Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Hawkeye Fan

hawkeye (1)By Kyle Pinion

I love Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye. It’s by far my favorite monthly (which I realize is a stretch to still call it that at this point) comic coming from the Big Two. Its mixture of high impact super-heroics, indie sensibilities, film influences, and raw emotion have paved its own niche in the crowded world of cape comics. With its rampant critical success and sales that aren’t anything to sneeze at, Hawkeye (along with Mark Waid’s wonderful Daredevil) sent Marvel into a more idiosyncratic direction that spawned a number of titles that could be noted as “auteur-driven”.

One of the more unique trends I’d seen regarding the series was how it had served as a form of gateway comic for a number of new readers. In my travels at various convention settings, I’ve learned that a lot of these (often-times younger) readers aren’t quite sure where to head next in their comics reading, or whence to dig further into the various references and influences of Fraction, Aja, and Wu that have informed or been worked into the title.

With that said, here’s my take on a “Hawkguy” shopping guide..

Where to go if you’re looking for more Clint and Kate

young and secret

Secret Avengers and Young Avengers – The obvious place to jump off point if you’re a fan of a series that dictates itself as “What Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger…” is to read about what he’s up to when he is. With Ales Kot’s and Michael Walsh’s work on Secret Avengers and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, you can do just that for both Clint and Kate respectively. While other Avengers books, including the previous Nick Spencer-written run on Secret Avengers, also feature Hawkeye at times, Kot and Walsh’s Secret Avengers comes the closest to Fraction’s work in overall tone and feels somewhat of a piece with the sort of “knowing” vibe found in the series. It’s also absolutely bonkers and worthy of attention on its own merits. Young Avengers is, conversely, like all Gillen-McKelvie collaborations, a tonal pop record of a comic. It gives you another look at Kate, with a great focus on her romantic entanglement with Marvel Boy, while also featuring an incredibly diverse cast. Also, both books are colored by the incredible Matt Wilson, Bonus!

Films and Television that inspired the series

Hawkeye is, as previously mentioned, inspired by visual media, with both subtle tonal similarities, and much more overt homages. Here are a few worth noting…

the-long-goodbye

The Long Goodbye – Remember Harold from Kate’s adventure in LA? The cat food buying freelance writer that Kate would encounter in the grocery store and would inspire her to become a “hero for hire”? While the character was created for Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, Matt Fraction and Annie Wu basically transformed him into a pastiche of the hero of Robert Altman’s hazy LA noir classic The Long Goodbye. Recently released on Blu-ray this week, treat yourself to one of the best films of a film-making master.

Rio Bravo John Wayne Dean Martin

Rio Bravo – What this John Wayne Western classic, that also stars Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, actually has to do with the finale of Hawkeye is still to be determined. But, the solicit of Hawkeye #21, the first of the upcoming two-part finale, explicitly references it. While it still remains to be seen how much the tale of a small-town sherriff and his unlikely band of allies keeping a murderer behind bars from the attempts of a brother trying to set him free will actually play into the finale…we’ll play it safe and say its a big influence.

hot-fuzz

Hot Fuzz – In interviews, Annie Wu has specifically cited Edgar Wright as a major inspiration for her work, particularly in her tendency to have disembodied hands pop up into close-ups to deliver notes or a phone. A slighter inspiration for sure, but well worth viewing for those unfamiliar with his work. Given the subject matter at hand, Hot Fuzz, one of Wright’s more under-appreciated films and one based more on a (very!) heightened version of reality than the sci-fi or horror outings that surround it, is probably the way to go.

enter_the_dragon_1973_685x385

Enter the Dragon – So much of Hawkeye, especially in its earlier issues, is indebted to 70’s action films. Really, you could find any suitable choice to fill in this slot, from the Steve McQueen starring Bullitt or the Gene Hackman fronted masterpiece The French Connection; but given that Fraction was recently interviewed by NPR about his love of Enter the Dragon, the titular Bruce Lee tour de force, we’ll go with that. You can’t go wrong with the Hackman vehicle either!

Rockford-Files

The Rockford Files - Even in the promotion of the first issue, Fraction was drawing parallels between Clint Barton and Jim Rockford, the hero of the unusual for its day 70’s detective series The Rockford Files. When you break it down, the similarities are definitely there: a private detective taking on cases of the lost and the dispossessed while living in a trailer off the coast of Malibu, with his life in some state of financial disarray, resorting to humor over violence. While his original James Bond-esque take on the character appears in the two-part Javier Pulido drawn “The Tape” story-line, James Garner’s atypical gumshoe informed a great majority of Fraction’s scripts surrounding it.

Edit: Over Twitter, David Aja was kind enough to add a few films to this list, they are as follows:

The-HustlerThe Hustler

caligariThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Bullitt_mustangBullitt

vanishing pointVanishing Point

point blankPoint Blank

The-Italian-Job-1969-9The Italian Job

get carterGet Carter

Comics at the root of Hawkeye

The comic book inspirations that drive Matt Fraction and David Aja are wide-ranging and could fill up an entire post by itself, but for a wide overview its impossible to overstate the influence of Los Bros Hernandez, Warren Ellis and Howard Chaykin on Fraction, while David Aja is clearly indebted to the work of illustrative wizard David Mazzucchelli. I’ve cited three key works from the first three creators that Fraction himself has signaled out that are must reads, and for Mazzucchelli, while his superhero career was sadly all too short, his revolutionary take on Daredevil with Frank Miller is fitting given that we’re talking about another Marvel character.

