by Nevs Coleman

Posts tagged “Alan Moore

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I’ve been trying to get to the root of what’s bugging me quite so much about the upcoming ‘Batman/Watchmen’ crossover ‘The Button’ lately, and I think I’ve hit upon the root of it.

bats button.jpg

 
 
(TL:DR Version: Everyone knows Scrooge McDuck. No one knows Carl Barks.)
 
The state of games publisher Konami is my problem.
 
For the unaware, Konami is a video game publisher that have released games even the most casual will have heard of Pro Evo Soccer, Frogger, Contra, The Simpsons, Castlevania, Turtles, Dancing Stage.
 
And relevant to this, Konami released two of the most iconic and influential video game franchises in history
 
Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill.
 
Both are literal game changers: They added ideas, jokes, references, mood, interface innovations, storytelling in video-games as an intelligent concept beyond ‘Walk Right, Punch People. Rescue Lady as Win Sex Prize.;
 
Both, while not one man efforts, are clearly the work of a person with a single vision. Keiichirō Toyama directed ‘Silent Hill’ for the PSX, being released in 1999. He no longer works for Konami, now doing games for Sony. After the legendary Silent Hill 2, the game has been passed around various dev teams to decreasing acclaim ever since, although there was a brief flurry of excitement when ‘Silent Hills’ hit the Internet.
 
‘Silent Hills’ was to be the most recent installment of the franchise, co-directed by Guillermo del Toro,and Metal Gear Solid maestro Hideo Kojima, with art from ‘Uzumaki’ artist Junji Ito and featuring ‘Walking Dead’ actor Norman Reedus who featured in the now sadly removed ‘Playable Teaser’.
 
Kojima had worked for decades at Konami on a number of titles (Including, obviously, the MGS series.) until a corporation restructuring in March 2015 suggested that Konami would be committing themselves to a number of Metal Gear products. After Hideo had said that ‘Metal Gear Solid:The Phantom Pain’ would be the end of the Metal Gear story.
 
Oh, and after Konami quietly removed both Kojima and Kojima Productions’s name from the Metal Gear Solid website and all of the Phantom Pain’s production materials.

metal_gear_5_updated-620x.jpg

 
The fallout from this was demoting Kojima from executive content officer to freelance status and a full cancellation of the Silent Hills: P.T. project*. Just because Konami could
 
With Konami now focusing it’s effort on low rent mobile games, Kojima left Konami on Oct 9 of that year. Konami had already changed the artwork of the final cover art to physical copies of the PS4 version of ‘Metal Gear Solid’, removing the words ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’.Konami covered Hideo’s absence as his ‘taking a long time off from work.’
 
MGS 5: The Phantom Pain sold very well, and the final knife from Konami came on Dec 3 as MGS 5 won two awards at the 2015 Game Awards. Kiefer Sutherland (who voiced Snake.) accepted the award for ‘Best Action/Adventure Game), followed by the Awards organiser Geoff Keighley explaining that Kojima was not allowed to pick up the award himself (which he fully intended to do.) due to being banned from doing so by Konami.
 
Kojima was not allowed to pick up the award for his game due to the actions of his publishers, who’d already removed his name from the cover.
 
Several verified reports from staff at Konami report a litany of simple employee abuse, a disinterest in any respect for the creators of the games that created their empire (To the point that Angry Joe couldn’t even SAY the words ‘Hideo Kojima’ at an E3 show.) and no interest in those actual games beyond how to exploit them as cheaply as possible for the maximum repeated profit.
 
Konami are now very happy to shill out the concepts they have to whoever wants them (And if you want an example of how bad a game can be when none of the original dev team are involved, have a look at the difference between ‘Batman:Arkham City’ and ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’.) and a quick look at their website will show you their main focus in 2017: Themed Mobile Gambling Apps.
 
So how does this relate to ‘The Button’.
 
I’ve read various reasons given why publishing houses were loath to run credits for creators on comics. ‘It’d confuse readers.’etc. The most obvious answer, as far as I could see, is that crediting the artist/writer of a work introduces them to the audience and forms the idea of ‘Creator As Brand’ that can then be used to argue page rate, reprint royalties, etc.
 
As long as the strips were presumably dropped in from the Magic Elves in Disneyland, readers wouldn’t know if Pat Mills or Bob Mills were writing the latest Judge Dredd story and wouldn’t know to follow them from project to project. Once that system of ‘JACK KIRBY DREW THIS!, WILL EISNER WROTE IT!’ etc was in place, the publishers had their full power of the deal negated.
 
