Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Crackling with excitement, drama, and strong characters, Proof offers a truly unique experience for any comic book reader. Yet, with its abundance in offerings, the relationships and play between characters are what set the book apart from your standard comic. Even though the book is titled off of a specific character, the book, in true essence, is a “team” book much like Justice League or Avengers.
Blanketed by a tapestry of phenomena and quirky action, the cast seems to rely on social interaction to provide the almost “normal” atmosphere people seek. Issue number nine of the series is packed with these situations: anything from the trio of John, Ginger Brown, and Elvis Chestnut eating bagels to John instilling a sense of culture and self-appearance into the mind’s eye of Elvis. They are activities of the everyday in a book where a Bigfoot, a Dover Demon, and fairies exist.
For the sake of our “main” character, John Prufrock, being the Bigfoot that he is, seems to be the character with the most human of characteristics. The boy has family issues, tough luck in love, and a strong feeling of social awkwardness. These are things everyone goes through in their lifetime. But, going to the point, as a reader those traits are highly visible due to John’s interaction with Savage Dragon. For a few moments John doesn’t feel so alone; he sees the Dragon similar to himself and takes advantage of the quick banter going back and forth. Through the Dragon’s advice and experience, John sees a light at the end of the deep, dark social tunnel. He realizes that he does not have to be alone.
No matter the amount of cryptids seen or villains fought, Image Comics’ Proof is a portrayal of a cast on a journey. Throughout this series we will witness a powerful character drama. I have faith.
Monday, March 2, 2009
As a whole, as a complete portrait, as one idea I think Hamlet is a strong example of human frailty. But, the actual act of reading and digesting is not close to being an enjoyable journey. This opinion is mainly due to the seemingly impenetrable dialect, diction, and flow of Shakespeare, which creates a universal tone blanketing the entire work. With Shakespeare at the helm, no character has a particular voice, tone, or attitude. Everyone from the noble lord to a common groundling sounds exactly the same. With that in mind, it is quite easy for me to forget the characters, the situation, what is at stake, and overall just not care. Shakespeare is a genre and language I just do not buy into.
Now, when asking for specifics, it is not an easy task. Hamlet seems like one long, dreary blur of an experience; for its lack of significance, my mind will not allow it to waste the space of my mental data base and recollection…*Deep Breath*…But, that is the point of this paper, isn’t it.
In attempt to lay quotation, I will provide the short list of lines that actually managed to hold my attention for longer than a second. The first is found within Act I: Hamlet is seeking out the apparition, only to be victim to this chilling line – “Murder most foul, as in the best it is, but this most foul, strange, and unnatural.” With these instructions, Hamlet’s fate is set, and evil takes the lead. For me personally, this line seemed to actually carry some weight compared to everything else.
To cap off my list of likeable lines, I will go with a single couplet: “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” The ending to Act II sets a moment of foreshadowing and actual understanding of the situation. This was the only point in the play I felt a bit happy to be reading. Also, I think it is the singular moment where the reader actually catches an attribute of a character: Hamlet is truly pretty clever.
Monotone is probably the kindest possible way I could describe the journey. Again, the idea and concept as an entire picture is brilliant, but the journey made me want to chuck the book across the room. I just need to stay away from Shakespeare. Art is certainly meant to drag emotion out from its audience but never the feeling of physical anger. Hamlet fails to provide the escape that all stories should; it only left me with frustration. Godspeed.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Is it odd that I cannot allow my mind to relax? Comic! Girls! Music! Podcasts! Those are my major thoughts. Yet, to break it down to one subject – and a large one at that – let’s talk forming a “pull list.” How crazy is it to purchase a product two months before its release and not knowing a damn thing about it? That’s pretty fucked up! Yet, as comic fans – especially those of us using an online pre-order service – we do it all the time. Now, for me, I hate the feeling of loosing money – I’m a cheap bastard to begin with (trying to escape that). Seriously, I am. I desperately strive to avoid all risks of loosing money (maybe it’s because I’m unemployed?); I am one of those guys who sticks with the usual to feel secure on a purchase rather than take the chance on something new. Whether it be food, movies, or comics. That’s just my nature. So, forming a pull list? Yeah, it is a challenge. But first, you have to face the fact that you will buy some serious crap: there is no avoiding it. Get it through your head! Now!!! --- Ok? Is it in there? Good. Now, knowing that fact, as a consumer you do become a bit paranoid about how you spend your money. Suddenly, it seems your spare cash has been put on a leash: whimpering to be placed in a good home.
