Reviews: A Murder of Cartoonists

While we were enjoying Comic Arts Brooklyn this year, my partner Marguerite Van Cook and I took a break from the excitement of promoting our new Fantagraphics Book The Late Child and Other Animals to go across the street to a little coffee bar and have a snack. The young counterperson noted the influx of odd personages hauling portfolios and piles of comics and asked, “is that a convention?”
I replied, “Well, a convention is more like one of those huge things with wrestlers, porn stars and superhero comics, all mixed together with a lot of cosplayers. This is more of a gathering of especially individualistic birds in the alt/lit comics scene. I guess you could call it a ‘murder’ of cartoonists.”
She laughed and asked about the origin of that phrase, which usually describes a flock of crows. But not to further elaborate that conversation, what follows is a review sampling of comics, many of them with poetical aspects, that I got at CAB and other recent releases. Note that I don’t actually try to kill my subjects, but rather to remark on their positive aspects, wherever possible.


Jungle Book by Harvey Kurtzman (Kitchen Sink/Dark Horse, $24.99)


A rare solo effort by the auteuristic creator of E.C.’s two excellent war comics titles Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, working in the satiric mode he initiated for Mad. Now, I do very much like Kurtzman’s solo work; see Fantagraphics’ recent collection of most of his solo E.C. stories, Corpse on the Imjin (which also contains a smattering of his odd, briefer collaborations, like those with Alex Toth and Joe Kubert). His own drawings have a powerful thrust and direct emotionality that can be lost or greatly altered when filtered through the sensibilities of the artists charged to re-illustrate his layouts. In Jungle Book, which was originally released by Ballantine Books in 1959 as a dingy, downscale paperback, Kurtzman’s targets include a jazz/noir mashup, a TV western and most impressively, in “The Organization Man in the Grey Flannel Executive Suite”, a cutting sendup of the fierce sexism that polluted the offices of his former employer, ex-Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman. This brilliant strip is nonetheless disparaged as “weak” by famed misogynist and Kurtzman discovery R. Crumb, in the afterthought conversation between the underground artist and Peter Poplaski that cabooses this otherwise beautifully-produced hardcover reprint volume.


Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown (First Second, $7.99)

Box Andre

Brown’s biography of wrestling star Andre Roussimoff joins a small group of comics masterpieces that deal with this most theatrical of sports, from Jaime Hernandez’s Whoa Nellie from 2000 to a series of tongue-in-cheek horror collaborations by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben in more recent years, including their 2011 graphic novella House of the Living Dead. Brown’s is a remarkably consistent effort with effective graphic sequences such as the one pictured above and I also admire his restrained handling of the heavily staged fight scenes, as well as his unusual architectural establishing shots. Brown’s stark, spare and precise cartooning create a unique mood, as they contextualize Andre’s success with a tragic acknowledgement of the unrelenting sense of otherness and diminished opportunities for social interaction that he experiences due to his exceedingly unusual scale; as well as his size’s harsh repercussions on his health.


Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience by Dean Haspiel (Z2 Comics, $19.95)


The pair of poetic graphic stories in Fear, My Dear reflect Dino’s unfettered physicality and passionate persona. Since winning an Emmy award for his TV collaboration with Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death and The Alcoholic, their graphic novel from Vertigo, Haspiel has if anything become bolder and more exuberant. For this nicely produced hardcover from Josh Frankel’s new Z squared imprint, the artist uses a four-panels-per-page grid format and a monochromatic color scheme (red in the first piece, yellow and orange in the second, both with an elegant use of white for emphasis) to further define the relationship between his creator-owned characters Billy Dogma and Jane Legit. Their romance haunts post-apocalyptic urban rubble and breaks through to a star-crossed dreamscape, only to end up where they knew they must: together.


How to Pool and Other Comics by Andrea Tsurumi (self-published, $3.00)


Marguerite and I used to bask our way through the East Village dog days at the Pit Street Pool, and more recently as guests of the Miami Book Fair, we whiled away every spare moment by the steamy roof pool at our hotel. So, I can totally relate to the lead piece in Tsurumi’s new minicomic, wherein the artist collects a variety of witty graphic vignettes about group soakings in fluoridated waters, among other delicately drawn ironies and anthropomorphisms.