There’s an obvious, built in sales increase to a Neil Gaiman or Frank Miller writing, say. The Flash that wouldn’t be matched by an uncredited writer and for a time, while it hasn’t been by ANY means perfect, we’ve been living in a time where a creator was a major draw in the buying of a comic. I mean, to me, that’s the only reason I buy any comic anymore. If Chaykin writes Lady Death, I’ll buy Lady Death. When he stops writing it, I’ll stop buying it.
 
‘The Button’ is almost the final result of Variant Pre-Order culture in the last few years which is: Order a large amount of comics sight unseen, get a rare cover for that comic that you can sell on for several times the cover to people who haven’t worked out how Google Images work yet.

 As the comics are now being sold to retailers based on the ratio based covers, the creative team is totally irrelevant. To the point where Marvel are now attempting to solicit pre-orders from retailers without any information on the artists and writers responsible for creating the thing.
 
Which is my problem, ultimately, with ‘The Button’. At least with ‘Before Watchmen’, DC knew they were walking into a critical minefield by touching that property and led their advertising by explaining that some of the best in the industry would be working on it.

bw ah.jpg

 
But in this instance:

Quick, who’s drawing the issue of The Flash it ties into?

Anyone?

Sure, those in The Biz know, but it’s been so low on the list of things mentioned in the hype, I’m surprised DC even bothered mentioned it. It wouldn’t be the first time they tried soliciting a big-ticket item without pushing the team on the book since they tried selling their second wave of 3-D covers to retailers by asking us to check their website rather than putting that information in Previews.
 
That is the essence of the problem. Watchmen is an incredibly idiosyncratic and influential work that I genuinely believe no other creators could have created together (Certainly there was nothing in DC’s output at the time that was anything near it, in terms of ambition beyond ‘Let’s hope we don’t get cancelled.’ or ‘Who hasn’t Batman punched this month?’) that is far, far more than the superficial elements of funny speech patterns or superheroes being a bit miserable.
 
And honestly, I think those elements have been ripped off badly so many times that I think DC thinks that’s all Watchmen IS, and obviously doing what looks to be essentially an expensive issue of Brave And The Bold doesn’t require Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons or in fact any creator who’d demand a high page rate.
 
Which is why I won’t be buying ‘The Button’. I think to do so would be telling DC (Intentionally or otherwise.) that their properties are far more important than the people who work on them. That any characters they happen to own should be treated as commodities to be exploited as cheaply as possible and the creators are interchangeable worker ants who should be worked hard, paid little and only credited if you have.
 
I learned better than that.
 
From Superman

*Kojima and Reedus are coming together for open world game ‘Death Stranding‘ to be released in 2019. Not by Konami.

super gamble

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Pogo Larsen Syndrome: On Hawkeye 1 & Howard The Duck 1.

 

HTD 1

 

So, one fallacy at the heart of corporate comics publishing is the belief that above all things, it’s the trademark that makes the sale. If Amazing Spider-Man starts selling well due to a change in the creative team, its nothing to do with that creative team, there must just be a random spark of interest in Spidey, and the best way to capitalise on this is to produce spin-off mini-series and one shots. Also not featuring any work by the creative team who get the book going up in sales in the first place, mind.

As any of you paying attention  over the last couple of decades may have noticed, this never, ever works. Batman will always sell a certain amount, but stick Jim Lee & Jeph Loeb on the book and watch those pre-orders quadruple. Ditto Morrison & Quitely on New X-Men, JMS & John Romita Jr on Amazing Spider-Man. You get the idea.

Then watch as somebody in corporate decides that they know best what sells the book. They start pissing in the water bottle to make it taste better or worse, find someone who isn’t good on the same wavelength to start emulating the superficial aspects of the popular thing. Watchmen, to the low-minded, is a comic with nine panel grid pages featuring graphic, brutal violence and super-heroes having problems in real life, so Green Lantern gets a DUI and starts beating up homophobes with his magic power ring to copy that. League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, using that theory,  is a comic that people enjoy because there’s a lot of what Will Elder called ‘Chicken Fat’ background detail.

Will Elder, breaking your eyes because he could.

Will Elder, breaking your eyes because he could.

Readers feel a bit better about themselves with LoeG because there’s a lot of in-jokes and references to be found if you examine the panels, and we all pat ourselves on the back when we recognise Steptoe & Son or Tharg, so Edge Of Spider-Verse is built around fangasming when we spot Spider-Prime in the background. Only the surface ideas are taken, under the mistaken belief that those elements are what’s appealing to the public. So it doesn’t matter if Grant Morrison leaves New X-Men for whatever reasons, because you can throw around the words ‘Quantum Physics’ a bit, continue the love affair between Scott & Emma, get in someone who draws a bit like Frank Quitely and even bring back Xorn as the readers liked him. J. H. Williams III leaves Batwoman over DC’s decision to remove the lesbian wedding angle at the 11th hour, but hire someone sympathetic to gay matters to write the book and an artist who can ‘do’ a Williams III riff if you squint a bit and the machine continues to produce the sausages.