MAGGIE (1)

Maggie the Mechanic – The first chapter in Jaime Hernandez’s decades-spanning LOCAS story in the legendary Love & Rockets. While both Hernandez brothers were/are equally influential in Fraction’s formative story-telling growth, its the punk rock aesthetic and energy of Jaime that rings closer to the tone of Hawkeye. This is a journey worth taking from the beginning.

bornagain

Daredevil: Born Again – For my money, maybe the best thing to ever host the Marvel logo. Buy it, if you haven’t already.

PLAN_OMNI_DJ-copy-300x438

Planetary – What The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is to Victorian Literature, Planetary is to Pulp and Comic Books. Everything critics were praising in Ellis’ short run on Moon Knight had its start here. Ellis has worked many comic book wonders, but Planetary is his best, at least for those with a predilection towards superheros and their archetypes.

American Flagg

American Flagg – When it comes to the 80’s works that revolutionized comics everyone talks about Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Maus. Yet had American Flagg ever stayed in print regularly, there’s no doubt that Howard Chaykin’s opus would be in that conversation as well. Sleek, sexy, whip-smart, and colored like an EGA computer game, American Flagg‘s first 12 issues are must reads for anyone wanting to get a masterclass in great comics.

If anyone has a great suggestion for influences on Annie Wu’s art, please toss them at me in the comments! My knowledge only goes so far.

Music to play in the background while you’re reading all those new comics

pet sounds

Pet Sounds – Not only because its an unimpeachably great album, but a Brian Wilson-esque character plays a big role in another one of Annie Wu’s LA based issues. More than 50 years later and this is still the sound of Southern California to my ears.

Or you could check out the various songs and pieces that David Aja listed in the back of a number of the earliest issues of the series, of which someone has posted up a good deal of on Youtube. I’ll never turn down free Miles Davis.

EDIT: David Aja shot me over the link for the full playlist selections on Spotify! Now you can enjoy the recommended listening list in its entirety.

dizzy

David also informed me of the following: “If there would be just one Hawkeye album, it would be Free Ride by Schifrin and Gillespie”

If you can’t get enough Fraction in your life

Though, if you’re into Hawkeye, you may just want to chase down more Fraction books, and who can blame you? Chances are, you’ve probably already heard about or read Sex Criminals, his very popular Image Comic with artist Chip Zdarsky. It’s great of course, as is his team-up with Howard Chaykin, the 50’s television mystery Satellite Sam (which, like Hawkeye, is going to have its own peek into New York and LA) but I might also recommend the following specifically…

iron fist

The Immortal Iron Fist – Fraction and Aja’s other team-up on a blonde Marvel hero. This is where the Enter the Dragon inspiration really comes to the fore, especially in the masterful tournament storyline “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven”. Its also a series that was for a time, co-written by Ed Brubaker.

casanova

Casanova – Though my pick for favorite Fraction book is the multi-dimensional spy saga Casanova. One part Pynchon, one part Morrison’s The Invisibles, and a whole lot of great Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba art. This is a writer completely unfiltered and is the kind of series I find myself reading at least once a year, where I discover something new every time. Image has just started to release brand new hardcovers as well, so there’s never been a better time to introduce yourself to Casanova Quinn.

Fun Hawkeye swag

hawkeye-minimalist-logo

Hawkeye Messenger bag – From the fine folks at WeLoveFine, I got this at San Diego Comic Con this year and I love it.

pizza-is-my-business

Pizza Dog shirt – Also for you Pizza Dog lovers, there’s now a shirt!

Looking into the future

Hawkeye-1-Ramon-Perez-c5b04

And lastly, you may know that Jeff Lemire and Ramon K. Perez will be taking the reins from Fraction and Aja starting in March of next year. You might be curious about what they’re bringing to the table. Rest assured, the works below, including Lemire’s first take on an archer character in his New 52 Green Arrow run, his rural Canadian hockey saga Essex County and Perez’s essaying of Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand script should leave you feeling pretty excited about the future of your favorite purple clad hero.

green arrow kill machine

Green Arrow: The Kill Machine

essex countyEssex County

a tale of sandJim Henson’s Tale of Sand

Happy Shopping!

hawkeye

The Beat Podcasts! More To Come: Marvel at Walmart

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngRecorded at Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast the More to Come Crew – Heidi MacDonald, Calvin Reid and Kate Fitzsimons – discuss Marvel’s elusive $5 trade paperbacks at Walmart, DC and Marvel’s growing pains as they attempt to attract women, Milo Manara‘s controversial cover for Spider-Woman #1, more comics publishers go DRM-free and much more on PW Comics World’s More To Come.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

SDCC ’14: Marvel Launch S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 from Mark Waid and Rotating Artists

SHIELD_1_Deodato

Finally deciding to firmly tie something in to their ‘Agents of SHIELD’ TV series, Marvel have announced a new book by writer Mark Waid, which’ll see him working with an assortment of different artists to bring the agency to life.

