Sean Maher's Quality Control

Friday, June 30, 2006

Man, I've been having a GREAT week.

Y'know, this was just one of those weeks - they come along every two months or so - where I just plain didn't feel like blogging. I even missed Fossen's blogging birthday, and Brill's actual birthday (which coincided with his blog's second birthday, which is weird - did you start blogging on your 21st birthday, Ian? Why weren't you just out getting drunk?) What can I say? A belated "cheers," gentlemen. I'm glad to have you around.

I watched the entire first season of The Sopranos, which I hadn't seen before, and now I'm totally hooked. I thought it was a little choppy and awkward through the first few episodes, but it improved consistently and by the end I was on the edge of my seat. Also, I really like how each episode has an actual ending - most of the TV I've been watching these days is in the J.J. Abrams mode, Alias and Lost style, where it seems like the whole point of each episode is to build to the cliffhanger ending (that never gets directly addressed in the following epsidoe). Giving each episode of The Sopranos a full arc, complete with ending, makes it feel more confident, more muscular and satisfying, while at the same time leaving me no less compelled to find out what happens next. Tony Soprano is a great character, which I kinda expected, having been a big fan of James Gandolfini in films like 12 Angry Men and 8mm for a long time, but I'm also really enjoying Edie Falco's work as his wife Carmela (who really grows as a character over the second half of the season) and Nancy Marchand as his mother, who remains a bit of a mystery - I really dig the ambiguity of her manipulations and control over the other characters, the whole "is she faking Alzheimer's?" question having no clear yes-or-no answer. The first discs of Season 2 arrive from Netflix tomorrow, thank God.

Several really amazing comics came out this week, too. Invincible seems well back on track with issue #33, which highlights what happens to Mark when he's truly desperate, and Sergio Aragones is typically charming, funny and thought-provoking in his issue of Solo. Will Priefer gives us an "aye, there's the rub" moment at the end of Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #2, bringing the mini into sharp focus and leaving me excited to see how it'll end next issue (and what the fate of Crispus Allen will be), and Wark Waid finally gives the usually-backgrounded Cham an issue to shine in Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #19, wherein I realize I'm enjoying Barry Kitson's work here even more than in Empire.

But the real stars this week are Daredevil #86 and Lucifer #75.

I haven't written about Brubaker's run with Michael Lark on Daredevil for the last few issues, but it's a surety now: this is, without question, the best book Marvel Comics is publishing. I wondered over the last year or so what happened to the Ed Brubaker who wrote Sleeper - the guy who wrote episodic, cliffhanger single issues that still stood on their own and told their own story, the guy who could make things worse and worse for his protagonists while strengthening and exploring their character with every single issue. He's back, now. I mean, hey, I enjoyed Captain America - but I love Daredevil. Every issue seems like it's running at breakneck speed, and yet still feels like a dense, thoughtful read. It's this weird balance, the ongoing arc against the single issue, the cliffhanger against the conclusion, the action and eye-candy against the characterization, that Ed Brubaker has really mastered over the last few years. Nobody around right now writes with the same sense of craft. All of this is on display in DD #86, along with what looks to me like the best artwork of Michael Lark's already-impressive career. Truly spectacular comics.

At the same time, I need to take a moment of silence here. With Lucifer #75, there's a real sense that an era has come to an end. Comparing this series with its parent book, Sandman, is problematic, because it's always been its own beast, with its own ambitions and style, but at the end of the day I have to say I've preferred Lucifer to any fantasy comic I've ever read. The ending only solidifies this, closing with the very conversation we've all been waiting for and highlighting everything I've enjoyed about Mike Carey's brilliant characterization of Samael while at the same time drawing more shadows across him, answering some questions and making some judgements on the character and creating even more mystery and curiosity at the same time. This is the perfect coda to an unparalleled epic, and the final page of story leaves me swirling: thoughtful, excited, melancholy, satisfied, curious... somehow, though, more than anything, I feel like I'm in on something. As if, in reading the tale and truly immersing myself in the story, I've witnessed something real and profound, something of true impact and moment. Only the most potent and intelligent fiction can do this to us. And while I'm really very sad to see the series go, this is exactly how it needed to end, and I'm grateful to everyone involved in bringing this story to me.

Cheers to Mike Carey, to Peter Gross, to Ryan Kelly and Dean Ormstrom, to Karen Berger, Vertigo and DC Comics, to everyone involved in putting Lucifer together. You've brought me one of the most amazing reading experiences of my life, and I raise my glass in gratitude.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

News, old and new

I'm full of old news lately, but hell - it's never a bad time for those funny comic book covers. "Superman Is a Dick", aka, has really brought some light in my life and now it's time to share a couple favorites.

Jesus CHRIST! What sick fucker actually drew Spidey getting power-fisted by a villain?!


I discovered another super-cool website yesterday, while searching for guitar tabs for "City Boy" by Keb' Mo' (which I found). It's the Acoustic Player Magazine online forums, full of guitar players of all shapes and sizes, asking questions and helping other folks out and just generally creating an awesome resource for anyone interested in the instrument.