Inkbrick #1 by Rothman, Sullivan, Kearney, Tunis, et al (Inkbrick, $8.00)


This pocket-sized anthology of comics that incorporate, or are adapted from, poetry is made up of remarkable short stories done in a variety of mediums that range from full color to black & white. Immediate standouts for me are Paul K. Tunis’s watery montages for “Avenge Me, Eavesdropper,” Gary Sullivan’s oblique ink rendering of horrific Asian mythologies, “Black Magic”; Simone Kearney’s whimsically etched “Mobilization”; and editor Alexander Rothman’s “Keeping Time” (pictured above), a piece apparently finished in colored pencils that inventively expresses non-visual sensory impressions such as sound, smell and touch.


The Graveyard Book, Volumes 1 and 2 by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell et al (Harper Collins, $19.99 each)

Gaiman Nowlan

Although The Graveyard Book continues Neil Gaiman’s anti-collaborative self-hype at the expense of his artist partners, I do appreciate P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of Gaiman’s stories into comics form. Russell’s elegant cartooning and storytelling are paced far better than if Gaiman had scripted; it worked beautifully for Murder Mysteries, Coraline and The Dream Hunters. Now, for Gaiman’s morbidly charming tale of a live boy shielded from a cabal of serial killers by the shades of the deceased occupants of a cemetery and raised by them to young adulthood, Russell acts artistically in a way similar to Kurtzman’s E.C. methodology: he adapts the text and does layouts; the finishing artists serve as illustrators. This makes for a surprisingly smooth and consistent read. I particularly admire the polished renderings of Kevin Nowlan (seen above), Scott Hampton, Jill Thompson and the Russell-miming Galen Showman; and although a somewhat discordant note is sounded by the grotesqueries of Tony Harris, the whole is unified by colorist Lovern Kindzierski and illuminator Rick Parker, who hand-lettered the text, for me a visual treat in these days of page-deadening digital fonts.


Lazarus #1-9 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Santi Arcas (Image Comics, $2.99 each)

Rucka Lark

I drew one of Greg Rucka’s first comics stories (“Guts” in DC/Vertigo’s Flinch #8, 2000), but it seems to me that the writer doesn’t take as much advantage as he might of the properties that are unique to comics—almost everything he does might work just as well if not better as TV shows. In his 2012 collaboration with Matthew Southworth, Stumptown, it is Southworth’s expressive drawing that provides most of the interest and its most effective use of the medium is that the artist rendered Vol 2, #4 with a Toth-esque sideways, widescreen layout. For Lazarus, a story of a female assassin in a dystopian, nearly medieval America run by a select group of powerful families that is absorbing enough and has had some striking moments, but still often has a feeling of deja vu about it, a lot of the heavy lifting is provided by artist Michael Lark’s cinematic near-photorealism, accomplished in collaboration with Santi Arcas’ hi-tech color graphics.


Thought Bubble #4 by Kot & Sampson, Lim & Rios, Starkings & Sale et al (Image Comics, $3.99)

Ales Alison 1

This color tabloid is a showcase for the participants in the UK’s Leeds Comic Art Festival. My favorite piece is a sort of gentle advisory poem that in its course expresses a goal that many sensitive artists hold dear: that of “making things that help other people feel less alone.” It is the work of the writer of Image’s fascinating rotating-artist series Zero, Ales Kot, expressively drawn with upended, widescreen and oblique imagery by Alison Sampson, who just won a British Comic Award for emerging talent; and nicely colored by Jason Wordie. Also notable: a beautiful page by Hwei Lin and Emma Rios; and an Elephantmen strip written by Richard Starkings and elegantly rendered in ink washes by Tim Sale.