S.H.I.E.L.D. features Phil Coulson – the character played by Clark Gregg in the TV series – as the lead character, bringing together superheroes and spies to form an international peace-keeping force. The first issue, it’s been announced, will have Carlos Pacheco on art duties, with the intention of new artists every subsequent issue, it appears. Alan Davis will also take on an issue somewhere down the line – a hot 10 cents says it’s one with Storm in it!

The series will begin in December.

SDCC ’14: Princess Leia #1 from Mark Waid, Terry and Rachel Dodson

The final book in the initial Star Wars line at Marvel will be Princess Leia #1, from writer Mark Waid, artist Terry Dodson, and colourist Rachel Dodson.

[Read more…]

SDCC ’14: Darth Vader #1 from Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

The second book in the new Star Wars line at Marvel will be ‘Star Wars: Darth Vader’, from the creative team of Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca.

[Read more…]

SDCC ’14: Jason Aaron and John Cassaday Launch Star Wars #1 in 2015

Huge stonking great crushing news today, as Marvel have announced the release of their first set of Star Wars comics. The very first will be ‘Star Wars’ by the creative team of Jason Aaron and John Cassaday.

Jordan D. White will be editor for the Star Wars line at Marvel.

[Read more…]

Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans on ‘Angela’ #1

Angela, the character created by Neil Gaiman in another lifetime as part of the Spawn universe, will be receiving her own ongoing series later this year from the creative team of Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett, Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans.

Angela_Asgards_Assasin_Hans_Variant

I don’t know how we reached this point either, but that’s a packed lineup of creators up there. Jimenez is superstar enough, and his presence bodes well for the project. Gillen and Bennett will co-write the series, with Hans working on a back-up strip which’ll appear in each issue. That looks like her work on the cover as well.

The book will follow the character – revealed to be Thor and Loki’s sister in an Original Sin miniseries which either has or hasn’t started yet – as she decides to head off and make a name for herself in the Marvel Universe, primarily through the method of slashing people up and presumably growling at them a whole lot.

An ongoing series, the book will be edited by Wil Moss, and start in November.

SDCC ’14: Mighty Avengers Relaunches with Captain America in the Lead

Did you know that Falcon is Captain America now? Just thought it worth mentioning ahead of time, so this article doesn’t confuse you. He’ll be the lead in a relaunch for Mighty Avengers in November, you see, with Al Ewing and Luke Ross on as the creative team for the series.

[Read more…]

SDCC ’14: ‘All-New Captain America: Fear Him’ Digital Comic

The first Marvel announcement from SDCC came today at their ‘House of Ideas’ panel, as the creative team of Dennis Hopeless and Szymon Kudranski will put together a six-issue digital series featuring Sam Wilson, the new Captain America.

[Read more…]

Rocket Raccoon #1’s Initial Orders Inflated By Single Source

art by Skottie Young

art by Skottie Young

by Brandon Schatz

A few days before the book’s final order cut-off with retailers, Marvel let it slip that their upcoming Rocket Raccoon series had garnered over 300,000 initial orders, well above expected estimates for the series. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped as reports came in regarding mass quantities of the book having been ordered by Loot Crate, a company that sends boxes filled with assorted genre and video game paraphernalia to homes via subscription.

With numbers ranging from roughly 100,000 upwards to 180,000, depending on who’s been dong the digging, many feel as though this places an asterisk on the numbers Marvel so proudly announced. To put this into context, people who are subscribing to a service are receiving product, much like a shop’s regular subscription service. What’s more, many of these copies will be read and experienced by those who don’t normally make the regular trip to the comic shop, exposing the series and comics in general to a new audience – and while Marvel’s initial announcement wasn’t all that forthcoming, the information stands: Rocket Raccoon #1 has received over 300,000 in initial orders, a number that has no doubt grown as retailers made their final order adjustments with that information in mind.

The Retailer’s View: On Rocket Raccoon Orders Topping 300,000

by Brandon Schatz

When Marvel first announced the Rocket Raccoon book, I was fairly excited. Pairing the character with Skottie Young just as interest would crest for the movie seemed like a no-brainer, one that I could use to sell a few copies to interested parties. I was expecting healthy sales, but nothing that would eclipse the character’s parent title – especially given how stylized Young’s art is. What I hadn’t counted on was for Marvel to play their hand almost perfectly, netting a fairly unprecedented 300,000 copy order before the book’s final cut-off. How in the world did they swing such a huge number – especially with a relatively small amount of incentives? Let’s break things down.

art by Skottie Young

art by Skottie Young

It starts at the core: with creator Skottie Young. Over the years, Young has built himself as a brand quite handily. Choosing projects that played to his strengths, and running with the swell of goodwill garnered by his spot-on series of hilarious “baby” covers, the man went from some punk kid drawing the Human Torch Tsunami book, to an overwhelming creative force through sheer force of will and talent. Witnessing this, Marvel offered him Rocket – a book that not only fit his art style, but his story telling sensibilities – and while almost any comic can sell given the right bit of zeitgeist and marketing, there’s no comic that blows up this big without the core being so strong from the get go. Take a look at the numbers for any of the big two’s recent events. Marvel and DC (and pretty much any company) would have killed to have numbers like this for one of their events – books that they push so hard and stack so high with talent that they can’t help but move tens of thousands of copies without breaking a sweat. Rocket seemed to accomplish a lot more, using relatively less.