‘Its the trademark, not the creator.’ 

Which brings us to what I’ve come to call ‘Pogo Larsen Syndrome’. A situation where neither side can look particularly good.

For younger readers, Pogo was a very beloved cartoon by Walt Kelly which started life in 1941 as a strip for Dell’s Animal Comics. It was a beautiful mish-mash of word play and political satire. The middle ground between George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Berke Breathed’s Bloom County, if you like. Probably (sadly) most famous with comic fans today as being parodied in  issue 32 of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, (A story drawn by Shawn McManus simply titled ‘Pog’.) but at the time of publication, Pogo was huge. A quality cartoon strip running in over 500 newspapers across the world that was also part of the political conversation of the day. In a better world, Kelly’s writing would have seen him ranked alongside Mark Twain or Jonathan Swift as a top-notch satirist.

Eat it, Vonnegut

Eat it, Vonnegut!

But then time happened, and on October 18, 1973, Walt Kelly passed away. There’s more to this story, but the long and short of it is that the Kelly Family and associates continued to produce the strip under the title ‘Walt Kelly’s Pogo’.

To be blunt, it was not received with the same love. I have friends in this business who start to get angry at the mere mention of the non Walt Pogo strips. It looked the same, some of Walt’s inflections had been recreated, but without Kelly’s constant innovation and ability to react to the news as it happened, it was little more than a museum piece rather than a vital part of the global conversation and the true heir was and remains, to me at least, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County.  Which proves to me that you can put a hose on a dog’s nose, but it still ain’t an elephant.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a fan reaction that I can only, rather unfairly. call ‘Larsen Syndrome’ . Erik Larsen is the writer and artist of The Savage Dragon, an Image book I love because of the love of comics that exudes from every issue Larsen creates. Larsen is also the only original member of the Image Seven to simply get on with creating his own comic and see it through without jumping onto other projects or starting a toy line. He just wanted to create an ongoing Savage Dragon comic and issue 206 ships in May, making him the only real contender to Dave Sim’s record set for most issues of a comic created by one person published independently on a monthly basis. (Cerebus finished on issue 300. ) Also, he drew an awesome Venom. And that’s important to me.

'Oh, too late, Otto already did that! MOO HAHHAHA!

‘Oh, too late, Otto already did that on both counts! MOO HAHHAHA!

But Man, did Erik get a couple of unfortunate gigs in the 90s.

First, through burn out and having a million guest stars thrown at him on a bi-weekly schedule, Todd McFarlane, maybe one of the five most popular and influential artists to draw Amazing Spider-Man, quit drawing Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel teased Todd was up to something else but as far as Marvel fans were concerned, the sheer outrage of Colleen Doran infusing her fill-in on ASM with Ultra Girliness and THEN Marvel failing to find a way to chain Todd The God to the drawing desk of Spidey forever more. SOME poor sucker was going to be the whipping boy for these awful sins.

 

BUY....JEM..BUY...MY....LITTLE..PONY.....BUY BATGIRL....

Your desire to watch any film starring Jennifer Aniston has increased 68% since seeing this cover

Enter: New Amazing Spider-Man artist Erik Larsen, who was vilified in the Fan Press at the time for simply….not being Todd McFarlane. Nothing wrong with his anatomy, his composition, his perspective, he just wasn’t Todd The God. I think the readership only really forgave him for his NotToddness when Marvel announced they were publishing a new, adjective-less Spider-Man drawn (YAAAY!!!) and written (Um….Okay?) by Todd McFarlane. Which Todd stayed on for 15 issues. And then left. To be replaced by…..Oh, you can work it out….

Now, neither state of mind is very objective. It’s obviously massively cynical (and usually a mistake.) for any publisher to think they can replace the talent who create the content that makes the book connect with the fans with anyone who can ape their style and get the same results. On the other hand, the fandom hatred of anything involving change can be so short-sighted as to be staggering, whether it be the almost feral reaction to the idea that Thor could be a woman, Bill Sienkiewicz’s experimenting with various art styles on the pages of Moon Knight or New Mutants and being drubbed in the pages of Comic Buyers Guide for it,  Grant Morrison being ‘All weird and pretentious on “Doom Patrol” and I don’t get it so its bad.’, the ‘How Dare Peter Parker Not Be Spider-Man!’mob, the downright hilarious reaction to Milligan & Allred’s run on X-Force (common decency prevents me from taking photographs of the letters pages of those books, but they’re up there with the infamous ‘Man Of Action’ letter from Punisher 19 for sheer ‘Written With A Crayon Using Feet’ rage .) or any other number of things that turned out to be a good idea despite the crowing of people who hadn’t actually read all of the comics so didn’t really have an informed opinion to offer yet.

