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)
Now it can be told.
Sara is in her 12th week of pregnancy - the first twelve weeks was us, keeping it to ourselves (mostly), trying not to jinx anything, and waiting.
At one point Sara suggested I find myself some books about pregnancy that I might enjoy reading. Since I wasn’t aware of Jon Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, or Paul Pope having written any books about pregnancy, I wasn’t sure where to start.
Enter Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick:
Matt Fraction, as I’ve written about here before, is my favorite comic book writer. He, and the extremely talented Kelly Sue (also a comic book writer), have two kids and have shared little bits and pieces of their journey as parents online with their friends, family, and fans. I’ve always enjoyed watching them and their kids from across the internet and think they seem like great parents. So I figured, why not see if there were any books they enjoyed. If I like their writing, chances are I might also like their choice in books.
So I got on Kelly Sue’s message board and specifically asked Matt if there were any books for expectant fathers that he enjoyed. He responded that there was a three book set he really liked, but couldn’t remember the name. No biggie. The search would continue.
Then, a few weeks later, I’m walking through the grocery store when I get a text - I pull out my phone to see a direct Twitter message from Kelly Sue, asking for my address, and saying that she and Matt would like to send me the set of books Matt had mentioned.
Let me make something clear here: I am a fan of Matt and Kelly Sue’s. I have asked them questions on message boards and I shook Matt’s hand at a comic book convention last year. That is the extent of our relationship. They don’t know me from Adam. Yet they took the time to track me down on Twitter, contact me, then send me the books ON THEIR DIME! I offered to pay shipping and they refused.
Comic book fans can be weird. Matt and Kelly Sue have written some of the biggest name characters in comics, from The X-Men to Supergirl to Iron Man. That kind of puts a target on your back for some people. One wrong move and all of a sudden there’s a blog out there dedicated to WHY YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND SPIDER-MAN THEY WAY I DO. So, for the two of them to reach out like this, to a complete stranger, says a lot, to me, about their hearts.
I was already a fan of them both - now, Sara, who doesn’t read comics, is a fan. I will do everything in my power to ensure that our baby, once he/she is old enough to understand the intricacies of spatiotemporal holocaust, is a fan.
Thank you Matt and Kelly Sue.
(Just kidding about the spatiotemporal holocaust bit. Casanova is my favorite comic but I will not let my child read it until he/she is forty.)
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.
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?