The numbers on this series are indicative of Marvel’s creative direction as of late. While you won’t find a shortage of people decrying their tactics or stories, there’s little you can do in the face of numerical data – and while the industry isn’t pulling in the numbers it did in it’s heyday, any upswing that’s occurring within Marvel is down to some genius marketing on their part. If we’re talking Rocket and the Guardians of the Galaxy specifically, it begins with the relaunch of Guardians a year ago on the back of the movie development, and the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Combining a bit of meticulously planned timing with that specific creative team (and the regular round of marketing and variant thresholds), the series launched to an estimated tune of 211,312 copies for issue one – or, if you want to nitpick, 80,344 copies for the prologue issue #0.1. To put that in a kind of context, the previous ongoing Guardians book from 2008 debuted to a paltry 36,282 copies. Why? Well, there clearly wasn’t anything wrong with the creative team – after all, they formed the basis of what would become the current phenomena – it was a matter of marketing and timing. Quesada, for all the good he did for the company, never quite understood the cosmic side of the Marvel universe (a fact that he’s admitted in several interviews over the years) and as a direct or indirect result, when good books were coming out in this realm, the marketing never gelled. The same goes for any comic shop – if your proprietor doesn’t understand the appeal of a certain title, there’s a good chance that book won’t get a big push within the walls of that store as focus tends to remain elsewhere. As a business entity, it always pays to ignore taste (to an extent) and push through the blocks set up in your mind in order to gain the largest audience for the property in question. This is a lesson Marvel has clearly learned.

Everything about the release of Rocket Raccoon makes sense. A great creator matched with a great concept, dropped not a month before he stars in a big movie. An announcement made months in advance of regular solicitations to build up pressure alongside the movie, allowing retailers to hear whispers from their customers long before orders are even available to place, culminating in a fever pitch when orders are due. And then, there’s the fact that Marvel let the numbers slip the week before retailers had to set their Final Order Cut-Off numbers, allowing lazier retailers to shake their head and wonder if they’ve ordered enough themselves. Everything about this launch was perfectly timed, and should result in solid sales – at least for Marvel. As for possible sell through, that remains to be seen. Some of this hypothetical 300,000+ print run involves incentive covers running off of qualifiers that have goosed the numbers – but considering the fact that Marvel put heavier incentives on the first issue of Guardians and still came up with a smaller number speak volumes for what they’ve put together here.

art by Paco Medina

art by Paco Medina

Now before I call it a day, there remains another facet of this marketing tale left unexplored: that of the Legendary Star Lord book from Sam Humphries and Paco Medina. In all of the hubbub for this, I you’d be hard pressed to find people talking about this book, which I think is a shame. For all the good Marvel did in marketing Rocket, they really dropped the ball on Star Lord – which is to say, the numbers are probably very healthy, but could they be as healthy as they could have been? This should have been announced the week after the Rocket Raccoon announcement. The company should have been out there pounding the pavement with preview art and concepts. I’m a big fan of the works of both Humphries and Medina, and think they are a great match for this character – one that might not be as zeitgeist grabbing as the dude responsible for years of amazing variant covers and the gorgeous art that graced the Marvel Oz books, but still, there should have been more happening. As a result of some personal hustle, I have pre-order numbers that are quite comparable to that of my Rocket Raccoon numbers. That’s down to marketing – and while I understand there will never be a time where companies like Marvel or DC will treat all properties equally, it always pains me to see a marketing opportunity lost. I want books in the hands of people who are going to enjoy them, and I can’t always do that by myself. The comic book industry needs everyone to pull their own weight the keep it running, and while a 300,000+ run of Rocket Raccoon is nice to see, it would have been great to see even a 200,000+ run of Legendary Star Lord announced as well.

That said, it isn’t over until it’s over, and who knows? Maybe in a few months time, retailers will be swimming in Rocket Raccoon #1’s while scrambling to get second prints of Legendary Star Lord. The market is a strange and wonderful place, and in the end, despite, it’s always the readers who have the final say. Hopefully, we get two very healthy ongoings out of this, as I feel both books will deserve a healthy readership. Time will tell.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He’s spent the past four as the manager of Wizard’s Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and stares at passive keyboards and empty word documents, making secret wishes and bargains that will surely come back to haunt him. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

C2E2: Marvel Announce ‘The Legendary Star Lord’

Marvel continue to roll out announcements today, with the news that Sam Humphries and Paco Medina will be the creative team for an ongoing Star Lord series. Following the exploits of the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy (and star of the upcoming movie), the series will see him fighting the good fight off – and, it looks, on – Earth.

[Read more…]

C2E2: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm

Marvel are kicking off a weekend of announcements today with news about some Original Sin tie-ins. The main Original Sin series will see The Watcher get shot up something rotten, his eyeballs getting ripped out, and everybody finding out deep and dark secrets which previously only Uatu knew about. It’s like superhuman wikileaks, basically. And amongst the tie-ins has just been announced a five-issue miniseries from Jason Aaron, Simone Bianchi, Al Ewing, and Lee Garbett: Loki and Thor: The Tenth Realm.

