In 2012 a broader variety of author communicated their joy and intensity using the alchemy that is art and literature in comic books. The wealth of great comic books published in nearly every genre made me happier than I can say and when I put in my votes for the CBR Top 100 Comics of 2012 I was hard pressed to pick only 10 comic books to vote for. So for you, I’ve compiled 16 mini-reviews of my favorite comic books published in 2012. These books were enjoyable, intense, personal, and / or an evolution of the the comic book medium (and now I can’t wait to see what we’re going to get this year!) Continue Reading »
This year I designed a particularly silly holiday card for you. Enjoy and have a wonderful time (if you can. If not, then I hope that you can read some comic books, listen to some music, and wait until this weird time of year is over.)
This week I wanted to write about something sweet and lovely, far away from the silly horror stories and swashbuckling superheroes which have become my weekly ongoing comic book staples. So I looked to the stack of books-to-be-read which have somehow piled up over the last few months and found something perfect; Marvel Fairy Tales – a book mixing classic fairy tales with classic Marvel superhero tales; the Avengers (both young and old), Spider-Man, and the X-Men.
Since today is my birthday it is lucky that I get to write about something I really like; Anne Hathaway’s depiction of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. With the release of the blu-ray next week (December 4th to be precise, in plenty of time for early holiday shopping), I had a chance to review it and check out all the special features that come with it. Since I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of reviews of the entire, impressive package, I focused my attention on Catwoman and the feature elaborating on the design and approach taken on that character.
Last night I picked up Charles Burn’s Black Hole to read in bed. There are two reasons why this is a bad idea. First, the book is so good that there is absolutely no way that I could put it down without finishing it, so I was up half the night (and it is good enough so that I really can’t rush it, even if I have already read it before.) Second, Black Hole is creepy, not in a generic horror movie way, where I get all twitchy and have to keep looking over my shoulder because I’m so on edge, but in an insidious, creep-into-my-subconscious-and-screw-with-my-dreams way. After I finished reading I lay awake for what felt like hours staring into the darkness and trying not to imagine that I could see anything in it. When I did finally fall asleep, I dreamt about impersonal dismemberment and important shaving rituals which lingered upon waking even though them made no sense. Waking up itself was a shock too, because my eyes were crossed, which has never happened. I couldn’t get them to uncross, and eventually I succumbed to my body and surrendered to sleep for another half hour so that I could wake up in a slightly less physically confused state. It was impressive.
Over the years that I’ve been writing my weekly articles, I have also been attending comic book conventions and taking photos of things I find interesting. Naturally, people in costumes are fun to document, not just because I admire their courage, but because I’m also intrigued by the way in which people can explore boundaries of gender and appearance outside of their “normal” role in life. I’ve always felt that part of the appeal of the superhero comic book is this dual identity, and while I don’t choose to explore mine publicly in this way, I still find people in costume fascinating. Continue Reading »
Today I found out that Hellblazer is cancelled, and John Constantine is moving into the main, general DC universe (see the CBR piece for more about the mechanics on that.)
Unable to come up with any decent new ideas, DC has gone from fiddling with one 30 year old Alan Moore creation – Watchmen – to messing up another: Hellblazer. Of course DC has forced itself to continue this practice of pillaging it’s own powerful history of creations because it has hobbled the creation of new ideas. A champion against creators rights, and infamously instituting a policy of marketing-driven, decision-making-by-committee, the comic book publisher has become a bastion of tired ideas and restrictively tedious comic books. In this brave new world, there is obviously no space for a renegade division like Vertigo, and the gradual dismantling continues apace, as they hand the reigns of Constantine over to an American writer and place John Constantine (a characters who’s very raison d’etre is the juxtaposition of his own very British strangeness within the mundane “real” world) in the DC universe
If you live in America (or the world) perhaps you were as enthralled by the election as I was. It was fascinating to watch unfold online, as the results were reported, extrapolated, and opined upon. If you’re at all interested in visual communication and the use of imagery to convey information (as so many comic book readers are) then this was a banner year to find interesting and new ways to look at the election beyond giant maps plastered onto ice rinks and such gimmicky tricks.