So many aspects factor in when trying to predict a good comic book product. Creators! Characters! Genre! Story! Art! Ah, it’s enough to make your head hurt, isn’t it? And worst of all, for me personally, I can never make up mind on what I want. Why? Cause my tastes are constantly in flux? So many people having influence on my purchase? Being cheap? Yeah, I would say all three of those reasons add in. I am very bad about a changing pull list: one day I could be excited about Daredevil, and it’s definitely staying on my pull but within three days my interest wanes and the next best thing is Proof. I am perpetually mixing up my buy pile: switching books in and out trying to make the ultimate pull. It isn’t like I don’t enjoy the books I get – I do quite a bit. I think it lies more on the subject of just trying to cut back and keep my absolute favorite titles. But, narrowing down to those absolute favorites is tough (I am sure it is for everyone). It is hard to tell yourself, “Ok, you’re going to buy these six books for the next year and that is it.” I like to try new things, but going back to purchasing security, I know those six books I get are great, and I have no worry of feeling a lose of my money. There are so many good comics out there, and I believe they all deserve a chance on my reading pile, but realistically there is no way to afford it all. That sucks, doesn’t it? Having that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you may be missing out on something great? Missing a story that may seriously latch onto me? It drives me NUTS!!!
*Deep breath* --- In the end, I think the best way to solve my problem is to push my pull list out of my head. Just place my order every month of the books I follow and forget about it. Give the books an actual chance to show up at my doorstep, you know? By thinking about it so much and trying to cut….it just makes buying comics stressful. That’s stupid, isn’t it? Comics are entertainment. They are all about relieving stress, not creating it. I’m done with editing the DCBS order once a week. I’m done trying to pick “the best”. I just need to read comics and enjoy comics. That’s my only “duty” as a fan. Nothing else.
Friday, December 26, 2008
When it comes to the character of the Joker, a reader would or should expect a madman. With Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Joker, the landscape of the character’s mind is taken to a whole other level of instability. As Jonny Frost, a flawed street-thug looking for respect, takes on the impossible task of playing the Joker’s right-hand-man, he allows the audience, safely at a distance, to witness a true portrayal of Gotham’s greatest plague. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Gotham City at its darkest.
Have you ever pondered this thought: In our minds we see ourselves as normal; we hold that as our standard. Would it be possible that in the head of someone suffering insanity they see themselves as normal and the rest of us as the crazy ones? From my perspective, that is the key idea behind this original graphic novel. The Joker sees himself as any other guy, out there in the real world, just trying to earn his keep, but from the eyes of Jonny Frost, the psychotic nature resonates through. There is no doubt this version of the character coincides with the Ledger portrayal quite nicely, but this book has been in the works for three years. Unless the creative alliance of Azzarello and Bermejo caught a sight of early promo art for The Dark Knight, this was quite a spectacular coincidence of the same creative outcome. Yet, I am not throwing away how well both the film and this book sit with each other. They both offer a realistic Gotham, allowing for the belief that this sort of world could exist, and both contain a similar theme that shines through in the end. On the subject of the artwork, Bermejo is quite talented – not only with pencils but inks as well. I seem to prefer the man inking his own line work over the work of Mr. Mick Gray, but it isn’t like Gray’s work is hard to look either. Add in Patricia Mulvihill’s colors to supply the grit and gothic element, and you complete a stunning use of sequential art. If you stumble upon this hardcover book, do not pass it up. Essentially, this is a crime comic, and who does not enjoy the bad ass nature of crime? As a consumer, you should not have to look very hard for this piece. I am sure DC will keep it in print for years to come.
Previews Picks - December 2008
Remember the old Adam West TV series? I don’t. But, coming this February, King Tut, a classic villain from the show, will make his inaugural comic book appearance. It does not appear that this King will be screwing around, but instead he will be leaving his unforgettable mark upon the Caped Crusader. Written by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis with artwork by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan, this Batman tale looks to please. I have enjoyed this book of recent with its current story arc, and this solicitation does nothing but add to my excitement!
