Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Comics Day

JLA Classified (!)
Green Lantern
Modern Masters: Charles Vess

Not many books today but all good ones. Love Ivan Reis drawing Green Lantern, can't wait to read Slot's latest chapter of "The 4th Parallel."

And what an awesome offering from Modern Masters by spotlighting Charles Vess, a truly inspirational artist on so many levels. The man trades seamlessly between fine art, fantasy, and superheroes with an undeniable beauty that is always a wonder to behold.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ryan Vs. Dorkman 2

The quality of "fanfilms" vary greatly, so much so the the word 'quality' takes on a bit of a loose meaning. But the cream rises to the top, and it's almost instantly obvious when independent, dedicated filmmakers "got their shit together."

The first Ryan Vs. Dorkman was pretty damn cool. Two guys with some home-made lightsabers and Adobe After Effects. The sequel, some three years later and six months in the making, may as well have been sanctioned by Lucasfilm because it is that damn good.

I attended the premiere here in LA-- it was just down in Beverly Hills so why the hell not-- where a pretty good crowd showed up for the first time show. The actual film will be released via the interwebs on March 1st, and if you're a fan of such things grab a hold of a download and you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not your father's Total

Hell, it's not even my Total. For a cereal box it's awfully... interactive. Don't believe me? Just head on over to the Total Cereal Website. Now that's what I call brand design integration!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Comics Day

Helmet of Fate
Brave and the Bold
Wonder Woman
The Spirit

Wonder Woman #4? Wha? Huh--?? Hey, I'll take it.

George Perez draws The Brave and the Bold, starring Batman and Green Lantern in Las Vegas. Nice. In typical Perez fashion, each page has a ridiculous amount of art on it.

Civil War...mmm, okay. I read the finale issue #7 at the store. And... that's it? Really? Reallllly?? Oh man, I'm glad I wasn't into this at all, nor had any investment whatsoever in Marvel's "event." Because, man, what a lame duck that was.

Y It Works

Y the Last Man is such a good comic! Even when they stray off the path it delivers with a quality and consistency rarely found in comics narrative.

The latest issue, #54, has a comic-within-a-comic segment that shoots for that time's past comics look-- and succeeds! The secret is all in the coloring, as I've spoken way to much about before. In the "old comics" this issue was trying to emulate, the color palette was limited to 25% increments of the four printing press inks. Colorist Zylonol (individual? Studio?) at least knew that much by picking from that specific palette while at the same time emulating the style of the time. Some clever "offset plate" effects were even in play. A halftone screen was applied as well, though a fine morie shows through-- there are lots of geeky print things that could be in play here that I shan't bore you with. But overall, great job. Bravo, gents!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rubik Kubrick

Check out more brain-hurting art made entirely with Rubik's Cubes at Space Invader's Rubikcubism.

There is math at work here. Evil math.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dan Slott is THE MAN

JLA Classified #34 is a blast and a half. So much crazy shit happens in this ish I almost forgot it was from DC. Continuing the storyline of "The 4th Parallel" we catch up with another of the realities that the Red King is testing out for world domination. Sounds a bit weird, and it is, in a very good way.

The kicker is classic, Red King messes up and proceeds to trigger a doomsday device that will literally destroy the world. Convinced of the inevitable, the JLA then proceed to evacuate the entirety of Earth's population to Mars. Every damn man, woman, child, and animal. And in one of the coolest JLA bits I've seen in ages, Green Lantern makes a "space tube" connecting Earth to Mars, that Aquaman proceeds to bring over all of the ocean's fish!!!!!!!! Other JLAers are terraforming Mars to support life with all the technology they've "aquired" over the years, and Superman even shrinks down a select few of Earth's cities to tkae on the journey. There is a great bit here with Flash and Plastic Man, discussing why their home cities didn't get picked. There is alot of other cool things going on and the book is just packed to the brim.

Huzzah for writer Dan Slott, and his able art team of Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway. This is good comics!!!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Edco: Scientifically Popular

The February issue of Popular Science features a little blurb on Drewtech's DashDAQ-- sharp-eyed readers of this here blog will notice that it's my shiney GUI gracing the device. Hip hip PopSci, it's always nice to be nationally published!