[Read more…]

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…]

Ruth Redmond on Colouring, Comics, and Getting In With Marvel [Interview]

The Irish comics scene is one of the busiest in the world right now, and almost certainly one of the fastest growing. Spurred on by creators like PJ Holden and Declan Shalvey, more and more writers and artists are making a name for themselves in comics. And one of the newest of those is colourist Ruth Redmond, who first drew my attention for her work on Exit Generation.

Having worked for Boom Studios and now Marvel, her first year in comics has also been an impressive success story, and I spoke to her about everything that’s been going on, what drew her into the World of comics, and

 rr1

Steve: How did you first get involved in comics? What comics first drew you in?

Ruth: My earliest memory of comics is when my parents were on a missionary trip in Austria and I was left in the hotel room with a bunch of comics. I specifically remember the My Little Pony comic, it was in German but I was still able to grasp the story from the images and I loved it. My Dad also had a lot of collections of newspaper strips and European comics about the house when I was growing up and my Granny bought my brother and I the Dandy and Beano every time we visited.

So I’ve always had comics around me growing up, but I first got really excited about comics when I was 15 and a girl in my class introduced me to manga. The dynamic style of manga was so different from what I has read before, it blew my mind! Around the same time I discovered the wonderful world of webcomics which got me even more excited about comics. I eventually began to explore American mainstream comics just before I started college!

Steve: You’ve written, drawn, and coloured comics – but you’re starting to become best known, perhaps, for the colouring. How has this focus developed over the last year, particularly, do you feel?

Ruth: I think with colouring it’s kind of like I’ve found my calling. Like you say, I’ve done other aspects to comic making, but colouring is where people have seemed to start to notice me. I think a big contributing factor to this, apart from the fact that I really love colouring, is that I found an absolutely stellar mentor in Jordie Bellaire. She has helped me to grow exponentially in the past year, far faster than I ever would have on my own. I still have a lot to learn, which I’m sure she’ll help me with, but I still already owe her so much!

Declan Shalvey has been wonderful too in helping me to get my name out there. So I think between the two of them, and all the other wonderful people who have been helping me along the way, I’ve been really pushed in the right direction in terms of focusing on developing the career I want.

Steve: Do you still find time to work on writing and drawing, or are you now mainly working on your various colouring projects?

Ruth: Yeah I still draw just about everyday, it’s important to keep those muscles working and I still have so much to learn! And I like to write to wind down sometimes. I also have to do lots of other art related things because of college, so there’s always something that needs doing that isn’t colouring! Though it is hard to stop colouring from taking over my life haha!

I recently started an evening course at a local school in visual storytelling (basically comics) that’s being taught by the phenomenal Phil Barrett so as to try and refocus myself into drawing mini-comics. I haven’t produced anything I’ve written and drawn in over a year, so I wanna get some stuff going to have for this con season.

rr3

From Revolutionary War: Dark Angel

Steve: Have you experienced the ‘for exposure’ pitch, at all?

Ruth: Oh yeah, for sure! Haha~ I don’t think those ever go away. I think people don’t use those two words as much anymore because of the way they make artists spin around and walk the other way but yeah I still get people asking me to work for free or for backend. I don’t hiss at this though, I’ll listen to just about any pitch cause there are lots of amazing comics that people want to get off the ground that just don’t have the upfront capital to get them going without a little leniency when it comes to pay.

Thankfully as a colourist I can take on a few projects at a time so I can take the well paying gig that makes it possible for me to take the just as exciting but less well paid job.

Steve: Imagine Agents was your first work published by a major company – how did you get involved with the series? Did you pitch yourself?

Ruth: This was kind of nuts actually! I hadn’t sent in anything to BOOM! cause I was being a big baby that was too afraid to ‘bother’ people by sending them my work but Declan, being the great guy that he is, sent off a link to my portfolio blog anyway one night when we were up late working in his and Jordie’s studio. I can’t remember if it was that night or the next day but BOOM! got back very quickly asking if I wanted to work for them. I did a test for IMAGINE Agents and passed it and I was ecstatic! It was such a cool book that was right up my alley in terms of style, a fantastic first series for me!

Steve: You’ve also now started to work with Marvel, first for Revolutionary War: Dark Angel, and now for books like Avengers Assemble. How does this work, exactly? Do you move from job to job through word of mouth and recommendation?

Ruth: You know I’m actually not entirely sure! I’m still unclear as to how I got on Marvel’s radar to the point where they hired me in the first place! When I got asked to colour Supersoldiers and Motormouth in the Revolutionary War event it made sense to me cause it felt like the same ballpark. I have no clue why they thought I should fill in for Nolan Woodard when he was too busy for #24 of Avengers Assemble.

My understanding of it is though, that once you’re in the Marvel system they have a kind of list of people they call on for that kind of thing. So yeah, I’m a bit hazy on the details but very grateful!

Steve: How difficult is it to build up a portfolio as a colourist? Is it difficult to not only find projects – but to keep finding them, and build up a body of work?

Ruth: Before I buddied up with Jordie it was very difficult to find high resolution inks of artists I wanted to colour for my portfolio. When I met her I had only coloured three short comics and they were all drawn by the same person, Rob Carey. While I was very grateful that he had asked me to colour his stuff (that’s what made me realize I liked colouring) it didn’t allow me to show much variety in my work.