In particular I wanna give a shout-out to Doug "Little Brother" Jones, who not only answered somebody's question about how to play the song with a full tablature, but made a home video (which he posted for download) that showed him giving a mini-lesson on how to play the song with a couple different picking styles.

Turns out he's got a website with a whole bunch more guitar lessons and MP3 files and such, and if any of the rest of his lessons are as righteous as his "City Boy" lesson, they're well worth the cash.



You know, I don't care what Graeme says - Mark Millar is a hell of a storyteller. One of my favorite things about Millarworld is the occasional story from his own life, such as today's adventure punching a fox:

Okay, wife and daughter out at the pictures and I'm downstairs two mins ago on a tea-break and I look out into the garden and see a big fox on top of the rabbit-run I made for the bunnies. This fucker's been kicking around here for a while and I've seen him sloping through all the gardens, but he's literally on top of the thing I built and the rabbits are screaming this high pitched screech I've never heard before.

Anyway, I run out into the garden and the fox just looks at me, not even taking off. This ain't the cute Rufus The Fox we know and love with a nice, shiny tail. This is a filthy flea-bitten thing and it's snarling at the rabbits. Instinctively, I just punched it really hard and sent it hurling across the garden and then chased it over the back fence screaming "Get tae fuck, ye bastard!" at the top of my voice.

Man, I'd love the opportunity to punch the shit out of a small animal with total moral impunity... but around San Francisco, there's no way I'd get away with it.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Congratulations today to Neil Kleid, writer of Ninety Candles and Brownsville, among others, on his wedding today. In the spirit of the day, I will refrain from all jokes about it, including gay marriage jokes and "I fucked your wife" jokes. None of that.

Instead, I will simply send my best wishes to a fine writer and raise my glass to the pair of ya.


Congratulations also to Jason Rodriguez, who apparently is engaged to a total badass. Anybody with a story about how their best gal punched a dude in the face has done something right.


Congratulations also to myself, for learning that Sean Phillips has a blog with lots of art samples all over the place. Much love to Mo, queen of the comics internet, for drawing my attention thither.


Congratulations finally to Marvel Comics, for beating their own record and announcing Ultimates 4 (Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness) before the last issue of Ultimates 2 has even been solicited.

I'll go ahead and sum up the response for you:

"Ed McGuinness? That sounds great!"

"Why the fuck are they telling us about this now?"

And there you go. Me, I think it'll be good, though I'd still like to see McGuinness do maybe a short run on The Incredible Hulk in the meantime.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Happy days are yours and mine

Ah, check it out - dear aul Mo got herself a blog of sorts. Looks like she's archiving her weekly reviews for now, which is worthwhile in and of itself - Mo's always got some insight to share that I'd missed in my read of one book or another.


Ah, it's a happy Friday for me: many thanks to Kevin Melrose for letting me know that Futurama is returning to television. That show's a long-standing favorite of mine and I couldn't be happier to see the cast come back for some new episodes!


Joe Keatinge is Hunk of the Month. Truly.

Congratulations, darling.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pre-Order Urger: Fragile Prophet

Fraghile Prophet is getting some hearty attention. You'll remember of course that I called the book Best In Show for this year's Alternative Press Expo, and it's also recently been reviewed by AICN for the "Indie Jones" column and Elk's Run writer Joshua Fialkov.

Turns out it's in solicitation for August release, with Diamond order code Jun06 3245. It's a mere ten bucks and a steal for the quality of the story, artwork and production value. It's also being put out by an independent publisher, Lost In The Dark Press, so do your comics warrior duty and lay in a pre-order with your local retailer to make sure you get a copy.

Also, incidentally, I found an old Newsarama interview with artist Stephen Buell and some slammin' artwork from his first book, Video. Observe (larger at link):


Fialkov is also over at Newsarama today, talking a little about the glorious ressurection of Elk's Run.


I promised some thoughts on Umbra #1, the first of a three issue mini-series by writer Murphy and artist extraordinaire Mike Hawthorne.

I had no idea what it was about going in. Now I know it's a crazy investigative murder mystery (the victim is literally a neanderthal with a soviet bullet in its spine) with some really awesome plot points and some interesting characterization. Hawthorne's art is wryly subdued here, though I'm told the violence and action ramps up next issue.

How good is this? Even Graeme McMillan liked it. His Pick of the Week, in fact. His comparison to Rucka's Whiteout is pretty sound. I don't really have a lot to say that he didn't cover, but wanted just to give a quick shout-out to a really solid new book. Looking forward to more of this.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

...Batman's head on a lance

I have lied to you. There is no discussion of Batman in today's post.


Matt Fraction gets all pissed off at Chet Presley in this fine YMB interview, and also discusses wrasslin' scenarios and other things litrary.

Really, it's a pip. With Casanova launching today, the timing is perfect, as well.

Can't wait.


X Isle #1 is out today (seven-page preview up at Newsarama, incidentally) and it's a fun read.

