Comfort those closest, entertain the rest.
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Conan - Then and Now

Yesterday, one of my co-workers brought me a big pile of comic books he had when he was a kid. It was a bunch of stuff from the early eighties - which I loved! I’ve collected comics my entire life, but the early eighties are where it really came to life for me.


The pile was mostly a bunch of old Iron Man comics (and a couple comic adaptations of the Condor Man Movie!!??!!). But there, in the middle of the pile, was one issue of Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian series.


Talk about your unfortunately named antagonists…


I was never that into Conan. The only Conan books I ever remember owning were a few issues of Conan The King - and that was because he had these ninja bodyguards that I thought were cool when I was a teenager.


I just recently started buying Darkhorse’s Conan series, though, because it’s being written by Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan, two of my favorite creators. Their first story arc on the book is a retelling of the Robert E. Howard short story, Queen Of The Black Coast.

The series is two issues in so far, and it’s awesome.

Flipping through the old issue of Conan The Barbarian from the 80’s I noticed a page that basically recapped everything we’ve seen in Wood and Cloonan’s new series so far. It was a very weird experience to really only be aware of one Conan story - and to suddenly see it popping up in two different places at once.


When I got home, later that day, I pulled out the Wood and Cloonan issues and made a side by side comparison with the Marvel Conan book. Observe:


Conan fleeing local authorities:


Conan being attacked by pirates:


Belit taking Conan as a mate:


I find this really cool. Serendipity! You can even see a little nod to the 80’s issue in the costume Cloonan gave Conan in those first two panels!


No doubt there are some comic fans out there on the internet that would hold this up as the evils of decompression in comics - that would be stupid, though, because one is a quick recap in the middle of a larger story - and one is a straight re-telling. Two completely different things. Did I just build a straw man and knock it down? Yeah, but I spent the early 90’s arguing on the internet and I’m still kind of paranoid.


But I digress… Comics are awesome.

Joy Division, Aztecs, and Digital Comics

Sam Humprhies is a rising star of the comics world. He’s written a Fraggle Rock comic, a sic-fi comic about pansexuals, and his newest book, Sacrifice, is about a Joy Division fan who gets magically transported back to the time of the ancient Aztecs. This is the definition of eclectic.


I was really excited to pick up Sacrifice, but none of my local shops were carrying it (between this and the recent selling-out of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, I’ve learned that it might be time to start pre-ordering some stuff…). So what’s a guy to do? Well, I decided to dip my toe into the waters of digital comics for the first time.


I love print comics. I love the feel, I love the smell, I love the whole reading experience. I would be sad if print comics ever went away. But more than i love the feeling of reading a print comic, I love the feeling of reading a good story. So, I decided to download the first three issues of Sacrifice to my iPad and see what I thought.



I used an app from Comixology to download and read Sacrifice. The app lets you choose between viewing comics a page at a time or animating between panels, one at a time. I tried both methods, but found that reading Sacrifice really worked with the panel to panel method. I’m not sure that would be the case with every book - but Sacrifice artist, Dalton Rose, is a great storyteller - and his panels create a visual flow that really worked in this format. A comic with less clear storytelling would probably suffer.



Rose has a very simple, stylized line work that could be blown off as “crude” by anyone used to the art in your standard super hero comics. There’s some real beauty and depth going on in those pages, though. Check this out:



Beautiful.


After reading the book, it’s no wonder that Humphries’ star is on the rise. He takes an unusual concept and turns it into a clear, engaging story. Honestly, the concept alone would get him hipster love from now until Aztec doomsday (Joy Division! Aztecs! Blood!) - but the fact that he actually goes beyond the high concept and pulls the story off is the real testament to his skill as a writer.


So get on the Humphries train early! One day he’ll be writing 40 to 50 Marvel titles and you’ll have missed your chance to be a jerk and say stuff like, “Man, remember when he used to be good?”

Why I Love Comics - March 2012

The Manhattan Projects

When I first saw this comic advertised, I didn’t pay much attention. I imaged it to be a historical/political comic - and while I have plenty of room in my heart for such books, I just wasn’t feeling it on first glance.