But yeah, once I was working under Jordie I had access to lot of amazing artwork that she would let me practice on, and not long into my informal internship she started to recommend me for jobs that were pitched to her but that she didn’t have time for. I think I’ve had a unique experience with Jordie and Dec because once I started hanging out with them within a couple months I was getting a steady enough stream of offers of work that I was never really left wanting.

I think colourists might be slightly less abundant than artists, or something, because I haven’t ever not had work to do in the past 7 months!

rr4

Steve: Do you think you’ll try to mix titles like Avengers Assemble and small press projects like Exit Generation? Are you interested in balancing out mass-market titles with small press comics?

Ruth: Oh yeah for sure! I’ll take on any project that I have time for and that interests me! I don’t mind whether it’s big or small press. Obviously I do also have to consider how much money I’ll be making so I can still pay my bills, but after that it does just really depend on the project’s merits. Declan uses this good check list of things he says you should consider before taking on a project. The order doesn’t matter as long as it ticks at least one box, preferably two or even all three!
– Is the project going to be creatively rewarding?
– Is it going to benefit your career/exposure?
– Is the pay good?

So if a project ticks all three boxes, you’re laughing! I think it’s a good rule of thumb! Though maybe ‘Do you have the time’ should go on there too, it’s very hard to say no to jobs sometimes but you really have to or else they’ll all suffer eventually!

Steve: When you first come to a project, how do you approach the colouring? Do you read through the script to work out the tone, do you build up themes – what do you do in preparation for working on a book?

Ruth: When I join on to a new project I like to look at how the artist has been coloured before and how they like to colour themselves so I can get a feel of what they’d like me to do. I also ask them and the rest of the creative team for advance notes. I read the script to look for emotional beats and any other specific cues the writer had in mind e.g. time of day.

If it’s an existing franchise or character I’ll look up their past appearances for reference. Basically anything I can use to inform my decisions so I can avoid obvious mistakes as best I can. If I’m feeling really stumped I might watch some animation, check out the work of other artists or take a scroll through some art blogs on my tumblr dashboard.

Steve: What do you feel is the most important aspect of your work? What does colouring bring to a series?

Ruth: Hmm, I suppose clarity of values is the first most important thing, the reader needs to know where to look and the use of value in a work can indicate this very efficiently. The eye reads value (light and dark) faster than it registers actual colours. I think the second most important thing for me is the emotional tone. The use of certain colours will evoke certain emotions in a reader even faster than words or what the characters are expressing.

I still have loads to learn about colouring but these two areas are probably the most fascinating to me right now. I am endlessly intrigued by semiotics so the idea of provoking certain emotional responses in the reader purely through the use of particular colours, calling on their emotional associations with those colours just gets me so excited!

Steve: Which creators inspire your work? 

Ruth: Oh gosh so many! It’s gonna sound like I’m just saying it but I seriously adore everything Jordie does. Sometimes when I’m feeling really lost with my work I look up her stuff. With other comic colourists I also love the work of Matt Hollingsworth, Matt Wilson, Dave Stewart and Christina Strain.

Just in comics I get all in a tizzy over the works of EK Weaver, Ashley Cope, Emily Warren, Paulina Gancuheau, Phil Barret, Sean G. Murphy, Gigi D.G, Mickey Quinn, Tyson Hesse, Becky Cloonan, Declan Shalvey, Heather Meade, Danielle Corsetto, Jayd Aït-Kaci, Tracy J. Butler, Zach Sterling, Doug TenNapel, aaah so many people! I should stop, but holy crap there are so many amazing people out there! I also like a lot of painters, animators and designers, but I probably shouldn’t start listing all of them too haha!

But yeah, if you haven’t seen the works of even one of the people on that list check them out~!

rr2

From Imagine Agents #1

Steve: Ales Kot spoke on Twitter recently about creator-owned comics, saying he gives a percentage of ownership across to the colourists he works with. Obviously it’d be in your interest if this became a more wide-spread practise, but would you agree with his assertion that colouring is as vital an element of comic creation as anything else, and thus deserving of partial ownership? Do you think this may become a more common thing to see as we move forward?

Ruth: Yeah I’m on board with Kot! Not just cause that would probably mean more money for me down the line haha, but colourists do genuinely deserve more admiration than they get a lot of the time. I think letterers deserve it too. It’s not very often you see a comic without colours or letters, certainly in mainstream publishing anyway. Yet for all the hundreds of comics that are on shelves every month, there are maybe a handful of colourists the average reader would know the name of and even less that get invited to guest at shows, or get shared ownership of a book etc.

I’m not sure why that is. I don’t think it can be said that a colourist or letter’s job is easier than a pencillers or writers, it just gets done faster. I think things are improving slowly though as more and more creators step up and point out the people they work with. Also Jordie’s initiative; colourist appreciation day is great!

Steve: You’ve come into comics at a time when it feels like the Irish comics scene has noticeably started to rise in profile. Is this something you’ve noticed particularly, yourself?

Ruth: Yeah it does seem to be buzzing! I think I arrived to the party a little late so I was only becoming aware of the people around me when they were already achieving a lot so to me it kinda felt like I was walking in on a bunch of cool cats. As I became friends with them and got to know everyone’s backstory though it did seem to be something that has only come to fruition in the last few years, which is great for me!