It's a fairly familiar concept - researchers at sea end up in a mysterious lightning storm that sinks the ship and lands them stranded on an even more mysterious island - so the emphasis here is on execution. And a few wobbly lines of dialogue aside (nobody should really be paid for writing, "I just wish for once, you'd stop being Dr. Keller and start being my dad," right?) the execution is great. We're given solid, interesting introductions to at least six major characters who all get at least one spotlight moment, the ambient creepiness I've come to expect from writer Andrew Cosby, the breakneck rollercoaster pacing I've come to expect from co-writer Michael Alan Nelson, artwork from Greg Scott that balances a sly realism for the characters and facial expressions and a more shadowy style for the elements that need it, and a cliffhanger ending that ties into the curious research these scientists were pursuing in the opening pages of the issue. Tight, enthusiastic work from everybody, and I'm excited to see where this will be going.


Ed Brubaker talks about his upcoming Sean Phillips collaboration, Criminal, also at Newsarama. I can't think of anybody at Marvel more likely to really explode the creator-owned ICON imprint, and given how much I loved Sleeper (maybe the best comic I've read since I came back to the form) I'd say it's safe to call this my Most Anticipated Series Of 2006.

Really, I'm off my nut for this one.

The link also includes a 5-page PDF of the "trailer" Ed and Sean put together, which is a fun read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A little song, a little dance...

Has everyone been keeping up with the Frank Cho thread on MillarWorld? It's nice. Every now and then Cho drops in with something random, like an oil painting of King Kong.

[EDIT: Okay, I've tried like five times now and I can't get the fucking image to show up. Just click the link, would you?]

Nice little bonuses. Funny - I went to show it to Molly and scrolled down the page, for some reason speeding right by the naked-chick-on-a-cigar-smoking-gorilla statue, somehow thinking, Hey, I might get in trouble for looking at that.

"Wait, what was that?" she asked.

Shit, I thought to myself.

I scrolled back up. I held my breath. I grit my teeth.

"Wow. That's pretty cool!"

God damn, I love a woman who surprises me still.


I had a great time hanging out with Jeff Lester of Comix Experience a week or two ago, 'cause he's a really cool, friendly dude with a lot of insight to share in any conversation, but God damn - when he sets his fangs to something, he's more determined and rugged than a pit bull and strikes faster and sharper than a cobra. I sure hope I don't ever write something crappy that he reads, because he's got some kind of genius for figuring out exactly why stuff that sucks, sucks, and naming it succintly.

(Actually, that might be a cowardly response: wouldn't that be a rare and invaluable talent in an editor? Ah, but that's got to be balanced a bit. As Harry Crews once wrote of teaching writing, "The teacher [and editor, as opposed to a critic] must hold up a standard of excellence to the student, and demand that he at least make every effort to meet that standard. But it has to be done in such a way that his spirit, his desire to excel, is not killed.")

Anyway, the point is that while I've kinda just been rolling my eyes over the Spidey reveal and all the fanboy rampage that's been frothing up the comics internet since, it took Jeff's recent post over at The Savage Critic(s) to really get me worked up.

If you ask me, what makes Spider-Man work in the first place is how Stan and team approached the whole Pete/Spidey duality. Unlike the relatively binary set-up of secret identities for superheroes (usually hero is lauded, secret identity is dumped on--the Superman/Clark Kent blueprint) which makes them such satisfyingly simple ego-fantasies, Stan made that duality more complex: the happier Peter Parker would be in his personal life, the more fucked up things would get for Spidey, and vice-versa.

...So, for me, the more that distance closes--as Peter's life and Spider-Man's life becomes the same--the less archetypal Spider-Man is. It doesn't matter if (for example) because of Peter's unmasking, Mary Jane gets killed and Peter becomes miserable again and the "And it's all my fault!" anguish is put back into the Pete/Spidey dynamic. Short of a big ol' reset button, a huge part of the Spider-Man mystique is toast. The only draw now is seeing if it's gonna be as big a mess as I think.

Well put, I says. I also really liked when he wrote that "Unlike House of M, this fucker moves, even if it's just from one fanboy cockpunch to the next."

Heh heh.


I'm a little late to the party with this one, but have y'all read this recent Newsarama interview with Warren Ellis? Ostensibly it's about Desolation Jones, but it's got all kinds of other great stuff in there. After a while I got sick of hearing about cell phones and podcasts and took myself off his Bad Signal mailing list, but I sure loved when he talked about his artists. He puts a lot of thought into the visual end of the medium and it's fascinating reading, and plenty of it in the interview.

Also, I just love when people hate Los Angeles as much as I do.

I hate the place. Which I'm sure comes as no surprise. I hate cities I can't walk around. When I try walking in West Hollywood people in their cars slow down and stare at me. I don't think this is entirely down to my shocking personal beauty. Have you ever tried walking in Burbank? Have you ever tried finding somewhere in Burbank to walk to? Walking down Sunset is an exercise in existential horror. Santa Monica's only walkable if death is no hurdle. The air's the wrong colour. People put sunglasses on their dogs. It's a hideous place where humans are not welcome and those who stay suffer eight kinds of brain damage.

Tee hee. It feels almost like smacking around a kid with Down Syndrome, but I sure do love hearing people rip on L.A.


I had a blast hanging out with James and the Isotope crew last week, as I wrote about a bit on Thursday. One thing that came up left me confused, though.