In case you hadn’t noticed, today is Halloween. It can be hard for me to understand how I can love some horror comic books, yet hold such an aversion to horror movies, so I asked acclaimed horror comic book writer – Steve Niles – if he would to talk about what it is that makes horror comic books so appealing, how he writes, and what we can look forward to from him in the future.
Sonia Harris: It is ironic that horror is probably my most hated genre, yet in comics it is often one I gravitate towards. Perhaps it is because elsewhere there is such a lack of grit.
Steve Niles: There really aren’t many other genres besides superhero in comics. Horror is a great genre. You’re automatically on edge simply because it called horror. The anticipation of being scared is a huge factor.
The other day I finally got around to reading Justice League Dark #0. Now you can tell me that this is “a different John Constantine than the one in Hellblazer” or that “DC is a different universe than Vertigo.” I don’t buy it. Those are rationalizations, excuses for screwing up a well-established, well-rounded character with a ton of history and a strong following. If DC’s relaunch and their publication of these issue #0′s was anything more than a depressing marketing move aimed at capturing the attention of a dwindling audience instead of trying to increase their appeal by deepening and widening the type of books they publish, they would not have messed up this character’s history so completely.
Attendance at New York Comic-Con was up again this year, this time to around 116,000. Although Lance Fensterman said that with the increase in attendance there was also an increase in space, this space was circuitous and inconvenient, wrapping itself around the ongoing construction work. Next year the completed construction work promises an extra 90,000 square feet, clearly this can’t come fast enough. Apparently the terrible door policy was purposely done to control the level of crowding inside the Javits Center by slowing down the influx of people into the building simply. However, this meant that instead the surrounding neighborhood became unpleasantly crowded, which meant that people were spilling out on to New York streets full of traffic. Hardly a sensible way to deal with the problem and certainly not very civic minded for the surrounding neighborhood. I would like to politely suggest that if the organizers do not feel that there is enough room in the convention for the number of people they sold tickets to, then they need to consider selling less tickets. Continue Reading »
The song “New York, New York” wasn’t actually written about New York Comic Con, but it could have been. If you can deal with that convention, maybe even have a good time, then you can probably handle any convention of any size, in any place. With attendance around the size of San Diego Comic Con, crammed into a building half the size with none of the nearby hotels to absorb the overflow, questionable “ventilation” and a creatively chaotic layout, then you’re definitely some kind of superhuman. Clearly I’m some kind of insane glutton for punishment though, because I’m going back for a third time this weekend. Being the big convention on the East Coast, NYCC attracts a large European contingent and is often the only place where I can meet friends visiting from the UK and Europe. Continue Reading »
Next week a new autobiographical comic book comes out from Sina Grace. Unlike so many of its predecessors, this one is about a man with a job. He might not like the job, nor even want it, but he throws himself into it with a totality that nearly undoes him, sucking him into a destructive, corporate, retail abyss and spitting him out the other side, ready to become the artist he was meant to be. Luckily for us, that man is Sina Grace and he shares every aspect of that journey in Not My Bag.
On Saturday I went to a rather inappropriately fancy screening of the one-hour live action show Legends of the Super Heroes: The Challenge at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. I’m a huge fan of the incongruous lauding of trashy pop culture that seems to be prevalent in Los Angeles and this did not disappoint. Part of an exhibition of the Warner Archive Collection, this low-budget Hanna-Barbera production was introduced by actor Garret Craig, who played Captain Marvel, who I should note was pretty clear that what we were about to see was as ridiculous to film as it was to watch. Amongst the other stars of the show were the original TV Batman; Adam West, his customary Robin; Burt Ward, as well as their familiar foe; Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. That was pretty much as far as it went in terms of recognizable faces, and although the piece had a sort of earnest joy about it, it was wonderfully terrible.