Nightworld #s 1-4 by Adam McGovern, Paolo Leandri & Dominic Regan (Image Comics $3.99 each)

Paulo Adam

A tale of questing, embattled superhero-ish spirits, Nightworld manages to not only convey an approximation of the look of a Jack Kirby comic book, but it also comes closer than anything else I have seen to capturing something of the spirit of that master’s fierce and restless creativity. Artist Leandri hits a spot somewhere between majoring in Kirby, minoring in Steranko and echoing the early work of Barry Smith, back in the day when he was emulating Jack. Leandri’s spreads can look remarkably as if they were actually drawn by Kirby and his character designs and action passages likewise (see example above), without ever feeling as appropriated, or as forced, as those by some other artists who attempt to adhere as closely to the same model. These comics are colored by Regan with an oddly chosen palette that, again, is reminiscent of Kirby’s psychedelic experiments with Dr. Martin’s dyes. Moreover and significantly, writer McGovern’s poetic voice uniquely grasps a sort of post-traumatized and humane melancholy of narrative, the most tragic scenes of which are appropriately followed and leavened in a Shakespearean mode by bursts of frenetic humor, that can be seen in Kirby’s best writing.


Greg Rucka and Russell Dauterman to Launch Cyclops Solo Series FEATURING HEPZIBAH

Marvel have announced, via the beaming presence of an interview feature with Albert Ching, that Greg Rucka and Russell Dauterman will be the creative team for an ongoing Cyclops solo series. The book will start in May.

[Read more…]

Stumptown to Return as an Ongoing Series from Oni Press

Teased on their Tumblr a short while ago, it appears as though Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown will be returning in 2014 – but not as a miniseries this time round, and also without Southworth.

[Read more…]

Dark Horse Announce Creator-Owned Series from Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula

There’s still over an hour before anybody is allowed on the convention floor, but announcements keep coming! Dark Horse have announced Veil, a five-issue creator owned miniseries from Greg Rucka and Toni Fejula.

[Read more…]

NYCC ’13: Comixology offers signings and giveaways



Free stuff and signings with Doug Braithwaite, Larry Hama and more!

Take comics further this New York Comic Con 2013 at the comiXology booth (#1928) with a host of exclusive giveaways, signings, offers and panels happening all convention long.
ComiXology has produced in conjunction with Image Comics, IDW Publishing and Valiant a series of art cards limited to only 100 to be given out at signings throughout the show. These super rare giveaways will be available on a first-comes, first-served basis during each signing.
These limited edition art cards will be signed and handed out during creator appearances at the comiXology booth with signings from Nick Dragotta (East of West), Greg Rucka & Michael Lark (Lazarus), Katie Cook (My Little Pony), Sara Richard (My Little Pony), and Doug Braithwaite (Unity #1). See below for signing times.
In addition, Larry Hama will be making an appearance at the comiXology booth to sign comics for fans. And as a special giveaway comiXology and IDW Publishing will be giving out five copies of G.I. Joe: The Best of Larry Hama hardcover to the first five fans in line.
ComiXology Submit superstar creators Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari will also be making an appearance at the comiXology booth, signing sketch cards promoting their smash self-publishing hitThe Bunker. Each sketch card will have a code to get the first issue of The Bunker for Free!

A special 12-page review of Mark Waid, Shane Davis & Max Brooks’ Shadow Walk from Legendary Comics will be available to preview on devices at the comiXology both.  Shadow Walk goes on saleNovember 27th.

Here’s a list of the signings, giveaways and panels, for comiXology during New York Comic Con ’13:

1:30 – 2:30pm Creating Comics The ComiXology Way, Room: 1A10
Speakers: John D. Roberts (comiXology co-founder) with creators Reilly Brown (AvX Infinite Comics), Chris Sheridan (Motorcycle Samurai), & Daniel Govar (ReLaunch)

3:15 – 4:15pm ComiXology Submit: The Future Of Self-Publishing, Room: 1A08
Speakers: David Steinberger (comiXology co-founder & CEO), John D. Roberts (comiXology co-founder), with The Bunker creators Joshua Hale Fialkov & Joe Infurnari

4:30pm – 5:30pm Joshua Hale Fialkov & Joe Infurnari The Bunker Signing: The Bunker creators sign a special sketch card with Free The Bunker #1 code.

6:00pm – 7:00pm My Little Pony’s Katie Cook Signing Limited Edition Art Card featuring Big McIntosh & Apple Bloom: Art Card limited to 100 copies, first-come, first-served.