To be honest, I have no experience with either of these characters, but that does not mean I cannot be excited about this release. Coming out of Ape Entertainment, this two dollar one-shot looks to be a great point to join the action and submerge myself farther into the realm of independent comics. And, from the minds of Steve Bryant and Ben Lichius, we should expect strong pencils and a fantastic story weaving together the fates of two pulp-heroes. Plus, how can you go wrong for only two dollars?
For more information, please visit Steve Bryant’s Myspace Page.
Wilson Fisk a.k.a. The Kingpin returns! Ed Brubaker has been telling excellent stories with this character since the moment he took the reigns on the title, and I expect no different here. Could this be the epic Brubaker has been building to in his run, or is this only the beginning of something larger? Daredevil’s tormentor returns, and who will pencil this story? None other than David Aja! I am sold! Are you?
I guess as a teenager comic book fan this book would appeal to me for its young, robust attitude and twisting love triangle (square?). On that level of enjoyment, it fulfilled. I do not exactly relate to the characters of Katchoo, Francine, or David but their crazy lives easily remind me of the constantly fluxing atmosphere and soul that is high school or the teenage spirit. It appears these characters are in some sort of school – the opening scene is Francine horribly embarrassing herself in the performance of her school play – but I am not positively certain. The bit of dialog fed later in the book informs the reader that Katchoo has some sort of criminal past and a file that is monitored by the FBI. What kind of high school student (college maybe?) has a past with the FBI? I guess it is just an example of Terry Moore’s fun spirited use of comics as a medium of expression. Anything is possible in comics, right? Looking at Moore’s influence for Strangers in Paradise, it appears that he wished to do something in the form of a serialized newspaper strip. That attitude and atmospheric style flows through the artwork and storytelling full force; it is not hard to imagine this work on the Funny Page in a Sunday paper. Moore’s techniques of storytelling are solid, and work fully in a way of moving the plot forward. His use of emotions is a strong feature in the development of his characters, and it is clear the man knows how to capture the slightest facial expression. If he wished to, Moore could easily toss all dialog aside and tell the story through the characters’ body language. That, ladies and gentlemen, should be the goal of all comic book artists.
Secret Invasion ended last week, but it is not worth talking about. The only thing I will say on the behalf of this event is that it severely lacked in a conclusion, and it appears that Marvel truly has more talent in fueling the hype-machine than actually providing a worth while story. In the end, Marvel has only trained me to be more cautious of how I spend my well-earned dollar and made me more skeptical of “event comics” in general.
You know what a good comic was? It showed up in my latest Discount Comic Book Service shipment, and that book was Proof #14. I had never previously pondered the similarities held between John “Proof” Prufrock and Savage Dragon, but after seeing these two characters side by side and shooting the breeze, I have discovered that they work very, very well together in a scene. The banter back and forth is quick yet also heartfelt, and Savage Dragon easily becomes the witty, clever best friend to Proof’s hard-edged, quiet personality. More Proof/Savage Dragon crossovers, please?
Joss Whedon has some talent. I say this because I recently took a crack at the man’s run on Astonishing X-Men, and it was exactly what I wanted from an X-Men comic. My experience with the X-franchise is very limited, but this series seemed to provide all the X-Men exposure I would ever need. Whedon’s sense of storytelling never seems to slow or catch its breath: it constantly goes and goes, building on every moment until you, the reader, are gasping for air because of the content packed into every issue. John Cassaday’s artwork reminds me of a loose, fluid Greg Land, capturing the iconic nature of these characters and the Marvel atmosphere in general. Yet, you cannot down play Laura Martin’s colors in any form either. Martin brings a subtle edge that gives life to these pages and combines with Cassaday’s pencils to form artwork that is truly attention-hungry. But for me personally, it all comes back to the damn fine writing this story bleeds. Whedon writes excellent character interactions, and solidifies the “team aspect” of the X-men; Whedon is my X-men writer.
