow of filthy, depressed work spaces.

Interviews of note: Randall Munroe, Eric Stephenson, Julia Wertz

Catching up on closing those tabs, here are some interviews well worth your time.

Math Horizons interviews xkcd’s Randall Munroe on some of his more mathematically complex comic strips:

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MH: How did you determine how much black ink to put in each of the charts?

RM: I figured out how to measure each of the quantities shown in the charts. I drew up the outlines in Photoshop, added the captions, drew in eyeballed estimates, and then used some utilities to count the number of pixels.

Photoshop will tell you how many pixels are in this area, if you select in a certain way, and I’ve been pixel painting in Photoshop forever. I just wrote down the numbers, used a calculator, and calculated for the first two panels: What should the height of the bar graphs and the angle of the pie chart be?

The third panel I generated by just taking the image and cloning and shrinking it. I had a big sheet of paper to keep track of the math, and I was just doing it all by hand.

§ Image Publisher Eric Stephenson gets a loooong interview at Multiversity, but since Stephenson isn’t blogging anymore, this is where we’ll have to enjoy his bomb lobbing:

ES: I think it’s a stength actually, but it’s funny because I had a retailer tell me back ten years ago, this is back when I started doing marketing for Image – he said “you guys need to stop doing so many different kinds of books, because it’s impossible to market diversity.” And I said I don’t think so, I said as long as they’re all good books, that becomes the hook. We do every different type of book, you don’t have to buy all of the books, but everyone’s going to be able to find something that they like. Actually when Jim Valentino was publisher he had his tagline, “a book for every reader”, and I think that’s a viable way to get diversity across. We’re not trying to sell a gigantic line of superhero books where we’re saying “hey, buy all of these and you get a multi-title crossover every year.” That’s not what we do. But I think at the same time we can say “look, if you like “Fatale”, you’re probably going to like “Point of Impact” or “Near Death”. If you like “Saga” there’s a good chance that you’re going to like Brian Wood and Ming Doyle’s new book “Mara”.” I think within each genre type there’s some crossover and that’s how you market it. We do these different books and you can pick and choose what you want out of that.

§ Julia Wertz gets the Sunday Interview treament talking about her new book from Koyama Press, and not being able to work for the mainstream:

WERTZ: Yeah. Yeah, definitely I think it was affecting my work. As soon as there's a lot of money and a lot of prestige involved I caught myself leaving certain things out. With comics you kind of veer into a very weird avenue or just things that don't read well to them. They don't like books that don't have a conclusion, that aren't really about anything. Short stories are very hard to sell. I caught myself… there was one story where I wanted to get a little bit meta with it: put a diary comic in it, so it would be a different style. The editor said, "This is going to confuse people; just stick to your style." I definitely caught myself tailoring it to a larger audience. I don't want to work that way. Even though I could do what I wanted, it's a mental block that I have to work differently to sort of please them. Also during the time I decided to do this book with Annie was when I was dealing with a Hollywood deal that I ended up killing because of this reason. I just came to the conclusion that even thought it's not financially beneficial for me to work this way, so independently, it's not worth the money for me to be miserable for it to affect my creativity. That's the one thing I want to have control over at all times. If having money in it is affecting it, I don't want to do that. Even if it might be a smart career move, I just don't give a shit.

Grant Morrison, MBE


Grant Morrison models his Member of the British Empire medal which he was just presented with. And no, you cannot call him Sir Grant, as that honorific only comes with the two highest Orders of the British Empire.

But yes, that’s the Palace he’s standing in front of. So yeah, he is officially THE MAN now.

The Walking Dead Season 3: Now THIS is a Good Zombie Show!

We’re two episodes into Season 3 of The Walking Dead and I’m relieved and pleased to be able to say: now THIS is the zombie apocalypse show I was hoping for!

I know, that’s kind of blasphemy in some circles. The truth is I just found myself unable to really connect to the show or the characters until now. I wasn’t happy about it, I wanted to like it and I really tried. I love horror and even though the concept of zombies terrifies me personally on some deeply visceral, reptile brain level, they remain some of my favorite stories in the genre. I would count the Dawn of the Dead remake as one of my all-time favorite films (and no, I don’t care that the zombies were “too fast”). I was really curious about how a long form narrative television show would handle it.

My personal fondness for horror was not the only reason I was looking forward to The Walking Dead when it debuted. As a comics editor and creator I’m always pleased when a comics project is developed thoughtfully in another visual medium. I was especially happy that a book by an independent (not to mention creator- owned pioneering) company like Image was being developed by AMC, a channel that has also given us Mad Men and Breaking Bad. To see a comics work taken so seriously, with that kind of support, is encouraging for the medium as a whole and for reaching a larger audience that will hopefully have some crossover. The ratings have borne this out, with a whopping 9+ million viewers this season. It’s now a known pop culture phenomenon in two storytelling mediums. That’s great no matter how you look at it.

All that enthusiasm aside, I still watched the first season with a critical and objective eye. Some of that is just because of what I do, there are very few stories I can watch/read/absorb without analyzing them to one degree or other. Call it an occupational hazard.