4:00pm – 5:00pm East of West’s Nick Dragotta Signing Limited Edition East of West Art Card: Art Card limited to 100 copies, first-come, first-served.
6:00pm – 7:00pm Larry Hama G.I.JOE Signing: First five fans to signing receive G.I. Joe: The Best of Larry Hama hardcover.

2:00pm – 3:00pm Lazarus’ Greg Rucka & Michael Lark Signing Limited Edition Lazarus Art Card: Art Card limited to 100 copies, first-come, first-served. (Due to unforeseen scheduling conflict, Greg Rucka will only be on hand from 2:00 to 2:30pm.)

6:00pm – 7:00pm My Little Pony’s Sara Richard Signing Limited Edition Art Card featuring Rainbow Dash: Art Card limited to 100 copies, first-come, first-served.

1:00pm – 2:00pm Unity’s Doug Braithwaite Signing Limited Edition Unity Art Card: Art Card limited to 100 copies, first-come, first-served.


Monday’s Review Slate: Lazarus and Pizza Dog

This week’s been a big week for comics! All kinds of goings-on were, well, going-on. I’m narrowing it down to just the two comics, though. The ones everybody’s been talking about. Lazarus #1 from Image, and Hawkeye #11 from Marvel. Both books have fantastic creative teams and all the goodwill in the world pushing them onwards. Were they good?

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On the Scene: Jason Aaron, Greg Rucka, Jason Latour Talk Crime Comics at Heroes Con 2013

Vito Delsante hosted a gathering of some of the purveyors of the gritty, and often all too reality-based comics handling crime and violence at Heroes Con, and when they noticed that everyone on the panel was bald, they decided that this was a call to “embrace the dark side of humanity” by shaving one’s head.  This kind of genre writing almost calls for creators of these works to be put on the spot about their motivations, ethics, and what value they think crime stories have beyond sensationalism in society. But Greg Rucka (WHITEOUT, PUNISHER), Jason Latour (LOOSE ENDS, WINTER SOLDIER), and Jason Aaron (SCALPED, PUNISHER) were up to the challenge, and often spoke with even greater honesty than fans might have expected. It turned into quite a moving discussion about humanity and suggested that comics only portray the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dark aspects of life in the 21st century.

IMG_6060Most of the questions that Delsante and the audience posed during the panel were hard-hitting, but it all kicked off with the most direct question of them all: what’s so appealing about working on crime comics, and what’s the appeal for readers? Aaron injected some dark humor, but was no doubt being deadly serious. “As a writer, I like doing bad things to good characters”, he said. Rucka took up the implicit suggestion that it might be odd to want to write about crime by saying, “Crime writers tend to be the healthiest people. I like writing about worlds that we don’t inhabit. Most of us don’t, at least, but we know they exist”. But Rucka added that though he comes to crime in comics via detective fiction, he has never really thought of himself as a “crime writer”. Latour’s response was that he likes to “project” himself “into scenarios he would never really be in”, and explore things he doesn’t “understand” or “have a grasp of” since writing helps him understand. Rucka jumped in to agree that such an approach is “legitimate” but that there’s also a “pleasure in doing horrible things to good people and also to horrible people” as a form of “wish-fulfilment”.

[Read more…]

$143,379 Later, Lady Sabre’s Kickstarter Closes

One of the biggest stories for comics in 2013 has been the phenomenal success that a number of creators have had in taking their projects to Kickstarter. Following successes for people like Steven Sanders, Jimmy Broxton, Greg Pak/Jonathan Coulton and many others comes a victory for Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, from Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett.

[Read more…]

Greg Rucka on Lady Sabre and whether crowdfunding will replace publishers

Lady Sabre & the Pirates of The Ineffable Aether hit 200% of goal in two days. Now they are currently over $77k and working towards their fourth stretch goal. [Read more…]

Kick-Watcher: Raised by Raptors, Gumshoes 4 Hire, Ultrasylvania Vol. 2


I’m glad the holidays are over and everyone is off their ass making back to making some comic books.  Something’s in the water or there just are some great project with a lot of heart and soul.  We have some bright new faces, an industry favorite and a successful project manager looking for repeated success. [Read more…]

SDCC 2012 Image Announce Even More Comics Than You Could Ever Believe

What have Image got to offer us? Y’know, on top of EVERYTHING ELSE they’ve been offering us this year? Here’s a look at the books announced tonight at their SDCC panel. I’ll throw some pictures at the bottom, but let’s just try and get a hang on just what’s being announced! They are announcing TONNES OF COMICS. I’ll re-update this with new pictures and info as soon as possible, folks.