Alright, it was a short article this week, wasn’t it? I apologize. I should have been better prepared. How about this: if the United States Postal Service doesn’t screw me over, I will review the Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo for next week. I’m sure that will allow for some in-depth review, and it looks to be very, very good! Alright! I’m off to watch The Dark Knight!
- “Why So Serious?“
They are not your ordinary police unit, and it is not your ordinary town. Gotham’s roots run deep, yet it cannot escape the stranglehold of weeds threatening a horrid fate. What kind of cop would want to work in this town? It seems it would take one who is tireless and running on a strong sense of hope. This is Gotham Central: a drama crafted by the skilled minds of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, with the crisp artwork of Michael Lark, and rich colors provided by the team of Noelle Giddings, Matt Hollingsworth, and Lee Loughridge. Central portrays the daily challenges faced by GCPD’s top detectives and allows a glimpse into their affected personal lives. Yet, how does a justice system compare when Gotham has its own vigilante? The answer: spotlight the differences between the two ideals and prove that a system works without crossing the lines. Though, keep in mind, sometimes help is necessary – even for the Batman. In a city as hard as Gotham, nothing is done by one’s self; friends are needed in a world so bleak. This is the tale of the time when vigilantism met the system. Looking at the story, maybe the two ideals need each more than they realize when it comes to a city as cold as Gotham.
First off, let me applaud Brubaker and Rucka for starting the series on a different strategy. It seems that the norm for any new series is to start with a five or six part story arc, yet the Gotham Central team kicks things off with a small yet large (weird way of saying it) two part story. From the first page, the reader finds themselves hard at work along side two of GCPD’s finest. The murder of a teenage girl is the primary investigation and Detectives Charlie Fields and Marcus Driver are the main perspectives. Suddenly, the events are drenched in terror as Mr. Freeze makes his chilling move. Turning his head, Detective Driver discovers Fields stiffened by the icy clutch of death.
This inaugural tale shows the mortal dangers and risks faced by every member of Gotham’s police force. These men and women are not just up against purse snatchers and car-jackers but also the deadliest scum left festering in existence. “In the Line of Duty” also lets the reader see how these detectives not only act as a unit but as a family. The death of one of their own sends the team into heated action to capture Freeze without the assistance of the Batman. This goal is largely the hope of Detective Driver – whose character is strongly developed in these two issues – as he wants to prove that the actions and risks taken by others in his profession are well worth while and work. Two issues for a small story, yet they set the stage for the entirety of the series to come.
Charlie Fields’ final case was the disappearance of a fourteen-year-old girl. Now, it is up to Marcus Driver to close the investigation left behind by his deceased friend. Driver is not left to settle the score on his own, though. Brubaker introduces the audience to Detective Romy Chandler – a fiery redhead to act as the aid at Driver’s side and a captivating love interest. Yet, this daunting case is not the only trouble in Gotham as the furious Firefly continues to burn his mark upon the structure of the city. Could these events possibly be connected, or is it only a weird mishap that they occur in sequence? The case of the missing teenager takes many turns, but it all boils down to the sole purpose behind the deviant act to reveal the committer.
Brubaker is a master when it comes down to a cinematic style of plot movement. It is no task on any level to picture this story as an hour-long, prime-time episode of a cop drama. Brubaker also forces the reader into caring for the fate of these characters – there is no escape from it. The relationship built between Driver and Romy morphs into the soul of the story, and as a reader you cannot help but yearn to watch these two clasp hands and be in each others’ company in the end. Brubaker also showcases his talent of weaving an unavoidable detective tale. It is not so much that he keeps you guessing, but his use of police jargon and believable crime scene tactics are superb! In a series that appears to be very grim and gritty, “Motive” provides the happy ending the reader wishes for. Plus, Michael Lark can draw the hell out of the Dark Knight, and Matt Hollingsworth’s coloring injects nothing but emotion into the artwork. DC, get these guys back!
There are always two sides to a person, no matter what you may believe. With “Half a Life”, Greg Rucka unfolds an extreme situation to which this ideal pertains. Detective Renee Montoya holds a secret, and a past enemy holds a grudge. These two components work together to create a sum of gripping, fast-paced, and tragic events, all which revolve around the destruction of Detective Montoya. Yet, even at her lowest point – when even family seems to turn away – Detective Crispus Allen sticks by the side of his partner, determined to uncover the truth and bring the figure truly responsible for this havoc to justice.
