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.
While I fully support all business charging (and paying tax themselves too), on the evening of September 14th I used the excuse that Amazon were going to start charging tax in California as an excuse to finally buy some books that had been hanging out on my shopping list for months. The books I bought were The Art of Daniel Clowes, two books by Osamu Tezuka (The Book of Human Insects and Message to Adolf, part 1), and Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score. I have to admit, when the big box of books arrived it felt like it was my birthday or something! While I regularly order things from Amazon, it is usually boring, practical stuff like water filter cartridges (which is almost certainly the least exciting thing to have delivered.) Moving house this year means that I haven’t been able to indulge in new book shopping for a quite a long time and this was just great. While there are dozens of books on my future shopping list, these are the ones I just had to have, the ones that I couldn’t wait to read any longer. Continue Reading »
Momentum is a funny thing, particularly when it comes to reading monthly comic books. Recently I was surprised to realize that Unwritten is not “the new comic book which I’m not I’m going to buy regularly”, but is actually the book I’ve been buying faithfully for 3 years. It is monthly, (or maybe sometimes it’s bi-monthly, I’m vague about the specifics), and the upshot is that I’ve completely inadvertently made a somewhat major commitment to this comic book. Yes, it delivers, at least in terms of anticipation – on the weeks that I walk out of the comic shop with it crammed into my handbag, I’m always genuinely excited to get home and read it and until now, I’d never looked beyond that flush of instant gratification. Thinking of it as a “new” comic book, I hadn’t considered what it meant to me, but recently the real world intruded and I found myself facing an oddly uncomfortable reality – after 3 years and a major financial investment, I don’t really know what it is about and apparently I don’t mind enough to be bothered.
Lately I’ve been so busy working on design projects that I didn’t have time to write you an article. Instead, I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve been doing. Unfortunately the comic book project I’m working on is pretty much top secret, so you’ll just have to wait till it is in stores (sorry, I’d love to talk about it.) However, I can share the great cause that I was designing ad banners for.
Each day this month, Take Part with Donors Choose are raising money for a different school. These are really basic, fundamental things they need, like books, a rug, or a garden, just simple aids to make schooling possible for kids. These needs are so modest, each day they are only trying to raise $1000 or so (sometimes more, sometimes less), and each day you can see how that relatively small amount of money could make a substantial difference to a specific school. Here is the link to the website where you can read more about the specifics and get involved if you’d like: www.takepart.com/BackToSchool
Next week I’ll be back to talking comic books, but for now I hope you all have a good week and enjoy your reading!
My attraction to the superhero genre has always been the result of a confluence of many, many elements, but lately it is the men in costume that are interesting me most. Perhaps for some people this is some sort of variation of the old men-in-uniform fetish that so many people have, and I know that a lot of people think of superhero costumes as a sort of military uniform. I do not, to my mind, they have more in common with drag queens or rock stars, who wear flamboyant apparel in order to distract from the job at hand. Unlike the military or police who wear somber uniform in order to blend into their surroundings, their clothing is designed to distract and dazzle onlookers. It is a unusual position for a man to take, and is one of the more interesting characteristics of the male superhero in the context of the male role in our society. Continue Reading »
Wizzywig was originally published online, and this long term view to the creation of this massive undertaking is obvious. This is a book about a fictionalized (though chillingly well researched) hacker, from a childhood playing with lock picking, through to teens phone phreaking, down to full-on hacking for fun (and eventually some kind of depressing profit-out-of-necessity as he lives on the run.) Throughout the story we get flashbacks to the current day, where our hero Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle’s childhood (and only) friend campaigns for his release from jail, where he is held for years without trial. I don’t want to spoil anything, but eventually we catch up to this present and we begin to see how his incarceration plays out and affects the rest of our protagonist’s life. There’s a lot of context, with plenty of attention played to the few people who Phenicle interacts with and how they affect his life (and them, his.) It is filled with unspoken commentary about the way the media affects Phenicle’s life, and the attitudes to him and his actions. There are no aggressively overt moral judgements, we’re allowed to see the gray areas of everyone involved, but simultaneously there are some key, satisfying moments of retribution and lesson’s learned. Nothing is sacred, everything is up for us to witness.
Some comic book readers follow characters while some readers are loyal to specific publishers, some readers follow a specific artist and buy whatever he or she draws, regardless of the character or publisher they’re working on, other people do the same sort of thing but with specific writers.
In too many superhero books, architecture can be pretty low on the importance level for a lot of comic book creators. Naturally it depends a lot on the interests of the specific writer or artist, and once in a while, the environment looms large and becomes an intrinsic part of the story. More than context, a well-crafted architecture can become another character in the story, lending substance and weight to the superheroes world.
The current Batmobile as a simple product design is representative of many aspects of our society. The way any product created for mass production and use is designed tells us a great deal about the manufacturing techniques, natural resources, fashions, aesthetics, politics, values, hopes, and fears of a society. Good fictional product design in films can do so to an even greater level, since it doesn’t actually need to be functional in the real world. If fictional products don’t emulate these values they risk becoming incongruous and ruining the context of a film.