I’m coming up at a time where the talent has never been more plentiful and the cons have never been bigger. It has made it very easy to meet great people that before I would have had to go abroad to see!

Steve: How have you found the comics industry in general, now you’ve moved from self-published work to small press work-for-hire through to work for hire at companies like Boom or Marvel? How’s the journey been, for you, thus far?

Ruth: Everyone is super friendly! I have yet to meet anyone mean or unpleasant, so many amazing people I really admire have not had any problem with just chatting to me, it’s kinda dizzying when I think about it haha! Everyone seems willing to help everyone else, it’s super nice to see! I’ve been given such amazing leg ups because of this. I reckon all of this is on account of the fact that everybody in comics is here cause they really want to be.

Scratch beneath the surface of professionalism and panache of most people working at any level in the industry and you find a wonderfully dorky centre that just wants to share the love of comics! I think when someone has something they really love in their lives it’s harder to be a grump haha

Steve: What else do you have coming up over the next year?

Ruth: In February I’ve got a Robocop oneshot, Memento Mori, coming out from BOOM! Feb 19thMarvel’s Revolutionary War: Supersoldiers and Avengers Assemble #24 on the 26th. Then Revolutionary War: Motormouth in March as well as Exit Generation #2.

My new ongoing with BOOM!, Dead Letters, starts appearing on shelves in April. I also recently signed on for a new indie book, My Maker and I, which I am really excited about! Plus some other bits and pieces. So um, yeah, exciting year ahead for me I think!

Many thanks to Ruth for her time! You can also find her across the internet: on Twitter, on DeviantArt, and on Tumblr!

You can also find me – Steve – over on Twitter, and at t’Vanguard.

Interview: Mark Waid on the Inner Demons of Daredevil, Attitude Adjustment for the Hulk, and the Thrill of Digital Comics

________

By Matt O’Keefe

Not only has Mark Waid been pioneering digital comics over the past few years; he’s also broken new ground in mainstream comics. In Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk heroes are actively addressing their mental health, taking steps to lead better lives. I spoke to Waid about the approach he’s bringing to his Marvel books and his role as co-publisher of Thrillbent.

 

Did you have a specific game plan when you started writing Indestructible Hulk?

I did, but it’s changed pretty radically.  The set up was that there’s Bruce Banner, and all he needs is acceptance and funding for equipment so he can make a name for himself.  As I got further into it I realized that Banner has a lot of inner demons that are very akin to depression or anxiety issues that he can’t just hand-wave away.

file_193701_0_hulkNOW658

Bruce Banner has a different view on his Hulk problem.

I love the new directions of your Marvel books. Both Bruce Banner and Matt Murdock have fresh “onwards and upwards” attitudes. They’re deciding to change, whereas most of the time superheroes are more reacting to external events.

The thing is – it applies more to Daredevil than the Hulk but certainly Hulk, too –

Daredevil clearly is dealing with chemical depression issues in his life and, frankly, so have I my entire life. I’ve made no secret of that– and something I learned is like any chronic condition it doesn’t just go away, but what you can do is use cognitive therapy to get past the worst of it.

I think you see very clearly in Daredevil that depression is inertia. What fuels depression is that sense of helplessness, that sense of not knowing what to do next, that image of sitting on a gargoyle in the rain on the rooftop, frozen by inaction. To me, Daredevil come to grips with that and is actively pushing past. I wrote a scene where he feels that paralysis that comes with depression and he pushes through it.  He makes an active decision to move forward.  Any movement is better than no movement at all.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen depression covered in superhero comics to the extent you’ve done.

Depression is one of those conditions that as society we tend to be judgmental towards, like there’s something shameful about it. We don’t want to admit that it’s not just “a bad mood” but a genuine condition people deal with.  But part of coming to terms with depression is not letting it define who and what you are, not letting it rule your life or set the rules for you. It’s figuring out instead how to manage it like any chronic condition in a way that minimizes the impact on your day-to-day living and allows you to live as normal a life as possible.

In dealing with medication over the years and trying to figure out the best cocktail of pills to treat my depression, one of the most uplifting things I heard came from a physician who was listening to me worry about side effects. He said, “The whole goal of taking medication is to minimize the side effects as much as possible so you can best live a normal life.” And that goes for non-medicinal cognitive therapy, too. In other words, don’t feel like you have to accept that there are crippling, inescapable side effects to treatment– that’s giving up control. You need to monitor your medication and your treatment and work hard at making it work for you.

Back to Daredevil…he had an epiphany. He came to realize that you can keep digging and digging and digging a hole for yourself, but once you hit a certain level, you have to decide whether or not you’re going to just live at the bottom of a pit for the rest of your life or make an effort to climb out.

And Matt’s self-administered treatment–just powering through the inertia and not dwelling on the past–may not be the best treatment. We’ve addressed that and will continue to. His may not be the most beneficial or smartest way to deal with his problem, but it’s better than nothing. Sometimes his attitude will change depending upon the circumstances around him because, again, it’s an ongoing process, finding the right way to deal with the condition.

2603554-daredevil

Matt Murdock is deciding to make a change.