Then I saw the”S.” I had been reading the title as “The Manhattan Project,” but that’s not it. It’s The Manhattan Projects. Plural. Interesting…


Then I read the blurb for the book:


“What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual programs? What if the union of a generation’s brightest minds was not a signal for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything…went wrong?”


That’s all it took. It’s not a comic about history, it’s a comic about fictional history!


There’s another “what if” question that could be added to the above blurb - a question about Oppenheimer, whom the first issue revolves around - but asking it might be a little to spoilery.


Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra do a great job. Pitarra has a young Frank Quitely thing going on. Fans of today’s slick, polished super hero comics would probably find the look of the book somewhat “sloppy,” but there’s an energy in the linework that would disappear under high polish. I’m a fan of the look and of Hickman’s smart, twisty story so far.

Why I love comics - March 2012

Prophet

Yesterday I picked up Prophet 21 and 22 from Image comics and they’re great.


Back in the 90’s Rob Liefeld had an imprint at Image Comics called Extreme. One of the books he created was called Prophet. In a lot of ways, it was kind of the essence of what Rob was doing at Extreme, distilled down into one character. Big mysterious guy with swords, guns, shoulder pads and head gear in a lot of highly cross-hatched action poses. I don’t say that to be dismissive - it was pretty sparse as far as concepts go, but kids loved it, and it probably got a lot of kids into comics, so good lookin’ out.


Twenty odd years later, Image has revived the character with a completely new team and largely new concept (but kept the old issue numbering). Prophet is written by Brandon Graham with art by Simon Roy. It’s a slowly unfolding story about a man who wakes up from a technologically induced hibernation with a mission to fulfill on an earth filled with strange new alien life forms. Simple, yet involving. It’s one of those books like Orc Stain where the creators are engaging in some serious world building - where new ideas are tossed out on every page. It’s great. I read two issues last night and immediately wanted a third. Well done to everyone involved.


To recap, this:

Became this:

And it’s great.


Rick Remender


Rick Remender is one of those names I’ve always kind of been aware of, but never figure heavily into my monthy reading for whatever reason. When the feeling hit, I would pick up the random book like Doll and Creature, Fear Agent, or Last Days of American Crime, but that was the extent of it.


He grabbed a tighter hold on my attention when he and Tony Moore turned The Punisher into a Frankenstein monster. It was fun and goofy but still played straight enough to enjoy. No easy feat, I’m sure.


From there I started reading his work on Uncanny X-Force. It was his collaboration there with the phenomenal Jerome Opena that initially hooked me. Opena is now in a rotating position as artist on the book, but Rememder’s writing has kept me coming back (along with some other great artist - Rafael Albuquerque, Esad Ribic, Greg Tocchini). Something about Remender and his run on this book reminds me of Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men back in the late eighties. Claremont was writing great, involved, emotional stories with a talented regular artist (John Romitat Jr) and incredible fill-in artists (Arthur Adams, Barry Windsor Smith, and Rick Leonardi).


I’ve also started picking up Secret Avengers since he came on board as the series writer. Two issues in and I’m hooked. What I loved about the Avengers when I was a kid was the discordant personalities and the tension they created - and so far it looks like that will be a big part of Remender’s run, so I’m in.

To recap: Rick Remender has my full attention


Casanova

To recap: New issue of Casanova soon.

The little boy in me loves this poster.

The nerd in me hates that the Hulk is so big.

The person in me that wants things to look nice, thinks it’s kind of a cluttered mess.

At the end of the day, it’s a poster for an Avengers movie featuring some Grade A talent, so the kid in me wins and the other two grumpy guys nod silently and let it go.

The little boy in me loves this poster.

The nerd in me hates that the Hulk is so big.

The person in me that wants things to look nice, thinks it’s kind of a cluttered mess.

At the end of the day, it’s a poster for an Avengers movie featuring some Grade A talent, so the kid in me wins and the other two grumpy guys nod silently and let it go.