"Hey, Sean!" James said, with that glint in his eye and that slyness in his smile that always signal an idea he's excited about. "Would you go to an art closing?"

"Uh, a what?"

"An art closing."

"Yeah, sure," I said. "What the hell is that?"

(What the above response might say about my personality I leave to the reader's sensibilities.)

"An art closing," James said.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said.

"Okay," James said, being patient. "You've heard of art openings, right?"


"What's the opposite of an art opening?"

"Ohhhhhhhh," I said, trying to pretend that I suddenly understood exactly what he was talking about.

Turns out it's an idea spurred by Continuity, the new AiT graphic novel (advance reviewed here some weeks ago, and on sale in printed form tomorrow), which makes the whole thing come into clarity. What better way to celebrate a book that turns reality on its ear than with an event that does the same?

I've got no idea what to expect, really, but I'm pretty sure the Continuity Art Show and the closing reception on July 6th will be a good time.


Good week, looks like.

In addition to Continuity, we've got the much anticipated debut of Casanova (for a scant two bucks, Fell-style, but double sized for the first issue), Giant-Size Hulk #1 (reprinting, along with the new material, Peter David's awesome The End one-shot from a few years ago), and a cool new book from Boom! called X Isle. I got a chance to read this one already and hope to get a review out tomorrow, but the short version is: crazy lightning storm strands scientists on an even CRAZIER island - cue suspense and complex character situations. Should be a good time, and I'm psyched about the three-dollar price tag.

Also, that's a hell of a nice cover, innit?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hulk: Gray

I read a number of solid books last week. Among them was the trade collection for Hulk: Gray, the most recent of the "color" series that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did for Marvel.

Loyal readers will remember that Hulk is, maybe, my favorite of Marvel's super-heroes. Largely, I think this is because Hulk is not a hero, at all. He's a child, a dangerous one, as given to lashing out in anger and accidentally harming his own loved ones as he is to accidentally finding himself on the "good guy" side of a brawl against the Abomination.

Somehow, this makes the Hulk a more personal character for me than, say, Captain America. The Hulk is a very psychological, emotionally-driven character concept. Bruce Banner lives with the constant fear that his emotions will become stronger than he can control rationally, something I think a lot of us can identify with; how many mistakes have we made in our lives, at just those times when we allowed our emotions reign over our reason? "You always hurt the ones you love," that sort of thing. At the same time, those moments when your heart is beating out of your chest and you're feeling something so strongly you don't even understand it... well, sometimes that's the best part of life. The delirium of feeling is a euphoria no drug can match, and it's often when we release control of that feeling that we really begin to experience life in the most rewarding ways.

And that's the real tragedy behind the character; Banner is a man of strong emotions ranging from love to anger to guilt to loneliness and more, but he's found himself leading a life where acknowledging those emotions, letting them anywhere near the surface, will literally turn him into a monster. And it's this aspect of the character I think Loeb and Sale really knock out of the park in Hulk: Gray, easily the best Hulk story I've read since Peter David's Hulk: The End one-shot several years ago (which, incidentally, is being reprinted this week in Giant-Size Hulk #1). In one particularly powerful (and strikingly quiet) scene, Hulk sits alone atop a rocky cliff in the desert holding a small rabbit, smiling softly and petting it with his finger. He thinks of the rabbit as his friend and knows, if only for a few minutes, the calmness and peace he's always wanted. But in showing his affection for the animal, he crushes its skull with his finger. "Ross say Hulk am monster. HULK NOT MONSTER!" he cries, smashing the cliff beneath him in his anger and grief.

It's heartbreaking, and it highlights another character element Loeb explores here: we've all heard Hulk saying for years that all he wants is to be left alone. But this isn't really true; Hulk wants company, companionship. In an extended scene between Hulk and Betty Ross (the highlight and emotional climax of the series), he struggles to understand why she's so upset. "Hulk protect Betty," he tells her, with no idea that it's his own actions that are terrorizing her. Of course, it's just as she's broken his heart by telling him so that General Ross shows up with guns blazing, and we see another facet of the Banner/Hulk tragedy: even when Banner falls apart and the Hulk comes out to give form and catharsis to his emotions, he still fails to achieve intimacy with anyone around him. Hulk screams into the thunder and rain that all he wants is to be left alone, but what we're realizing as his audience is that in his anger and rejection, he's confused the truth: Hulk doesn't want to be left alone. Hulk is alone. And because he is, by design, Banner's invulnerable and strong side - "Nothing can hurt Hulk," he tells Betty in a chilling moment - he forces the tables to turn, making his alienation a demand rather than a disappointment.

All of this is part of the basic Hulk concept, it seems, but I've not often thought about it in such specific terms; part of the strength of Loeb's script and Sale's haunting facial expressions is distilling these often neglected aspects of the character, and reducing the story to the bare elements needed to expose why the character should matter to the reader. It's a stylistic choice they've used on all the other "color" books as well (looking at Peter Parker's natural melancholy in Spider-Man: Blue and Matt Murdock's complex relationship to fear and failure in Daredevil: Yellow), but it's in fullest form here, making Hulk: Gray the most successful book in the series yet.