For all your high-end automotive diagnostics interface needs: "Think Groovy, Think Edco!"

When Good Comics Go Bad: Batman #663

So what's the verdict? Good show, old boys, 'A' for effort and all that. But you're up a bit short.

Sometimes you want to try something different, shake things up a bit. In any medium where your peers and competitors are of some number, this is what is known as a "risk." For the record, I applaud risk in creativity, even when it doesn't pay off.

The Presentation
Batman #663 takes a bold leap into the risk area by presenting its story in prose ala typeset text as opposed to captions or word balloons. Accompanied by this are illustrations that are actually set pieces of 3D renderings, then photoshopped into "designy" collage. This is not completely unheard of in comics, but it is rare. Done well-- Watchmen and Cerebus come to mind-- even more rare. Of the 3D art, even more so and I've yet to see that done right in comics.

The problems that arise in this issue are that of format and form. "Type Design" is credited to Todd Kline, whose pedigree of comic lettering and logo design need not be questioned, however his book design in this instance leaves some to be desired. They type was much too bulky a font, a bold and condensed sans-serif that clogged up the page (my guess: Myriad Condensed Bold, perhaps semi-bold). Paragraphs were too wide and eratically clipped, ignoring many of the hard and fast rules large blocks of text require. I hate, hate, hate, hate to fault Klein in this instance as I know the man and respect him immensely, but the awkward type layout is the first sign of "something's not right here."

The "art," by John Van Fleet, completes the thought. Van Fleet, like Klein, is above average in his feild, tho here he eschews his traditional illustration for experiments in 3D which --while interesting and not without style-- fall short. In this day and age, if you are going to go CG, you better have your shit together. Comic readers both casual and regular are exposed to an extremly high level of computer graphics on a daily basis. Video games, movies, car commercials... everywhere. Hell, if you can't be Monster's Inc, you have to at least be Shreck. Translating that to funnybooks on the comic industry's infamous and laughably low budgets, well, that it a tough row to hoe. When people in the CG field do comic characters, they look like this:

(these images taken from very talented artists over at CG Society

Batman 663 looks like this:

Ah, Pepe Moreno, we miss you. (yes, I own Digital Justice, because 17 years ago, that shit was cool.)

The Story
Here's where things go further astray, but not in the way you would think. Morrison is one of the better comics writers (okay, I think he's one of the best) and he handles the long form just as well. Tho it was quite alot of text to get through to reach the final point which is --SPOILER-- the Joker concocted an elaborate string of murders to draw in Harley Quin, and then attempts to murder her. Batman intercedes, Joker fails, but not before Harley shoots the Joker in return.

In the story's tail end, when I realized the goings on, I was very excited about the prospect of Joker actually killing Harley, in such an odd, random, experimental way, and in the scope of only one issue. I shiver at the thought of another long, overdrawn DC "event" that would market such a thing to death. But then it hit me-- if that was actually going to happen, I really wished it would have been drawn as a traditional comic. I wanted an event like that to have the weight of Killing Joke, G.I. Joe #21, the death of Gwen Stacy... something that just comes out of nowhere and knocks you flat. And there would always be "that panel" lodged in the collective brains of comics readership, something we just don't seem to get anymore.

Alas such is not the case, and we get a small plot twist that preserves the status quo. It is doubtful that Harley's shot to the Joker will be fatal. The very story describes the necessity of Batman and the Joker's yin and yang. Harley Quin, on the other hand, is a perfectly expendable character, you may or may not recall she was only written in to current DCU continuity based on her popularity in Batman: The Animated Series. So if she dies, no tremendous loss, but who would have seen that coming?? And that would have been a good comic.

So, as I mentioned in the post previous, Batman #663 has balls. In my opinion it does not succeed, but damned if they didn't try, and that is worth something. The real shame here is that for a high concept such as this, the resources available to a major publisher were there to make it work. Somewhere along the line this thing was not shown to people who could help and instead was compiled in a vacuum. An editor with some artistic savvy, or-- heaven forbid-- an actual art director could have steered this thing into something truly unique and astonishing. Sadly I find the general design philosophy and art direction of mainstream comics terribly lacking, but thanks for trying, guys. Really, thanks for trying.