Which brings us, finally to All-New Hawkeye 1 and Howard The Duck 1

There’s no way of saying this that isn’t going to sound bitter, as the previous volume of Hawkeye was one of my favourite Marvel comics of the last decade  but All New Hawkeye 1 is out on the shelves way, way too soon. Aja & Fraction’s run hasn’t actually finished yet at time of my writing this, so there’s no way of not comparing the two series. I totally understand that Hawkeye is now a commodity due to the character’s newfound popularity and Marvel must be wanting to get a regular dose of Clint action out there, but a wiser choice of action might have been to have him pop in a series of cameos across various books for a few months to slowly build up the anticipation for ANH 1, which could probably have waited until after the dust settles with Secret Wars before publication.

In this debut issue, we catch up with Clint and Katie, attacking a Hydra outpost in modern times juxtaposed with memories of Clint’s childhood in a flashback sequence telling us a bit more about what motivated Clint to run off to the circus in the first place

As it stands…All New Hawkeye is…okay. Its alright. There are some nice touches, like the painted artwork used for Clint’s flashback sequences, and the modern stuff looks enough like Aja’s art on a superficial level that it won’t be too jarring for people who wanted more of the same but on a more regular schedule. Some panels seem designed with the hope of being reposted on Tumblr  as an exercise in coolness rather than reading as part of a flowing story. For me, though,  I’m with Gil Kane, the good is the enemy of the better, and the last thing my house and budget need is to start on one more competently produced super-hero comic. I’ll hold out hope that it develops its own unique style, voice and direction as it starts to dig its own path away from satisfying the readers who just wanted something that looked like Fraction & Aja’s book on a more frequent basis.

And then there’s Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones on Howard The Duck.

Okay, I’ll be straight with you. In my head, anyone who isn’t Steve Gerber writing Howard The Duck is tantamount to comics blasphemy to me. Like anyone else doing Calvin & Hobbes, or Gavin Rossdale fronting Nirvana, or The Manic Street Preachers replacing Richey Edwards with Shane Richie. It could be done, sure, but the levels of karmic damage such a thing incur would have set me off like the Westboro Baptist Church at Boy George’s funeral.

 

After I'd calmed down.

After I’d calmed down.

 

But then I saw Chip Zdarsky was writing it, and that stopped me in my tracks. I have a total crush on Chip, or his online persona at least. His ongoing romance with Appleby’s, the contribution to the letters page of my beloved Sex Criminals and his comic ‘Prison Funnies‘ gave me pause to think.

I decided, rather than going full on mental about it, to  that the adventures of Chip’s Howard were actually the further adventures of the clone released into the Marvel Universe from Savage Dragon/Destroyer Duck 1.  That way, Gerber’s legacy would remain untarnished and a whole new bunch of fun could be garnered as long as nobody tried to contradict what Gerber had said since he’s not around to argue back anymore.

So, with that in mind, I popped it open and…..

It’s FUNNY!

Its actually properly funny. The story concerns Clo-Ward, as I’m dubbing him, taking on a case in his ‘job’ as a private detective to retrieve some stolen jewellery and running afowl of some of Marvel’s best and brightest (I’m not going to spoil the full cast, but I will say Chip writes the funniest Spider-Man since Rick Remender’s take on the wall crawler over on my favourite crossover event ever, Axis.) There’s an obvious question raised in the first issue that I can’t wait to see the resolution to, a script chock-loaded with brilliant gags, a ton of respectful nods to the history of the title, some beautiful art by Joe Quinones whose perfect grasp of design and body language feed back into the story, a new companion and a full mark out cliff-hanger setting up a concept everybody would have wanted if only they’d thought of it.

What makes a Howard The Duck 1 as revolutionary in 2015 as it was in 1976 is that Chip (I keep using his first name as if I know him, but the truth is my spellcheck is throwing up at his surname. Which is fair enough. It took me 6 years to teach it ‘Skrull’.) isn’t letting the shadow of Gerber’s work influence what he writes here. The character works in context of the story being written, rather than a preconception dragging HTD into being a period piece. This isn’t a karaoke misanthropy act but a Duck angry at the world WE live in, now. That’s worth far more than maybe Marvel realises, and I hope when Chip Z (hmm, got away with that one without the dreaded red underscore of Doom.) has said what he has to say with Howard, the book isn’t assimilated into Interchangeable Marvel Output Quota For March Fulfilled ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ….