There's plenty of Hulk smashing and gorgeous Tim Sale layouts and character designs to talk about as well (why hasn't anyone ever given Hulk such ugly teeth before?), but you hardly need me to tell you about that, do you?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Job, part the tenth

I guess what I was happiest about in reading Civil War #2 was that Spider-Man showed up in his actual costume instead of that fuck-ugly new thing they put him in after The Other.

God is in the details, chillun.

(Also, the Patriot chase scene was pretty awesome, despite his jump from building to building being torn straight from the first Ultimates series. I'm pretty sure I like Steve McNiven's artwork even more than Brian Hitch's, honestly.

I wonder what he'll be on next?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I am a genius

Oh, man, I've got it all figured out.


1. Get up early and go to work, but have it be the only day you've gotten up early for work in the last two or three weeks. Feel nice and refreshed.

2. Do a pimp-ass job at work, receiving compliments from customers/guests/etc. and management and co-workers alike. Make sure to share the love right back: remember, no man is an island, especially in a social job. Shake lots of hands, tell lots of people how cool they are, and bring morale right up through the roof.

3. Leave work at 2:30. Enjoy the sunny San Francisco afternoon.

4. Buy the week's stash of comic books. Only buy stuff you're super-excited about, or, alternatively, especially curious about.

5. Hang out all afternoon with good friends at the Isotope. Meet new people. Drink a couple beers and toast a good buddy you haven't seen in a while. Laugh your ass off at stories galore.

6. Hook up with your girlfriend and go to Chevy's. [That's right, I said Chevy's - I love that place, don't care what you think.] Eat a big fat plate of whatever your favorite dish is and share a pitcher of top shelf margaritas, listening to how said girlfriend turned things around at work today to have a great day herself.

6.5. Be sure to eat nearly to toxicity. Be full, full, full, and about half drunk.

7. Pay the check, leaving a hefty tip so the guy knows how much you appreciated the service, and take a walk up the street. Burn off a little bit of the load currently swelling the edges of your stomach. Kiss your girl on the sidewalk. Stop and realize how incredibly balls-out lucky you are. Laugh about that a little.

8. Finish the walk by arriving at the movie theater. Take out the free movie passes you got the last time you donated blood (how cool was that?). Use them to get tickets to Cars, the new Pixar movie, featuring the voices of two of your very favorite actors (Paul Newman and Owen Wilson, of course).

9. Watch an awesome movie that makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you learn, makes you just as happy as a pig in shit. Notice that Pixar is always pushing themseleves to actually do something new with every new movie.

10. Go home.

And that's about it. The rest is up to you, I suppose. But I'm telling you, as far as I've laid it out here, it's a sure thing.

I am a[n extremely lucky] genius.


Lots of brilliant art previews around this week.

James Sime at the Isotope discovered that Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort #4 is coming out next week and tracked down a good nine pages of preview art for us. My favorite is the title sequence:


And Blair Marnell over at All The Rage has a few gooduns this week, including some great John Romita, Jr. pages from The Eternals, but I'm most swayed by the Phil Noto artwork he got from an upcoming issue of Jonah Hex, which may signal my return to the title. As Blair put it, "Noto is, for my money, one of the best artists not currently under an exclusive contract." Amen, Blair.

But you forgot to mention he's also doing interiors on the upcoming G.I. Joe / Scarlett: Declassified one-shot. I'm not generally one for G.I. Joe comics, but this cover may well sell itself to me come July:


A big cheers to Tom Waltz, writer of Children of the Grave. Tom and his art collaborator Casey Maloney have been hitting the internet with a full media blitz for the upcoming IDW collection of their four-issue series. I'm not kidding - in addition to the Newsarama interview and art preview I linked a couple weeks ago, they've been on CBR, Comicon's The Pulse, The Paperback Reader, and recently hit a double feature on Silver Bullet Comic Books, with a glowing review here and an extensive interview here, in which ol' Tom says something mighty nice about one of his old-school supporters:

CJ: OK, so on the positive side then, how about naming a few of your favourite blogs?

TW: I tend to cruise a lot of them, but off the top of my head I’d have to mention my man Sean Maher’s Quality Control, The Great Curve, Comics Should be Good, Blood In The Gutters, Bags and Boards, Catch Da Craze... man, there’s so many that I like, I feel terrible not mentioning them all. The cool thing is, though, that most of the blogs have links to other blogs on their home pages, so if you go to any of the ones I mention above, odds are you’ll be able to find many of the others I frequent.


COTG is slated to hit comics stores in August, but can be pre-ordered from your Local Comics Seller now with Diamond ordering code JUN063212. COTG can be found in the June issue of Previews Magazine and is Certified Cool.

Cheers, Tom!


Oh, I got a little insider gossip yesterday, and while he'd kill me if I gave away anything more, I'll just let you know that Larry's not kidding.


Congratulations to Robert Kirkman on the birth of his son.

I mean, that's really cool.

But naming him Peter Parker?

It's better than Kal'el, I suppose. But I don't know any bartenders who named their kid Jim Beam, or actors who named their kid Hamlet, you know?

