If it’s any good, Jack Kirby was probably involved. Happy Birthday to The King!
If it’s any good, Jack Kirby was probably involved. Happy Birthday to The King!
Satellite Sam by Fraction and Chaykin:
Pretty Deadly by DeConnick and Rios
Nowhere Men by Stephenson and Bellegarde
All from Image
Anthony Bourdain holding up the graphic novel he wrote, “Get Jiro.” (via Instagram)
Not trailers. Actual clips. Excited? Yes, you could say that…
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.
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:
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?”
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.
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:
And it’s great.
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
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 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3D - Official Trailer - In Theaters July 3rd (by SonyPictures)
Looks like letting Marc Webb direct a Spider-Man movie was a good idea…
I’m in love with this idea - The old Rainbo Bread factory has been converted into a space that houses local community minded organizations and businesses. One such business is Cricket Press, a local couple that creates independent comics and concert posters. Another is the West Sixth Brewing Company - a local craft brewery. Comics and beer. In one building. Why don’t I live there?
Earlier in the year I posted a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Makes sense. Here’s what shaped and fashioned me this year:
Early in the year I discovered Film Riot - an internet video podcast starring Ryan Connely and his crew of misfit filmmakers. Every week they dissect film making techniques - often by tackling requests sent in by readers to figure out how to reproduce big budget effects on a DIY budget. They never fail to be entertaining or useful.
I also found Vimeo’s Video School to be pretty useful. The information there can be a little elementary at times, but since they seek to address aspiring filmmakers at every experience level, that only make sense.
Moving from the web to television, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations was essential viewing. I’ve always loved the show, but this year, in it’s seventh season, it took on an almost religious significance for me. It started with the Haiti episode. There was just something about the scene where Bourdain tried to buy food for a bunch of hungry kids and inadvertantly caused a minor riot - his willingness to show how a seemingly benign act of philanthropy could spin out of control, that our actions, no matter how pure hearted, do not exist in a contextless vacuum. It felt like journalism. It felt like a man making television with nothing to prove. If you can take that kind of honesty and couple it with food porn that’s good TV.
This year also saw the release of a second show from Bourdain called The Layover. It’s presumably filmed on Bourdain’s actual layovers as he travels the globe filming No Reservations. It features Bourdain telling you the best places to eat, sleep, and drink in various cities. It’s No Reservation’s less heady, less serious little brother. I wasn’t hooked by the first episode (Singapore). No problem, I thought, I still have No Reservations. No sense being greedy. But the second episode featured Bourdain in New York, his home base, and it was awesome. It was a Bourdain we rarely see; smiling, comfortable, almost giddy. The best part was him arguing with some poor schlub in hamburger joint about whether you could get good sushi in New York. Hooked.
The Layover features a very different editing style from No Reservations. One I stole from liberally (though poorly)
Moving from the small screen to the big one - I saw a lot of movies in the theater this year - but not nearly enough for my liking - and not nearly enough that really blew my socks off. Here’s what I saw that I liked, though:
Thor and Captain America were both childhood dreams come true, Hanna kept me glued to the screen and looked nice doing it, X-Men: First Class was a nice way to re-imagine a dull franchise, Horrible Bosses was genuinely funny (instead of genuinely grueling like The Hangover 2), True Grit was the western we’ve all wanted for a few years now, and Driver was unexpectedly stylish, compelling, and sad (it’s larger here by random, not because it was my favorite movie by any means).
Musically, I had a lot of favorite bands release new albums this year but none of them truly stood out for me. Instead the highlights of my year musically were all live. First of all there was seeing The Mountain Goats live for the first time at Mercy Lounge in Nashville. Sara loves John Darnielle but had kind of a bad night so out of respect of her, I won’t go on and on about this one:
Next was discovering local boy made good, Vandaveer. Sara and I had a front row table for his show at Natasha’s back in the summer. It was the perfect way to experience a perfect show:
Later in the summer my friends Dan and Jen and I sat with about 30 other people at The Green Lantern and got to hear These United States rehearse a bunch of new songs before taking them into the studio. As far as good shows go, you can’t get much better than that:
Finally, my buddy Paul had his birthday party at Cosmic Charlies at the end of the summer on the same night that one of his favorite bands, Ha Ha Tonka was playing. The band not only sang Happy Birthday to Paul, they let him get on stage and mumble into a microphone for about the minutes while they played. Nicest band ever? Quite possibly:
Oh yeah! I almost forgot! This was also the year that my favorite local band, Sunday Valley, released their first new material in years. It was a great album and cause for celebration:
I watch a lot of TV, see a lot of movies, and listen to a lot of music in a given year - but more than any of those, I read comics. All kinds of comics. What did I read this year that I loved? Glad you asked. 2011 saw the release of the first new issues of Casanova in years. Issue 2, by creators Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba, in particular was comic book magic:
Fraction is my favorite writer in comics. As such, he created more than one book I really liked this year. For instance, his third issue of Mighty Thor was probably the best comic I read all year. It had it all: Norse Gods in space armor, Galactus, naked sword play, Silver Surfer saying cool stuff, Olivier Coipel. That’s a comic!
Other things I loved: Supernatural western, Sixth Gun from Oni Press
Mini comic Wolves from Becky Cloonan:
Weird fantasy book Orc Stain:
There was tons more, but space is limited.
What about books without pictures?
Anthony Bourdain makes good TV and writes good books. This year I read and loved his memoirs Medium Raw:
I also thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Bones & Butter, by chef Gabriel Hamilton:
Notice how both the books I mentioned were more or less about food? I love food. So it only make sense to mention some of the great meals I had this year. Cooking is as much of an art as writing or creating music or films after all.
This year Sara and I discovered Nick Ryan’s Saloon in downtown Lexington and had the best braised short ribs ever:
Our other great discovery was Nicaraguan Latin Grille, a little whole in the wall that blew out socks off:
We also went to Azure, home of local culinary star, Jermy Ashby, and had an incredible seven course meal. Below is just one of the delicious plates:
Then there was Hawaii. We had a lot of great Hawaiin food. Too much to get into, but suffice to say, I now have a deep abiding appreciation for macaroni salad:
There were tons more from tons of great restaurants like Cheng’s , Pho BC, Sam’s Hot Dogs, Planet Thai, Ramirez’ Taqueria, Local Taco, Doodles, Rossi’s, Ramsey’s, Winchell’s, Marikka’s, and El Rancho Tapitio.
Well, that’s it. That was what I ate in 2011. That’s what I loved, took in, digested, and was shaped by. Except for the dozen or so things I will think of as soon as I hit the “post” button.
On to 2012!
I want to be the Olivier Coipel of everything I do.