Character moments run deep and strong throughout this arc. It is quite clear that Rucka is out to claim these characters his own from the start. Each page adds a sense of true lively hood and development to the main characters of Renee and Crispus. Rucka brings out the strong friendship and trust held between the two leads, reinforcing the reader’s belief in the sense of family held within the unit. Yet, in the same story, Rucka tears that feeling away when he portrays the remainder of the unit as a mob of rioters calling for Montoya’s head. The thing most prevalent is the strength and independence held in Renee’s character. She is not a weakling in any way, shape, or from, and she is not afraid to defend her ideals. Everyone possesses an Achilles’ heal, though, to which Rucka exposes. With the discovery of her homosexual lifestyle, Renee’s father and mother become severely upset and go as far as to cut all ties with her. Suddenly, she is abandoned. The loneliness and seclusion Renee is subjected to acts as a forceful hammer to shatter her hope and optimism, bringing the character to a breaking point. Rucka proves that Renee is his character and that no one else should handle the reigns when it comes to her development.
Where to Find???
If you find yourself interested in reading this great series, the first volume of this hardcover collection is available at In Stock Trades for a great low-price.
Two weeks ago, I ran a small interview with Thad Branco, publisher of A First Salvo, about their flagship title Contract. This week, I present a Q&A with writer and co-creator of Contract, Garan Madeiros. I had the pleasure of meeting the man at the 2008 New York Comic Con, and he is truly a great guy with plenty of ideas. Without any more interruption, I present the answers from Garan Madeiros!
Q: With Contract being a creator-owned property, where did the idea for the characters and story universe resonate from and how long have you carried the idea?
Garan: The idea for the universe and characters came from a home made role playing game that the editor, Kirk Outerbridge, and I created over ten years ago. Kirk came up with the universe of CyberMercs, the Helios system, and the mercenary guild concept, and I came up with the characters of the Stellar Rangers.
I think the reason our stories and characterization flow so easily when I write for the comic is that I basically lived out these characters while role playing. Add that to a universe and core concept that has already been thoroughly mapped out, and you have the makings for a rich textured world to draw countless of stories from. And trust me, there are many more stories we want to tell.
Q: You are also a retailer as I understand. How do manage the balance between comic book creator and retailer? Being that you are a creator yourself, do you tend to stock more small press books?
Garan: I find it interesting that there are not more retailers who are creators, it seems a natural step to me. I have a small shop but (I think) comfortable shop with most of my customers being regulars. When it gets quiet during the day I take the time to work on story plots, promoting the book on the forums or the plethora of other tasks that come with creating a comic. And it is great that I can take my book and put it right there on the shelf and sign the issues for customers.
I try to bring in and promote Indy titles as much as possible, but I simply don’t have the customer base that you find in the States. But, because I know my customers quite well I will often bring in Indy titles that I think they will be interested in and put them into their pull folders. If they decide to take them and give the book a try – great; if they don’t - I put it out on the shelf.
Q: The characters of Jessie, Tsumi, and Panzer all hold a tight nit friendship. In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of the characters’ friendship and a real life friendship?
Garan: A resounding theme I wanted to resonate between the characters was family. We wanted the characters to be more than just friends or colleagues but interact more like siblings, with the common tie being that their own families are in such disarray that they have bonded with each other to fill the holes in their lives.
Unfortunately, this is a sad reality for so many young people who turn to gangs in our world today, but the message we wanted to send is that there is nothing more important than family and that there are positive ways to achieve that—even if relationships within your own family are not the best.
As for friendship in real life, I think the most important in any friendship is trust. A true friend you can rely on for anything, you trust that they will always be there for you just as you will always be there for them, whatever the need that arises.
I probably read it on a fortune cookie or soothing but it is a statement that has stuck with me: “We see in our friends the traits that we aspire to have in ourselves.”
Q: Each character of the main cast holds quite specific traits and qualities, and they can easily differ in personality at times. Which character is your most favorite to develop and why?
