Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
This being the day before Thanksgiving, you’re all going to be far too busy to read this today and so I’m going to write whatever I feel like (even more so than usual). I was brought up as British and we don’t exactly celebrate losing you guys, however, I do appreciate the little pre-Xmas steam valve the holiday provides as well as the opportunity to take a moment to express gratitude for all of the good things in our lives. With that in mind, and feeling the weirdly liberating effects of knowing none of you are really looking, I’m going to give thanks for a few things that are really working for me.
Right away I’m going to take this opportunity to thank Brian Cronin for the unusually positive and inclusive space he nurtures on Comics Should Be Good. Writing for this site every week is a constant reminder to focus on what I love and to just drop what I don’t. Whether it is human nature or just the way I grew up, I’m a little too good at tearing down the things that drive me nuts. When it comes time to write about comic books I am grateful to be in a space where I’m actively encouraged to focus on what I want more of. I find it a very healthy and positive position to take and I’m glad that the mission statement here is so bloody simple – Comics should indeed be good!
Talking of reading about comic books, I want to thank Tom Spurgeon for posting his very comprehensive and ridiculously handy “If I were in _ then I’d go to this” list every month. It is the perfect resource for any traveller and whenever I’ve found myself at a loose end, I take a peek to see what’s happening. Once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised and find fun things to do which I’d otherwise have missed. Spurgeon’s title of “comics reporter” belies his actual role as “comics community ambassador”.
While it may only be on issue #1, I want to thank Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn for Alex + Ada. It is a comic book which already combines a slew of my interests. First of all I really like science fiction comic books, (and speaking of theose, let’s just take a moment to mention Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde and Fonografiks’ action/science fiction comic book Nowhere Men from the same publisher, which has been absolutely thrilling and quite beautiful too). Secondly, the concept of people bonding with artificial or synthetic humans fascinates me. (If you’re interested, you might like to watch this film interviewing men who’ve chosen Real Doll’s as their main partners or this one about women who have Reborn’s instead of babies.) And third, I am a sucker for a comic book with a sparse, minimal design aesthetic and this has it in spades. So I’m pretty excited about Alex + Ada, I like the concept, the story so far, and the almost diagrammatically clean art.
Speaking of science fiction, I’m pretty grateful for the abundance of it in other mediums at the moment. The television show Almost Human seems to be off to a good start. Like Alex + Ada it is another enjoyable examination of the artificial-human-as-replacement concept, alongside some nice action and a pretty good depiction of a future (the interactions between the police remind me of Alan Moore and Gene Ha’s wonderful comic books; Top Ten). An old science fiction favorite of mine (and perhaps my earliest science fiction love, as I spent many childhood hours cowering behind the sofa from daleks and Cybermen) is Doctor Who. The special earlier this week – Day of the Doctor – was an excellent little meditation on what has become a rather epic character over the years. I really couldn’t think of a better man than the great John Hurt to depict the original root of it all. Of course I loved seeing and hearing good old Tom Baker (one of my favorite Doctor’s) in the role again, what a pleasure. In films, one more unexpected little dose of science fiction came in the form of Thor: The Dark World, which had less of mythical feel than the first and more of a action science fiction angle. My favorite scenes were those of London in the midst of all the battle and destruction because they reminded me so much of the scenes of evil gods destroying London in Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s old comic book Vimanarama, (which I would really love to see adapted as a movie, perhaps by Danny Boyle if we’re fantasizing).
As a huge proponent of creative consistency, I’ve been grateful to Mark Waid and Matt Fraction for staying on their respective books; Daredevil and Hawkeye for so long. There aren’t many superhero books I can get into lately and so I’ve been enjoying the sustained tone of each of these books. Both presenting a very different vision of a hero within his community, dealing with all of the inherent insanity involved in that weird role. Both books have seen a single artist change (which isn’t bad), and although I miss Paolo Manuel Rivera’s classic comic book style on Daredevil and David Aja’s elegantly minimal design sense on Hawkeye, both have been succeeded by talented artists. Chris Samnee has his own raucous tone which compliments Waid’s creepier stories lately, and no one is doing enigmatic noir right now better than Francesco Francavilla. The voice of a single writer on a book is pretty fantastic, and keeping the artist changes down to a minimum is quite a feat too. Overall a huge selling point for me and I’m glad they’ve committed to their books.
When I’m not writing this column or reading comic books, I am a graphic designer of thing things like logos, advertising, websites, and even comic books. A monthly comic book is a weird job for a designer to take on, since it means that I’m one of the first people to work on the visuals of the book (concepting logos, creating teaser ads, etc), and then one of the last people to see the book, (combining all of the art, lettering, and design files to create the finished book before it goes to print). For this role I am hugely grateful. The opportunity to work with a team of writers, artists, and letterers is the most deeply collaborative creative work I have ever done. In the arts I always hated the isolated aspect of creating, how it was unavoidably something a person did alone. Design has always been a more enjoyable process for me since collaborating with the client to solve problems is the core of the job. It turns out that designing comic books is even more collaborative than my other design work. Everyone on the team contributes visibly to the quality of the book, to how well the story is communicated, and to whether we meet deadlines. Everyone working on a comic book performs an essential task and at the end of the process we get the finished product of a comic book to show for it. It is a very beautiful and satisfying process and I want to thank all of the people that I’m lucky enough to work with.
Today I am most grateful to have a book out which I helped to make; Sex Volume One: The Summer of Hard (pictured at the top of this article). This book compiles the first 8 issues of the monthly, ongoing comic book; Sex. You’ll find it in comic shops today, 192 pages of utterly strange introspection and exploration as experienced by a retired, emotionally dysfunctional superhero. With Joe Casey’s twisted story, Piotr Kowalski’s expressive art, Brad Simpson’s electric color, Rus Wooton’s meticulous lettering, and my design work. As well as the eight comic books, my contribution to the book includes the cover, all eight logo treatments, all eight inside front and inside back cover cityscapes I created, an ad or two, and even the original teaser ad campaign in the back (with a stupidly time-consuming custom type made of fiery, torn, metallics). The book is cheap too so I already bought one for my parents, which has to make it the most inappropriate gift I’ve ever given them, (and that is saying something, I give ridiculous gifts). Working on this book has been (and continues to be) very rewarding and I am so thankful that I’ve been able to see this to print.
That’s all I have room for right now and it is really only the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of good things going on in the medium right now and it’s nice to take a step back and acknowledge a few of them, (thanks for giving me the space to do so). If you’re celebrating it today; have a very happy Thanksgiving, and if not then I hope you’ll still have a wonderful day.
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