Truly, Howard The Duck 1 by Chip & Joe is the Fifty Shades Of Grey to the Twilight that was Steve Gerber’s Howard The Duck 1.

(Thanks to John Lees for being another comics fan who doesn’t go to bed at any reasonable hour and provided feedback and suggestions on this review. The 1st collection of his series ‘And Then Emily Was Gone’, drawn by the astonishing Iain Laurie is out now to buy on amazon.com or if you can’t wait to read what I called one of the best books of 2014, pick it up on comixology now.)


END OF YEAR TOP TEN BLOWOUT BECAUSE NOW IS CHRISTMAS NOT COLUMN WRITINGMAS!* GUEST STARRING IVY DOOMKITTY FOR REASONS THAT ARE WEAK TO SAY THE LEAST!

*(Unless Marvel’s Axis finishes before Christmas, because man, do I have stuff to say about that comic. I’ll postpone wrapping presents to do that column.)

Every time I lace up my boots, I learn something new.’ -Bret Hart

HEY, KIDS!

HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS, AS I RUN THROUGH THE TOP TEN TOTAL BESTEST COMICS OF 2014, BE SURE TO TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION IF I’M WRONG AND-

Sigh.

No, Bollocks. I can’t do it.

Look, I understand the whole Top Ten thing is very popular at this time of year. It’s an easy gig: Slap together a couple of sentences explaining why chosen thing is good, throw in a couple of adjectives and add a dash of suggestion that you’re not quite keeping up with the Joneses and you probably shouldn’t say anything else until you’ve bought THIS slice of entertainment. It’s quick, easy web traffic and all that. The success of sites like Cracked, Upworthy, Bored Panda and such would suggest that lists are popular with humans. But here’s my issue (The LULZ! ISSUES, THO!)  with the whole process

Taste is entirely personal. I might have gone off on this before, but really, I don’t take my tastes as something to get too worried about, and it doesn’t really bother me too much if someone doesn’t share them anymore than I get insecure if I like banana & bacon sandwiches and you don’t.

I mean, what am I going to do? Shout ‘HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE BACON & BANANA SANDWICHES?’ at you until you eat one? You didn’t enjoy eating it, and now I’ve wasted a sandwich on someone who didn’t want one in the first place. Achievement, and sandwich…wasted.

Also, while these kind of pieces do generate a degree of feedback, it’s usually the most banal conversation in the world. Either: ‘I’m glad your reviewer, clearly a humanoid of fine taste enjoyed ‘All New Strumpet Lass. I also enjoyed it. Now there are two of us who enjoy each issue of ‘All New Strumpet Lass.’ (To which I can’t really think of a response beyond ‘Good?’) or worse, the kind of response that always runs something along these lines.

Dear Sir.

I have just read your review of ‘Construction Tales’, and can only conclude that you clearly weren’t reading the same comic as I. While you are certainly entitled to your, ahem,  subjective opinion, I enjoyed every single panel hugely. I delighted at the nuances, drank in the splendor of the artwork and a great many of my friends, whose opinion I greatly respect, also had lots of good things to say about the work. I am stunned that you would only rate ‘Constructive Tales’ 8 out of the ten best comics of the year when it should be 2, or perhaps even, dare I suggest, Number 1.

Your Sincerely.

Mr Tony Bloggs, Falkirk.’

This sort of shit was so frequent in music magazines, that when I worked in a record shop around the turn of the century, we’d scour Mojo, Uncut, etc to see who had filled their letter with all those elements first. The last person to get all of those components from the month’s feedback would have to go out and buy coffee for everyone else.

First off, what’s the point of this? Are any of these people actually expecting some kind of retraction to happen?

Dear Readers. Last Christmas, we published a top ten list of comics released in 2014. After receiving a letter from Tony Bloggs, Falkirk, we’ve seen the error of our ways and have repositioned ‘Sexy Violent’ at the number 1 spot, rather than the number 4 place it had been in previously. We apologise for our error and would like to thank Tony for pointing out our mistake. We shall be consulting Tony with all our opinions from now on and also have set him with a night out at Hooters with Ivy Doomkitty, on us. 

Thank you, The editors and our mothers. Who are very ashamed of us.’

'What's your column about this week, Nevs? The futility of list culture as it pertains to the perception of art? Yeah. Good luck drawing them into read THAT this Christmas!'