Ah, I'm sure you know what you're doing. Cheers, Kirkman, ya nutbar.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This Week's Haul

Anybody seen the new nickels? Man, poor Thomas Jefferson.

Man, I don't know whose fault this is - whether it's the original painting by Rembrandt Peale, the design by Jamie Franki or the engraving by Donna Weaver - but I have never seen an historical American hero look so much like a sickly child molester.


Looks like a decent haul coming in tomorrow.

DMZ #8 should be a blast, as I think the series has been getting better and better. Seemed weird how easily Matty got pulled out of the warzone last issue, but they sent him right back in so I guess it won't change the scenery too much.

Fables #50 brings the return of Bigby to the series, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Fear Agent #5 should be Jerome Opena's first issue, right? Looking forward to that, too!

Liberty Meadows, Vol 1 TP gets a new printing this week, and per my review of issue #37 last week, I'm definitely intrigued. I'll likely check this out.

Umbra #1 is a new project from writer Murphy with the brilliant Mike Hawthorne on artwork, and I'm curious to see what they've got up their sleeves. Not sure what the book is about honestly, but I'm pretty much a Hawthorne completist at this point.

Marvel Team-Up, Vol 3: League Of Losers TP - Yeah, why not?

Marvel Westerns: Two-Gun Kid is a Dan Slott book, which automatically throws it in my pull file. Can't wait.

Wolverine: Origins #3 - y'know, I'm gonna stick with it through the first arc, I think. It's been dumb fun so far, and even if it's not the comic I'm proudest of buying, at least I get some Steve Dillon art into the bargain. That buys a whole lot of leeway in my book.

Super Fuckers #3: ah, more Kochalka insanity. When last we saw these guys, Jack Krak had become a born-again Christian, right? This is always fun reading.


Ooh, Jim Lee's Wild CATS cover (one of, uh, three):

Hee hee!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass returns!

Mark your calendars - this is my single favorite event of the year!

Ah, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Artist list for this year is "coming soon" but I already know Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will be there, and last year I also got to catch Earl Scruggs, The Del McCoury Band, Tim O'Brien, Emmylou Harris, and - get this - Doc Watson.

I missed out on Buddy Miller, Ralph Stanley and J.D. Crowe & The New South, but if they're there again this year I won't repeat the mistake.

That's October 7th and 8th, kids. Don't look for me anywhere else.


EDIT: Ooh, Buddy Miller's producing the new Solomon Burke album!

And according to MSNBC, it'll include a song written by Gillian Welch! Damn, this oughtta be worth a look.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bullet Reviews

BAM! Tag #1 is pretty much the exact book I'd come to think Keith Giffen should write. He's been doing humor and horror independent of each other for Boom! over the last year, and this tale of a man undergoing a slow, painful zombification combines elements of both, though the humor isn't prominent enough to spoil the mood. Like Fossen, I've been a fan of Kody Chamberlain since seeing the Punks preview art, and while the style here is totally different I'm still grooving on the atmospherics. I'd like to see the coloring switch up styles a bit; there's a lot of full-panel washes here, and maybe they can switch to more detailed "inside the lines" colors to distinguish between Our Hero's zombifying perspective and the outside world looking in on him.

BAM! Liberty Meadows #37 was my first exposure to the series. Finally cracked after doing the Frank Cho spotlight on my Ladies Night post last week. I like how Cho takes the three-panel episode format to tell longer stories (like when Calvin lost Hobbes), but being that these are all published at once, he can also do full three-panel strips of quieter moments without punchlines, building subtle tension. Some of the big boobies get pretty ridiculous-looking in profile, but outside of that particular angle the women are gorgeous. There's a back-story here, but the thing was still totally accessible. Does that mean Cho's a great storyteller or that the previous 36 issues were really light on content and forward momentum? Maybe a little of both. At any rate, I enjoyed this. There're some cheap collections coming out (soon) and I'll be buying 'em.

BAM! Toupydoops #2 was really strong. Like Liberty Meadows, a series with a comedic gimmick that drives everything and keeps the book entertaining, while allowing the characters' more complex emotional lives a breath of air now and then to give the book a little gravity. Every bit as good as the first issue, and a bit of an improvement, actually, because we get to see creator Kevin McShane flesh out the characters a bit more.

BAM! Emissary #1 was awesome. Jason Rand writes some of the best dialogue around anymore. It's a wordy issue, but it feels rich, not slow. We're setting up all the pieces, meeting all our characters and getting some backstory in our pockets so we care about them going forward. Really, though it doesn't move the bigger story forward much beyond introducing some of the main issues at stake, it's a dense, brilliant issue. Juan Ferreyra's improved as an artist with every month since I first noticed his stuff in Small Gods #1, what, two years ago? Between his work there, his continuing run on Rex Mundi (re-launching with Dark Horse soon) and his stuff here, the man's a true rising star. The big spreads here - new territory for Ferreyra - are full of impact and shock and grandeur. Why these guys aren't both millionaires is beyond me. I was worried about this, not being much of a Jim Valentino fan, but I think it's gonna be really goddamned good.


Happy Friday, kids. I'm off to go hang out on a yacht out in the bay, breathing the sea air and feeling the wind in my hair and calling it work.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

No Time To Say Goodbye - HELLO!