So it was with a heavy heart that I found myself not only underwhelmed by the first season but actively disliking it. It might seem like nerdbait to say that I was not only not a fan, I’ve been a rather frustrated naysayer of The Walking Dead until this 3rd seasons strong first episode. It might be even worse to admit that I haven’t read much of the comics so I can’t attest to how much the show has deviated or not deviated from the original. I don’t think that makes my issues with the show invalid, because an adaptation needs to stand on its own merits regardless of the source, it can’t rest on what is or is not explained in the comic. It should not get a pass for relying on previous experience with the source material to “get” what’s going on with a character or plotline. For the most part I think it’s less that the actual show has relied on the comic and more that some fans of both have used the comic to invalidate critiques of what the show has or hasn’t done successfully.

For me, while the first two seasons had plenty of zombie action, gross out horror, and legitimately good moments, the character development was so consistently weak, repetitive, or in some cases, non-existent, that I began to want to throw things at the screen. One could argue that with only 6 episodes, Season 1 had a lot of ground to cover within a narrow time frame, and I was willing to give it a certain degree of “first season” leeway. Some shows gel immediately, some take awhile to hit their groove. The 2nd Season, however, suffered from similar issues and at twice the length somehow managed to get even less accomplished with many of the characters, with the exception of Daryl who has been the most consistently awesome on the show. The love triangle served mainly to make Rick, Shane, and Lori almost unbearable, I still don’t know who T-Bone is, Dale was reduced to a self-righteous and irritating old man, and there was that one guy who was some somebodies boyfriend and then he died. That’s literally all I know about him. And then there’s Carl, who might be the harbinger of death, given how many characters he got killed in Season 2 by being kind of really stupid. Of course, working with a large cast is tough, but you have to find ways to give everyone significant moments, or else you’re falling flat as a storyteller. It’s especially concerning when even main characters seem stuck and stagnant.

Were things like the reveal of Sophia’s fate moving? Yes. Were there strong moments? Yes. In fact, the strongest character moments were with Andrea and Lori. Andrea giving Dale hell for blackmailing her into living was an incredibly important moment because each “side” had a valid point. It asked some important, big questions, dealt with the reality of the world they were now in, and gave Andrea real strength and depth.

Likewise, Lori telling Rick she wasn’t sure Carl should survive his gunshot wound was pretty brave. Letting a mother suggest what would, in almost any other context, be considered a heinous violation of acceptable maternal conduct, made for great TV and excellent horror. The kind that goes beyond oogy monsters and gets at the core of what terrifies us. I mean, when is it okay to say: no, we shouldn’t let our kids live in this world? Is it ever okay? What’s more important, simply being alive, or the kind of life you live?

While I did appreciate those moments, they were, for me, outweighed by a lot of unnecessary pontificating and some truly cringe-worthy, heavy-handed, “life is worth it” metaphors. I’m talking about the deer, obviously. I’m as sentimental as the next person, but just, no. I’m fine with small character moments and building towards reveals, but it just felt pointless and meandering for way too long. I found myself, for instance, not really caring about Dale’s unfortunate demise, mostly because his character had become too self-righteous. By the time the season was over I wanted everyone eaten except Daryl, who clearly needed his own spinoff.

So, to say I was wary of Season 3 would be an understatement. I just wasn’t sure I would be able to commit any more time to characters and a story that left me mainly frustrated and disappointed.

Season 3, however, starts with an extremely effective and necessary use of the time jump forward device. It’s been almost a year since the outbreak, and about 8 months since we last saw the crew. And it shows. These are not the people we left last season. They are a well-oiled, zombie-killing machine. From Carol to Carl, everyone is pulling their weight and seems to have accepted the zombie status quo to one degree or other. Which obviously means it’s all about to go to hell, but that’s great! Bring it on!

What I’ve also really liked so far in this season is that rather than on relying on speechifying, characters are being allowed to have their moments with sparser dialog, relying more on what someone does than long exchanges where people mainly talk at each other and don’t really get anywhere. Since TV is a visual medium that’s important. Let the actors act. The result is tighter storytelling and more interesting characterization. Rick closing the door on that convict and then just standing there for a moment? That spoke volumes about how he’s changed. Simply saying to Lori,“We all appreciate what you’ve done.” followed by an awkward back pat? Wow, something is way wrong in that relationship. I’m intrigued! Plus hacking off Hershel’s leg was totally disgusting and upsetting, but a clear indicator that this is a Rick who does what needs to be done.

The thing about any story is that you have to care about the characters and find their growth believable based on their circumstances. And yes, they do need to grow, otherwise there’s really no point. In a world where most everyone is now a walking corpse you are not going to be able to view the world the same way or react the same way. You’re going to have to make difficult choices, maybe even awful ones. A certain amount of adjustment time is normal, but the last two seasons dragged. Season 3 has accomplished more in just two episodes for most of the characters and that’s impressive. This is a group of desperate people doing desperate things. This is a group of people I want to watch and root for. This is a group of people I’m going to get upset about when they die.

The strongest aspect of The Walking Dead all along has, I think, been the underlying idea that there may not be any “good” choices anymore. Every choice, no matter how noble in intent, may have catastrophically bad consequences. In fact, it probably will. So a character like Rick, who is an essentially good person, is left with making decisions that make sense in a given circumstance, that allow those he cares about to survive for awhile longer, and not much else. While the more complicated moral or ethical questions are still there, he just don’t have time for them. If he considers them too much he’ll become paralyzed and be completely useless to himself and the group. Those choices will haunt him later, or they won’t.

And that, my friends, is truly horrifying.