Further Reading:
Living Between Wednesdays
Comics Oughta be Fun

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Comics Day

Sorry girls, today all my love goes to comics.

JLA Classified
Green Lantern Corps
Y the Last Man
Sensational Spider-Man

Grant Morrison returns to Batman. With John Van Fleet. Text in prose and art in rendered 3D. Are you kidding me?? Does someone at DC actually have a pair? Cause this shit is balls. Pure balls.

Spider-Man's current "Back in Black" promo is of some interest, tho I passed on the first offering because at first glance it seemed to have no rhyme or reason. This second part, with some funky and comparable art by Angel Medina, looks to shed some light on things.

Gen13, ah... well. I can't buy this book anymore. I notice it's solicited up to number 8, as has the first trade collection (why????), though in my opinion it should have been cancelled by 3, if not seen the light of day at all. I have a high level of disappointment with how WildStorm handled this relaunch. And all of the "WorldStorm" relaunch books, actually. No Wildcats to be seen, no Authority either. Wetworks, eh. And an abysmal Gen13 that betrays everything the book once was, and worse, could have been.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Drink and Draw!

Saturday night I made my way into Hollywood to Meltdown Comics for a gallery show/book launch for the cronies of the Drink and Draw Social Club.

They've just released a book-- a wonderfully put together high-class hardcover-- with page after page of totally awesome drawings created while drinking at bars. Founding members and representing the club at the celebration were Dan Panosian, Jeff Johnson, and Dave Johnson. Yeah, those guys. Each were pounding back beers while graciously signing and drawing in books.

The art on display was grande primo, a good hundred-plus pieces all over the walls in Meldown's back gallery area. There were also some pieces by Jim Mahfood (but I don't know if he was actually there). Girlie art, monkeys, skulls, space dudes, conans, and random wackiness presented in an ink-on-cardboard theme. Some even in color and alot with whitewash or wax pencil highlights. Cool stuff!!!!

I got me a book, got it signed, and even picked up one of Panosian's original pieces.

UPDATE: Some pics of the event at Panosian's Blog.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Comics Day

I do love New Comics Day. Sure, I could in advance check to see what comics have shipped, but I like going and browsing the shelves and seeing what's new on the spot.

Shazam: Monster Society
Action COmics Annual
New Universal
Strangers in Paradise

I had to get the Action Comics Annual specifically for the short by Art Adams. A mere four pages. Damn you Adams!

Shazam looks to be quite a treat, I can't wait to dive into it. All story and art by Jeff Smith, one of the very reasons "comics are good." I had mentioned to the store proprietors how books like these, why wouldn't DC just publish the whole thing at once? Why pay six bucks a pop for a quartet of prestige format issues, when surely the complete story would be presented so much nicer in a complete volume. It's not like it's a random selection of issues from an ongoing book. I would have waited. All were in agreement, in fact the notion sparked several other debates about the "state of the industry," a lively discussion that went on for some time.

It was good. It was good to talk about what comics are doing and where they are going. Not some dumb comic book store conversation cliche about Thor vs. Superman (though they do happen), but a surprisingly serious look on what the future may-- or may not-- hold for our beloved funnybooks. The publishers oft place the onus on retailers, while retailers have equal say on placing responsibility on the publisher. As a reader I find the ultimate responsibility lies with the publisher. They are producing product, they will need to define how/if the market will survive. A retailer can only reach a certain level of competence, sadly in comics this is a rare thing and I've been lucky over the years to align myself with he good ones. When a retailer is "good" there is only so much they can do, while still left to the whims of Diamond, Marvel, and DC.

I know it can be better. Alot of people know that and desperately want it to be. But can it happen? Clutch closely these 4-color booklets to your breast, for tales of their demise are more fact than fiction.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I dig this chick

MC Frontalot by way of the Cardigans... Ska/Lounge/Pop beats of jilted-lover tales strung with meme-like melodies. And that accent? S-e-x-y.