‘What’s your column about this week, Nevs? The futility of list culture as it pertains to the perception of art? Yeah. Good luck drawing them into reading THAT this Christmas!’

Also, you know, it comes back to the same argument I’ve been making since the last time I did acid. All stimuli is experienced subjectively. Your personal history denotes your personality and what you like and don’t. Since all human lives are utterly unique, there is no possible way any two people can see the same thing since your filters are retaining the information in a totally different fashion. I can not make you like bacon & banana sandwiches if you don’t already have a taste for that kind of thing. You’re either attracted to a thing or not, and when you think of comics in these terms, all the arguments for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art become fairly…ludicrous.

‘YOU DO NOT LIKE VANILLA ICE CREAM. THIS IS BAD. MANY OF US DO LIKE VANILLA ICE CREAM, THEREFORE WE HAVE AGREED NOT LIKING VANILLA ICE CREAM IS A BAD OPINION.’

So, I’m afraid I’ve got no real desire to rate comics on a 1 to 10 scale of quality, since there’s nothing really tangible to suggest that score. At least with football, the team at the top of the league has scored an amount of points at this point in the season that is more than all the other teams. If it were a sales chart, I could show you the pre-orders for Death Of Wolverine 1 that were greater than any other comic published in 2014. How do I allocate quality points to a medium that publishes thousands of new books every year on a huge number of subjects across several genres? I can’t even work out how to compare ‘All New Doop’ to All New X-Men’ without empirical evidence that would suggest one is greater than the other. My argument would come down to ‘Doop is much funnier and less of a twat than Cyclops. Therefore I like All New Doop more.’

Did not kill Professor X, therefore wins. Also, Shut up Scott.

Did not kill Professor X, therefore wins. Also, Shut up Scott.

But here’s that list of my favourite comics published in this calendar year, in no order, just so I don’t mislead anyone with the title:

Little Nemo

The Goon: ‘One For The Road’

All Star Western 34

And Emily Was Gone

Life With Archie 36/37

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out

Multiversity

Dark Horse Presents

Empire Of the Dead

Dicks

(A special mention must go to Spider-Woman 1. While it isn’t even my favourite comic spinning out of the surprisingly entertaining Marvel cross-over ‘Spider-Verse’, it has confirmed my theory that quite a lot of Fandom would happily resurrect The Comics Code Authority, as long as they could redraw offending artwork themselves. Cheers, Milo. Still one of the greatest people to ever draw comics, and his ‘Take the money and run’ attitude to Marvel only solidifies my opinion of him.  Check out his work here.)

For me, the image that defined Comics in 2014

For me, the image that defined Comics in 2014

Okay, so, formality out of the way, but let me get into what I think is a more interesting angle than ‘One more pop culture obsessive tries to tell you how you should spend your money.’

If there’s a question I get that totally confounds me, it’s ‘But how do you know all this stuff?’ Which, I dunno, I don’t want to be sarcastic about it, but there are two reasons I ‘know all this stuff.’

One: I’m a lot older than I look, and I’ve been reading books,  fanzines and professional magazines about comics since I walked into Avalon Comics in 1992 and the latest issue of Comics International screamed ‘McFarlane, Lee, Liefeld Leave Marvel To Form Image Comics’. I didn’t know you were allowed to leave Marvel back then, or why you’d want to. A read through the issue woke me up to the fact that if I wanted to spend any amount of time in the comics business, I better wake up really fast and stop drinking the Kool-Aid that Marvel Age and Direct Currents were trying to sell me on a monthly basis, because all that would leave me with is a house full of bad crossovers, an empty wallet.

So, I guess the answer is I know all this stuff is because I sat down and studied it. Given the option of new comics or new magazines about comics, I’d probably go for the magazine. You can’t know where you are unless you know how you got here, and while every opinion is valid, you can’t really tell me you know much about Image Comics unless you know the joke about the Pizza Delivery Man and The Kirby Awards.

Two: I’m lucky enough to balance a voracious appetite for information with a humility and understanding of how much I don’t know about the history of comics. I’m constantly hunting down things like Inside Comics, Amazing Heroes, The Will Eisner Quarterly as if I were doing a life-long degree on the medium. Attitude will only get you so far, but if you can’t back it up, eventually you’re just sneering at everything.

So instead of ‘Here is why you’re STUPID unless you bought Image Comic X.’, I thought ‘Here are ten magazines/publications about the history of comics that are good starting points for anyone wanting to look behind the press releases. I’m having to miss out far too much, as I’ve tried to keep this to things you’d be able to get hold of directly from here and why they’re worth reading, and there are far too many things that will just never be translated to digital form because they’re just not relevant to anything anymore.