Garan: It’s a little difficult to choose; I love all three of them for different reasons. But I think I would have to go with Jessie as my favorite. I just find her so easy to write. She is the glue that holds the team together and, is smart, sexy, and strong all without being a hard ass ice queen, something that I think has become the norm for comic book heroines nowadays.
Q: In your experience of enjoying the medium of comics and sequential art, who would you say has influenced and inspired you the most to take the plunge of being a comic book professional?
Garan: I honestly do not know. As long as I can remember, I have always loved comics, animation, and reading in general. I couldn’t say any one person has inspired me to take the leap. However, I do have to say that my parents always supported my dream of working in the comic field. And my wife has stood by me even when I told her the crazy idea that I wanted to quit working in advertising and open my own comic shop. I could not run the shop and/or do Contract without her.
Q: How has your co-authorship with Charles Shell affected the final product of Contract; has Mr. Shell brought a lot to the table?
Garan: In the early days, when I finally got up the gumption to write my own book, I contacted Kirk, my best friend and gaming buddy, to reignite the passion of our old CyberMercs role playing game to try and brainstorm a story concept utilizing my old characters of Jessie, Panzer, and Tsumi.
One drawback of having a best friend that you’ve gamed and brainstormed with for years is that you start thinking alike: to give Contract the added edge I was looking for, I knew we needed a wild card, and thus entered Charles Shell.
I met Shell (as he likes to be called) while at the Joe Kubert School. Shell is a fantastic writer and has a quirky and comedic style. We thought that we bring a nice contrast to the grit of the Contract universe.
Our creative process usually goes something like this: I come up with a broad concept for a story along with key elements I want to see in it, then Shell painstakingly bangs out the scripts and then Kirk and I go through and edit, Kirk normally tweaking to ensure the universe is captured authentically, and I doing the same for the characters.
The result is a story that none of use could have come up with on our own. Many have found the blend of humor, action and serious undertones unique and we owe a lot of this to Shell’s comedic timing and quirky ideas. I don’t think it would be the same book without Shell at the pen.
Q: I am big on the idea of spreading comics to the masses (as are many other readers), and I urge the communication of the medium between those who have already discovered and those who are in the dark. In your opinion, what do you see as the key to spreading this medium we so dearly love?
Garan: That is a question we comic readers all need to ask ourselves. I don’t think there is one “magic bullet”, but I believe there are many different ways we can spread the word. For example, donating your old comics to school libraries, ask at your local comic shop for old Free Comic Book Day issues and take them to doctors, dentist offices, or even to the DMV. With all the comic movies being released it is sparking an interest in the medium and we need to fan those flames.
The sad part is there are so many other forms of entertainment today: TV, video games, the internet. How do comics compete?
Q: Lastly, a fun question: What is the one comic you are currently reading and feel does not receive the credit it is due?
But seriously, Dynamo 5.
I think this is an awesome book. It has a great team dynamic, an interesting premise, fun characters, and it’s NEW! As much as I like groups like the X-men, I yearn for the early days when these characters were fresh and exciting. This is a book and characters that you can grow with.
Oh, and Atomic Robo. Another fun read. A fantastic book which you can just pick up and enjoy every month without massive amounts of back story.
Quick Hit Review:
-Batman Confidential #23
True, DC Comics may be pushing the R.I.P. event in the core Bat-books, but why get sucked into all the hoopla? Why not return to a simpler Caped Crusader? Ladies and gentlemen, let me present to you Batman Confidential – a place for those oppressed by Grant Morrison’s thought torturing saga to come relax and get back to the basics of Batman. Issue twenty-two kicked off the “Do You Understand These Rights?” story arc, dealing with Gotham city’s struggle to jail the most ominous psychopath known in the nightmares of her citizens: The Joker. Written by Andrew Kreisberg and drawn by Scott McDaniel, this follow-up issue of a very interesting story continuation offers dark humor and plenty of fun. Kreisberg can certainly write a kooky yet menacing version of the Joker, placing the character in the midst of the sane and allowing the reader to witness the true torturous tactics the Joker throws at his surrounding victims. This is certainly one cellmate you would not want to end up with. You want fun Batman? Buy this book!!