Just go read about Postcards today, my friends - that'll tide you over.

Oh, you also might wanna pick up Tag #1 by Kieth Giffen and Kody Chamberlain. It's about the experience of turning into a zombie from said zombie's perspective. And it's mighty goddamn creepy.

(Similar to what I understood the pitch to be for The Hunger, though I still haven't read any of that series. Word is the trade is down to under twenty bucks, though, so I'll be keeping an eye out for that puppy as well.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Elk's Run has risen!

The true seven soldiers of victory, then, are Josh Fialkov, Noel Tuazon, Scott A. Keating, Datsun Tran, Jason Hanley, Jason Rodriguez and Christopher Arundel - the fine men responsible for bringing Elk's Run to the reading public.

I've been apey over this book since well before the release of the first issue, having nabbed an early review copy and been totally blown away. In spite of a series of publishing misadventures, the book quickly established a fiercely loyal readership (comparable, I'd say, to those kids who never stop telling me to read Scott Pilgrim).

I did another big review of the third issue, loved the fourth, and eagerly waited for the rest. And just when things looked bleakest --

-- the announcement came!

New York, NY – June 5, 2006 – Villard, a division of the Random House Publishing Group, announced today that it will be publishing Elk’s Run by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon. The graphic novel will collect the complete eight-issue comic book series, and will give readers their first opportunity to finally read the story all the way through to its explosive conclusion.

For those just coming in:

Elk's Run is the story of a small-town militia. After years of peaceful insularity, the town of Elk's Ridge is rocked when a drunk driver kills one of their children while trying to escape through the only tunnel out of town. The town's brutal public revenge on the man finally spurs some of the children to reject their parents' way of life, just as the militia's war against the outside world is about to begin.

That's just the start of the story. The book's just been nominated for a staggering seven Harvey awards, and I'm psyched to see the creative team get the recognition they deserve, but I'm even happier just to see my chance to finish reading the story come around the bend.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cash Returns

Damn near crapped my pants on Saturday when I discovered this.

That's right. It's the new final Johnny Cash album. American V: A Hundred Highways. The fifth Rick Rubin production, which he says "may be my favorite of all of the albums in the American series... These songs are Johnny's final statement. They are the truest reflection of the music that was central to his life at the time. This is the music that Johnny wanted us to hear."

Get this: release date? The Fourth of July.

Goddamn right.

I think this is gonna really be awesome, too. It's built from the last recordings of his life, when his voice was crumbling, but I think that's gonna be even better. See, Cash always had chops as an entertainer, yes: the huge voice, the foot-stompin' rockabilly rhythms, the big anthems, the swagger, the blue-collar appeal. But he's not the only guy to've had those things; what really makes Cash a unique and compelling musician, what sets him right at the top of my favorite musicians ever, is the flaws. The frailty. That's something I thought the Walk The Line movie really captured - Cash made a lot of mistakes, wondered around most of his life just as lost as the rest of us. And I think he was always at his best when he was bringing that to the table, whether it was a tremble in his voice, a tearful line in a song, a sigh of relief and gratitude in a love song - it was the quieter moments that made the cavalier, shit-eating-grin-and-booming-throat Cash so powerful, because you knew he only made it to that confidence and strength by struggling from the ground on up. And it's my guess that this will be in full display on Johnny's final recordings.

So, yeah, I'm excited as holy hell for this.


Joe Keatinge cracks me up.

Not only because I finally got to see him all dragged-out in 24 Hours on Craigslist ("Is that... that's Joe! Holy shit, he looks like fifteen years old!"), but also because of his Wholly Barbarian Blues blog, which kills me with posts like this one:



BARTENDER: "What're you working on?"

ME: "(explain what COMIC BOOK stuff I'm working on)."

BARTENDER: "Comic books, huh? Have fun!"

ME: "(deepest sigh ever)"


Wow - if Fossen made this much money off Mouse Guard, I wonder how much I could snag?

Nah. I'm keeping 'em.


Heh - WildCats #1 is gonna have an alternate cover by Todd McFarlane?



Make sure you check out Blair's column this week, over at All The Rage.

Yeah, that's Lee Bermejo’s Joker.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Pretty Ladies

There's been some talk of sexualization of female characters in comics, and whether there's some element of sexism involved, etc., etc., and on and on - you know, the usual discussion, really.

But one thing I noticed was that most folks were pointing to artwork by notorious "cheesecake" artists - I'm not gonna name names, 'cause that's not what I'm about in general, but we all know those guys who draw the same boobs and the same big lips in the same pose all the time, and they do sometimes make you stop and raise your eyebrow and wonder if this is all in good taste.

But, then, y'see, there's the other guys. Men who draw women - beautiful women, sexy women, cute, pretty, glamorous, and so on - who really put some craft into it and, in my opinion, make comics with beautiful women look good. Both in an aesthetic and in a "your girlfriend won't slap you" sense. Today's post is a tribute to three such gentlemen, the integrity of their art, and the beautiful women of their imaginations.

Today's post is not entirely work-safe. It is, for the most part, but not completely.