This is one of this columns where I’d actually like feedback of the ‘Oh,  I have Number 3 (or whatever), have you read this magazine?’ kind. Because I LOVE learning new things, and I thought that was the point of the Internet. To share information on interests with like-minded peers, not to try to set ourselves up as Opinion/Information Gods. We’re alright for Wannabe Messiahs in Comics, really. Thanks.

(Note, I would have added later issues of my beloved Hero Illustrated here, as it really found its groove once it dumped the price guide and wannabe Wizard aspects of the magazine, but as far as I’m aware, nobody has legally translated the content into digital format. Shame, but certainly worth picking up any issues you find in cheap boxes. The writers were a bit saltier and happy to let creators vent about problems than Wizard’s ‘EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! BUY OUR NEW COMICS!’ interview approach. Also the 1st issue of Sub-Media magazine, which featured the full, unlettered art for Big Numbers issue 3 and early work by Ashley Wood. Good luck finding a copy, though.)

Comics Journal 81

Just to totally contradict the whole point of this column, I will argue to my dying day that the comic medium peaked with William Gaines’s Entertaining Comics line. There has never been anything better than them in the industry. Not Lee & Kirby’s Marvel work, Not Eisner’s Spirit strips, not even Jodowrowksy’s er, anything (There are no bad, or even mediocre Alejandro comics, and I don’t think you can say that about any other professional comics creator’s output ever.) Sandman? Watchmen? Fables? Scott PIlgrim? Do one, will yer? Pick your choice of the best five comics from any publisher’s history and stack them up against Vault Of Horror, Mad!, Tales From The Crypt, M.D and Shock Suspenstories and see your beloveds stagger home with a bruised eye and in need of tissue for a snotty nose, battered nose.

Here, Gaines talks us through the history of EC, including the Wertham trial, the fall out with Kurtzman, how he ended up running Entertaining Comics in the first place and how it sadly ended with Time-Warner acquiring Mad! Fascinating stuff.

Comics Journal Library: Kirby

Kirby Library

The Comics Journal collects all of their interviews with ‘The King into one handy if somewhat bloody awkward sized volume. Worth it for Jack’s thoughts on Stan Lee alone, but also as good an introduction into the man’s full body of work as I’ve read. Honourable mention must also go to The Jack Kirby Collector, a magazine dedicated to trying to reprint every single thing Jack worked on and keep thousands of anecdotes alive and in print.

The Comics Journal 214

Evan Dorkin explodes at EVERYTHING!

The industry needs more creators with the insight and rage of Evan. I once quit a project in comics because the other members of the project got upset at one of his Eltingville Club strips. Seriously.

Comic Book Creator 1.

Man, THIS magazine started with a bang. Written before the recent settlement between the Kirby Family and Marvel, the issue went at great length to illustrate Jack Kirby’s contributions to Marvel’s movie output and just how little the Kirbys had seen in response to the huge amounts taken at the cinema. Always good to read from when wishing to make Marvel hacks feel awkward, and the next step for Jon B. Cooke after the late, lamented Top Shelf version of ‘Comic Book Artist’. Also a cracking panel between Neal Adams & Denny O’Neil.

Comics Journal 149

Heh.

BOY, was this issue appreciated by me, if possibly not the majority of the Image Seven, Marvel Editorial and certainly not Scott Rosenberg and anyone working at Malibu at the time.

Unconvinced (Unlike 99% of the comics press circa 1992 and no end of mail order comics retailers at the time.) that Image was the final blow in the war against Marvel and DC regarding Creator Rights, Gary Groth writes a both funny and vicious overview with his editorial ‘Tarnished Image’, covering the events that led to the formation of Image, explaining the massive hypocrisy or potential ignorance of setting up with Malibu. Followed up a couple of years later by Groth’s stunned interview with Todd McFarlane which is still one of the funniest things I’ve read, if only for Todd’s ever inventive use of the word ‘Fuck!’

Back Issue 39 

BI 39

Not the deepest magazine in the world (Features tend to run along the lines of ‘Which costumes did Supergirl wear in The Bronze Age?’ or ‘The Legion Of Super-Heroes: Their Greatest Battles!’) but the Pro2Pro section is usually informative and their ‘Rough Stuff’ section collects an interesting sample of lost sketches on a given theme. I selected this issue as it’s a run through the slightly odder end of the mainstream comics industry, with a full history of my beloved Spider-Ham. Also an interview with John Byrne regarding his run on She-Hulk, Reid Fleming and an awesome Pro2Pro interview concerning Ambush Bug, containing the funniest Fan Letter story I’ve read since ‘Man Of Action’ from Punisher 19….