Who do you think is handling their mental health better: Matt Murdock or Bruce Banner?

[Laughs] I think now Matt – in the past Bruce has probably done a slightly better job. But to be fair Bruce has a perfect outlet for his own demons, it’s big and green and strong. He can morph into a whole different form that can be a release valve for him. Daredevil is Daredevil 24/7.

I appreciate the fact that Bruce Banner, like Matt, finally put his foot down one day and said, “I am not going to be the victim of circumstance anymore.” I think a lot of the problems that Bruce has – his sense of identity, sense of helplessness, feeling like a victim to his situation – are far more ingrained in him than we realize. My Thrillbent partner John Rogers likes to say, “The most addictive feeling in the world is feeling hard-done by.” To buy into the notion that fate is fate and there’s nothing you can do to take control of your life. It’s a very human way of dealing with problems, but it’s not a very heroic way of dealing with them. That’s what characterized my rethinking of Matt Murdock and what characterized my rethinking of Bruce Banner. If you’re going to deal with your emotional problems honestly and change your life, the first thing you need to do is draw a line in the sand and say “ it’s going to be different from now on, starting here.”

On Indestructible Hulk you seem so flexible. When Walt Simonson comes aboard, you write a classic Thor story for him. The last two arcs were event tie-ins. How much of that is part of the gig and how much is by design?

It’s funny… It’s just part of the gig but I’ve managed in the last few months of the current run to turn it to my advantage. I’ve been playing very openly with the notion that Hulk tends to be different every time he appears. Part of that is because of whatever biochemical stuff is going through Bruce’s brain at the moment of transformation, the severity of the trauma that awakens the Hulk at that moment. I’ve been leaning into the fact that Hulk has had so many different approaches and attitudes over the years.

file_203119_0_hulkSMASHteaser658

Mark Waid wrote a Thor/Hulk story specifically for Walt Simonson.

Shifting to Thrillbent, what does your role as publisher entail?

Most everything. It’s still a skeleton group of people, but it’s gotten to where most of what we are doing, the production end of it, is fairly automated.  The people we are publishing get it and my attention turns less towards teaching how to do what we do and more towards looking for content for the next wave. We’re trying to time another push for April or May this year with brand new materials by bigger name people. I’ve been busy putting all those wheels in motion, and at the same time writing more content myself.

You have plans to write a new Thrillbent series?

At least one. We’ll definitely be bringing Insufferable back at some point in the spring but beyond that there’s at least one more Thrillbent series I’ll be doing and maybe two. It all depends on schedule.

1334346693_1334365235

Big things coming to Thrillbent.

Is Peter Krause going to do Insufferable along with Daredevil: Road Warrior?

He’ll be done with Road Warrior by the time Insufferable’s back on his drawing board–the Daredevil gig is only a four-week series, but his work is spectacular on it. Thrillbent’s not involved in the Daredevil: Road Warrior Infinite Comic directly; Pete and I are just

taking a short Insufferable break while we remind the Marvel audience why Peter Krause is a force to be reckoned with and somebody to be followed back to Thrillbent.

Daredevil-Infinite-Comic

Daredevil is getting the Infinite treatment for four weeks.

The online store’s been up about six months. How’s it been going from your perspective?

Good.  Not quite as robust as I’d hoped.  There are four factors to selling anything: content, distribution, publicity, and marketing. We are great at content; we are good at distribution. Because of the limited amount of time in the day, however, marketing and publicity is where we fall down.  That’s no fault of the people at Thrillbent behind the scenes; that’s on me – I don’t have as much time as I’d like to pound the drum and get people to swarm to our site. When I talk about it through social media, people come, but the moment I turn my attention to something else it’s hard to keep the momentum up. The next push in April or May we’ll try to figure out a way to make that more sustainable.

Is there a term for the type of comic Thrillbent publishes? Everyone seems to call them something different.

We don’t have a term yet. We’ve been talking about that. We sure need one, don’t we?  When you say digital comics, that’s not specific enough.  Digital comics at this point mean anything from just reformatted printed comics, to what we do, to [shudder] motion comics. It’s not a very specific term. I am open to any and all suggestions.

Rich Johnston suggested naming them de Campi comics, after Alex de Campi.

Let me rephrase: I am open to any and all suggestions but those from Rich Johnston. I kind of like that idea, and I love Alex de Campi; we’re putting her Valentine material on our site and she’s going to be doing new installments for us. But if you ever see me enthusiastically taking a suggestion from Rich Johnston, you can assume I’m being blackmailed somehow.

[Laughs] What are some digital comics not published by Thrillbent that have really caught your eye?

There’s stuff from Madefire that I think is really interesting. I like what the Aces Weekly guys are doing. Tapastic interests me, too, thought I think they’re better at presentation than at content.

Last question: what’s inspiring you, whether it’s fiction nonfiction, real life, whatever?

What tends to inspire me more than anything else is the news. Getting up in the morning and cruising a bunch of science and social justice websites and see what’s happening in the world today that I can translate in today into comic form. Social justice issues for Daredevil to tackle and science developments to seed stories for Bruce Banner.

 

You can find Mark at his website and on Twitter @MarkWaid. You can read and purchase Insufferable and other digital comics from Mark’s publisher Thrillbent.