So far we have:

Non-Humans - Whilce Portacio and Glen Brunswick

Nowhere Men – Eric Stephenson

Satellite Sam - Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin.

A murder mystery set in the world of children’s television.

Pretty Deadly - KellySue DeConnick and Emma Rios

A spaghetti western in classic style

Multiple Warheads – Brandon Graham

Saviour - James Robinson and J. Bone

About an alien invasion of earth by shapeshifters, and a stoner’s attempts to stop them

Sex - Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski

The Bounce – Joe Casey and David Messina

Lazarus – Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Gritty sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian future

Reign – Chris Roberson and Paul Mayberry

Oliver – Darick Robertson and Gary Whitta

Point of Impact – Jay Faerber

Great Pacific – Joe Harris

Rucka and Bendis sitting around rapping


Greg Rucka’s novel Alpha has just come out, and it’s the debut of a whole new thriller series for him. To promote it, he’s doing the rounds, including a chat with Brian Michael Bendis for publisher Mulholland Books. You really need to read the whole thing. It’s quite a relaxed and candid conversation:

BMB: Or just the entitlement. I’m here now. Congratulations to you—I’m here. We’ve now been in it long enough now to where we see people come and go. We’ve seen the crash and burn, and you can see the crash and burn coming down the street. The only thing shocking thing about it now is that it used to take a two year solid arc of crash and burn, right? Now it’s eight months and you’re out. With all this entitlement, sometimes our names are brought up in it. Why do they get this? Without any self-awareness of how obnoxious it is and stuff like that. But it’s fascinating to see. Whatever road we’re on is littered with the corpses of entitlement.

GR: That entitlement factor I think—you and I work very differently. I think one of the things that we recognize in each other, really from the first time we met—I remember when you came to Portland—you and I have always taken the craft very seriously. I sometimes feel in my more darker and self-aware moments, I wonder if I put too much stock in that faith in craft. But at the end of the day, it’s all I got because it’s the only thing you can control.

In Part two, the talk turns to Rucka’s webcomic venture, Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether (above).

BRB: How do you monetize it?

GR: I have no idea. It’s totally unfamiliar territory to me, and honestly, as a writer, I’ve always been sort of dangerously uninformed about the business side of things. I understand contracting and I understand the sales. But I don’t tend to follow it and I don’t tend to track it on my own work, certainly, and, in this instance, we’re all sort of figuring this out as we go. How are we going to do this? What’s it going to look like? How are we going to fund the trade? How are we going to sell the trade? Do we go to a publisher and say, hey, would you like to publish this trade? Or do we sell it on a website first, sell it by hand at shows? There’s a piece of me that wants to do that, just wants to let it be what it is. I don’t want to try to turn it into something else, if that makes sense. Right now it’s our indie-Webcomic-pulp-serial-let’s-have-some-fun-with-it thing, and I don’t want to try to make it into something that it’s not. It should be a form of entertainment and pretty and joyful and fun. And in the main it’s free. If people would turn around and give us some money for ancillary things, that would be great. We launched in July of last year. I’m hoping by July of this year we’ll be able to offer things that people will buy that we’ll be able to return to the investment that we put into it. But nobody’s looking to get rich off this.

BMB: I’m curious of the business model of it myself, you know. Is there any way to make it worth your while on every level? I think of it like the Facebook movie—we don’t know what it is yet, we just know it’s cool. You don’t have to start selling it out in any way, and that’s some of the stuff that Warren [Ellis] does. There’s seemingly no intent to do anything but just do it, and that’s that. That’s completely doable as well, so. I’m always flattered and at the same time horrified when someone asks a question about a long defunct project that never saw the light of day. But you know which one you were going to do, that I was all excited about, that just sort of flittered away.

Among the other things discussed, Bendis’s desire not to do conventions, the status of the third WHITEOUT book, and more. Like we said, go read the whole thing…