Comic Book Artist  (Vol 1, Issue 24)

An incredibly comprehensive interview with of National Lampoon fame, taking in the movies, his contribution to the film Ghostbusters, how the most ripped off cover of the 20th century came about, how he got work out of the likes of and even the bitter end of the magazine, when it had become a terrible Maxim knock-off and his thoughts on that.  Also  chats with cartoonists Gahan Wilson, Neal Adams and a conversation on the great Vaughn Bode. And exactly what the fuck was going on with those John Lennon/Yoko Ono pictures.

Comics Journal 190

Sadly, BWS doesn’t seem to say much to the comics press anymore. Damn shame, as Bazza’s always both a funny and frank interview when the shackles are let off. Here, while he’s meant to promoting the sadly never completed ‘Storyteller’ project for Dark Horse, he lets loose on his love for Kirby, the, er, awkwardness of Stan Lee’s storytelling in the early Marvel days, explains what happened between him, the Conan ‘Wank’ scandal and why Marvel censored Red Sonja’s arse, Jim Shooter and Valiant, how his Weapon X project for Marvel came together, what the hell ‘Rune’ was meant to be and accidentally takes the total piss out of both Joe Kubert’s ‘Fax From Sarajevo’ and the early Image comics while sheepishly trying to justify why he ended up taking on ‘Wildstorm Rising’. Good work from Gary Groth for being as funny as Bazza the whole.

Eisner/Miller:

em

Published by Dark Horse not long after Eisner’s death a few years back, Frank and Will talk their way through their respective careers, their feelings on where the industry could go. Totally informative, even for those of us with no desire to draw any comics ever. Features some rare con sketches and just an entertaining and often both funny and equally heartbreaking run through the history of comics, how Cartooning Studios were set up, and even a few glimpses into their working processes.

Back Issue 47:

Features the final interview with Dave Stevens. Nothing much to be added to that, really.

DS

And unless anything else happens, that’s it for 2014, I think. I have things involving Tinsel, Lego Batman 3, Longboxes full of bad Marvel comics from the turn of the century and Ladies to do. The older and more informed of you will have noticed a glaring omission from my rundown through ‘Comics Magazines What Were Good, Like.’ and there’s a reason for that which I can’t talk about here, yet. Thanks to all of you who’ve shared, commented, argued the toss either online or in person or have been there for me to hit up at all hours for research purposes.

Special shout outs go to Owen Michael Johnson who apparently reads these words and thought it was worth offering me a blurb gig on the back of it and also getting me a chance to interview one of my heroes,  Alan Martin for being one of the humblest, funniest people I’ve ever met despite my babbling all kinds of ‘BUT YOU WROTE TANK GIRL!’ at him, Dave Taylor for just being sound as fuck, Sarah Taylor-Harman for being a grounding influence and getting where I actually come from,David Hine for the free stuff and the story about the artwork in a skip, Colin Bell, John Lees and Iain Laurie for their Twitter rants at each other that make me laugh shit through my nose, Dave Elliott for being a good mate through everything, Jon Browne for the common sense and ability to quote Pete N’ Dud at any given moment, Guy Lawley for actually getting half of my stupid comics jokes and being very good at pub and medical advice.

(And BREATHE!)……

Alex DeCampi for agreeing to do an interview for Grindhouse despite being knackered, Amy Brander for believing in me far more than I do, Sarah Gordon whose constant genius keeps me humble, Bellan Dye for carrying on listening and being one of the good fans, the London Love Comics boys for encouraging my stupid Spider-Ham jokes and abusing a pub dog into becoming Lockjaw, Alasdair Cooke for general support and being a sound bloke. Amie Barron for keeping me in video games and scandalous stories of her sex life that I can’t begin to go into here, George Khoury for being an inspiration, gossip and mentor, Carly Zombiie just for being one of my oldest friends who’s always up for daft comics gossip at 4am, Eini because…she’s Eini and that’ll have to do for this life, sadly, Simone Borgia & Ana Stevenson for reading through to tell me if I’m making sense before the rest of you see this and any number of ladies who’ve both encouraged me and left me to it enough to get on with writing this, Will Morgan for being who he is and keeping me steadily employed and Jessica Kemp who made it clear that she thought giving me a chance was better than listening to gossip. And that little group of little people who give me dirty looks and scuttle off whenever I show up. Pissing you guys off gives me the strength to go on.

If I’ve missed you in here, it s because I’m a twat.

I leave you with a picture of my favourite comics movie moment of 2014, The banned poster featuring Eva Green for Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For. MERRY CHRISTMAS, YER BASTARDS, YER!!!!

Sin City 2 Eva