Tim Sale

Ah, Tim Sale. Nobody draws a pair of eyes like Sale. Here's one of my favorites, Selina Kyle (who's never looked as glamorous or sassy as she has under Sale's pencil) on the cover of Catwoman: When In Rome #1:

And something a little more sexual and alluring, here's a "China Girl" illustration he did for the ALBUM comic book store in fair Paris (prints available for $20 here!):

And for something a little more in the "cute" vein, here's a sketch Sale's recently posted on his forum for another upcoming sketchbook he's doing with Richard Starkings, of the character Vanity from Starkings' own Hip Flask:


Frank Cho

Oh, please - like I even have to tell you. This guy is one of the most amazing artists on the scene today and his favorite things to draw, it seems, are monsters, violence, and absolutely gorgeous brick-shithouse women. All three of which are included in his Shanna The She-Devil series:

But I don't wanna sell the man's real baby short - I just picked up my first issue of Liberty Meadows this week (issue #37) and loved it. The series has at least two lady characters that I've seen so far, but far and away it seems Brandy is the woman Cho has always been in love with:

And, as you've probably already read about on Lying In The Gutters or the messageboards, there's Cho's recently-released art book, Frank Cho Women: Selected Drawings and Illustrations, the cover for which was censored for online solicitation and, if I remember right, dressed with a dust cover around the actual cover to allow stores to display the book lawsuit-worry-free. The "real" cover, y'see, was this:


Sam Kieth

The classic. At least, in my life as a reader. I know the Frazetta influence is a big'n, but how could you do anything but love Julie the Leopard Queen from The Maxx?:

One thing I also love about the guy is his versatility; he seems just as comfortable drawing that pretty emo girl with the streak in her hair, that girl who's trying ta act all tough when she really just wants love - you know the one, yeah? She was in that Zero Girl book:

And on the stands this very week is Kieth's new book, My Inner Bimbo. I picked it up and - HOLY SHIT - that's a lotta pretty lady drawin's. The project looks to me like something about a fella getting in touch with "his inner bimbo" - natch - and one might guess this is how Kieth sees his own feminine side. I dunno, I haven't read it yet. That's just me guessing. But boy, the art is goddamn pretty.


Happy Friday, everyone - hope the weekend treats you well.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Advance (Sort Of) Review: Continuity

Continuity had me worried.

Don't get me wrong - it looked pretty damn good. A girl whose dreams shape reality? So she dreams herself pregnant, and can't fall asleep again for fear of accidentally destroying the world or killing her baby? Awesome premise. Packed with potential.

But the drug thing kinda made me nervous. Blade Runner meets Fear And Loathing, was the pitch I thought I heard.

And I'm really not big on drug stories anymore; especially stories in that 2000 A.D. vein that this seemed to fit into, it just seemed like a bad idea. "Please, let the drug stuff take a back seat," I thought to myself.

Luckily, my dreams shape reality, too.

The drug thing takes a back seat.

The rest of it is really pretty goddamned good.

It's a character study, really, but dressed up as a paranoid sci-fi psychological thriller. After an opening drugs-n'-violence sequence that sets the stage for the closing scenes of the book, we're brought back into heroine Alicia's earlier days and take it from there, and it's then that the real tone and character of the story unfolds itself.

It's a book about being alone, about feeling strange and somehow wrong and dangerous, and struggling to pull out of that. Writer Jason McNamara hits on several different aspects of this challenge, addressing themes of alienation, friendship, responsibility, control, determination and invention over the course of an emotionally dense adventure story. It's a pretty relatable story, really - Alicia longs as we all do for acceptance and confidence and love, but fears that she'll be unable to control her own destructive potential if she actually gets those things. She can't let her guard down and relax (or, hell, enjoy life) because the moment she stops constantly examining her every impact on the world around her, she'll make a terrible, irrevokable mistake and hurt not just herself but those she cares for in the process. I'm reminded a bit of Spider-Man's guilt-ridden motivation as a hero and his "With great power must come great responsibility" mantra; the difference is that while Peter Parker fears the violence of others, Alicia fears herself.

Tony Talbert's artwork puts this emotionally exhausting story into entertaining relief, capturing the intense moments with gritty detail when the script needs it and adding some levity and humor when the story needs to lighten up for a moment. The action sequences are strong and the movement is easily translated, but what strikes me in particular are the character designs; looking at the page below, I think Alicia's facial expression is really sharp, and I like the almost primitive features of the drug-addled 1984 Big Brother cop, the result of an anxiety towards the police in a dream from which Alicia's just woken:

I'm also impressed with the following dream sequence, which I think includes all the necessary detail in one full-page splash without going on and on with the usual rote monologue such dream sequences often subject us to for page after page. Behold deceptive simplicity:

I'm much impressed with this one, and you can be, too: as mentioned at the end of March, the entirety of the book is online at this PDF address:

The "dead tree version" is out on June 21st, for those who prefer to hold 'em in their hands. If such is your way (as is mine - I read a printed out version), I'd suggest taking a look at the Jason McNamara interviews on Comicon and Newsarama; he's a clever fellow.

Cheers. I'm off to spend ridiculous amounts of money on comics today.
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