Lily Allen

Monday, February 05, 2007

When Good Comics Go Bad: Wolverine #50

If you are looking for signs that the mainstream comics industry is about numbers-- as opposed to art, style, integrity, or craft-- look no further than Marvel's Wolverine #50. This potential milestone issue with lovingly rendered art by Simone Bianchi was knocked down to just another market number by careless editorial handling. The worst part is it doesn't have to be that way. All Marvel has to do is care about the end result.

Strike 1: The Lettering
Bianchi's style of art is unique, in regards to most comics work there is an absence of the "inked" black line that ties the absolute black point together on each page. With digital lettering, the fine-detail of a vector font stands out like a sore thumb, and that's even after contending with the method of separating black to it's own plate for printing. Don't want to get too technical here but the process barely works on regular comics, it is a total cop-out to use the process on painted or toned art.

Lettering is handled by Comicraft, which while in general has a degree of quality (I myself purchase their fonts), the quantity to which they apply themselves to comics has created a genericism that hurts the form. Adding insult to injury here, there are horrid, horrid color choices for captions and sound effects, evident from the first page. This is surely due to the factory-line procedure of the letterers not having access to colored art-- therefore it is the editor's responsibility to correct these issues. Basically, a large lettering effect should never be given a color that isn't represented on the page. Add to this the fact that Comicraft is off-site from Marvel offices, and the ever impending deadlines, one could argue it's amazing the effects are colored at all. But what I am saying is lettering done poorly has a noticeable influence on the finished product. Because in this instance the artwork of Bianchi is setting a higher standard than average, the other elements of the book must be up to the task.

Strike 2: The Coloring
After the main tale, there is a backup story featuring the groovy-crisp art of Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines. Unfortunately since it is a "flashback" of sorts, a decision was made to put on the "color halftone" effect to, I don't know, date it. This is rarely done well, as most folk just apply a photoshop filter to the page and are done with it. Colors in this instance are by Dave McCaig, whom I know to be a great colorist, but something went wrong. The dpi setting for the halftone at first is set to low, and all the wonderful detail of McGuinness' art is lost in muddy dots. Later in the story the dpi changes and looks truer to form, but it's still a miss. The idea with the color halftone is to replicate older coloring, and yet applying this filter will give you anything but. There are instances where you'll see a correct interperetation, like Y100 (that's a solid yellow ink) for Wolverine's costume, but of course every other color is nowhere near the desired spectrum if you color the pages like a modern comic. There are other ways to get the effect but they are bit more involved than selecting a filter, but apparently the story wasn't worth the extra effort. Or perhaps in the hectic world of publishing, there wasn't the time. I don't know for a fact one way or the other, all I see is the lackluster end result.

Strike 3: Jeph Loeb
So here is the one thing that doesn't directly impact the production of the book, it's a tad more subjective. But I am officially placing Jeph Loeb in the company of Geoff Jones and Brad Meltzer as Destroyer of Comics. The story of the book pits Wolverine against Sabertooth, for that one final showdown, which we've been reading for about 20 years. And there is a showdown, but not before Loeb introduces some new, primal "memories" for ol' Canucklehead plus a flashback to his time with Silver Fox. Sabertooth goes on to kill Silver Fox, but not before Loeb lets us know he raped her first. Asshole.

The forgettable, Loebish over-narration of the main story isn't the worst offense, it's the aforementioned backup story that really lit my fuse. Here is a re-presentation of the classic Wolverine first appearance from Incredible Hulk #180-1... to which Loeb proceeds to piss on the original story by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe. Oh I'm sure that's not the direct intention, but that's sure as hell how it reads. Here Wolverine (through narration-- big surprise) spits out knocks on his origin, early motivation, and even costume. The worst is when he laments at the original story itself, as outside of Loeb's narration the panels contain snippets of the original dialog. Here we're given narration explaining that people were always putting words into Wolverine's mouth, as if he's now so much cooler in the hands of a literary luminary such as Loeb. The clincher caption: "There's always some jackass making me say something I normally wouldn't." I just can't take that line in context with the story. It's either some clever gripe by Loeb at comics editorial, or (as it sounded to me), a dig at all the other Wolverine writers, specifically the first one. Real nice, Loeb. Long Halloween was a hell of a long Halloween ago, it's nice to see you've matured as a writer.