Month: September 2009

100 Days, 100 Comics #16: ‘Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror’ #15

Posted by – September 23, 2009

Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #15When I get to the end of 2009 and think back to assemble a top ten list of the year’s best individual issues, the only question on my mind right now is how high upon that list Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 will be. Edited by Kramers Ergot maestro Sammy Harkham, this annual event comic is a short Simpsons story anthology featuring an all-star lineup of indie creators, like Jeffrey Brown, Jordan Crane, and Kevin Huizenga. And really, the Ben Jones’ contribution “Boo-tleg” was better than any new Simpson’s episode I remember seeing since before college.

Simpsons licensing has come a long way since its early “Don’t have cow, man” Wal-Mart T-shirt days. The Kid Robot projects like this Ralph Wiggum, mini-vinyls, and Bart Simpson Qees have been particularly impressive. At its best, the Simpsons has always been playfully self-aware of its nature as an industrial IP goldmine of a cartoon, though at its worst its become totally self-consuming by taking such humor a step to far inwards.

Some of the creators in this issue really took the reins and ran, like Matthew Thurber and Kevin Huizenga did in their “Call of Vegulu” story, which is a Cthulu spook focused on the Green industry. Granted that one puttered out in the last two or three panels, but the story qualities overall could have been segments in a better season’s “Treehouse of Horrors” episode. And I’ll be darned if its not the best colored comic I’ve picked up in months, particularly with “Boo-tleg,” a tale about Apu’s counterfeit leading-brand candy starts poisoning the citizens of Springfield and he starts replacing them with bootleg substitutes to avoid suspicion in their murders. Amid that story, Ted May’s writing in “Mo’ Bodies Moe Problems,” and Jeffrey Brown’s unforgettably Jeffrey Brown-infused “Bad Milhouse” story at the end, this is one of the few $5 comics I’ve ever picked up that felt like a deal.

Link Sausage: 9/21/2009

Posted by – September 21, 2009

• The biggest news in webcomics this week was the rebirth of John Allison’s Scary Go Round universe in his new strip Bad Machinery that went live this morning. As Gary Tyrrell astutely points out, the characters’ relationships to Allison’s previous series are a bit unclear, but such is the nature of its hook from day one.

• The big news in webcomics last week was this Hi & Lois strip that took a jab at independent webcomics creators. The premise reminds me of conversations I was having with mainstream comics professionals in 2006 and 2007 who laughed at the entire notion of webcomics as a legitimate business ventures. Yes, it’s hard (so is life), and yes many artists struggle at developing small business models online, but the hard facts are that there is a lot of opportunity out there for savvy creators who do know how to provide consistent content and sell quality merch on the side, among other less popular setups. To see established names remain publicly oblivious to this trend while they watch from a sinking print media ship frustrates me because it’s arrogant and also because I’ve seen the hard work and risks a lot of webcomickers have taken with their livelihoods, and to see that independent creative spirit spat upon angers me when I think that anyone would read this strip and think it means they can’t succeed on their own. [end rant]

• Topless Robot’s WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS meme celebrated its rise to infamy with an epic collection that included an image you may recognize. The Guardian even picked up on it, now, and is calling it “crowdsourced bullying,” which my friend Sean takes issue with.

• My former office-mate from my staff-writing days at Wizard, Ben Morse, re-posted a spread I hadn’t seen in some time. In a resurrected post topic from the old site, he shares the DC character Miss Martian’s secret origin as inspired by his fiancee Megan.

• I took a trip out to Los Angeles last week on assignment for MTV News to cover a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 event in Hollywood. There, I got a one-on-one interview with Infinity Ward’s community manager Robert Bowling, which you can read over on the Multiplayer Blog.

100 Days, 100 Comics #15: ‘The Confessions of Julius Antoine — Lea’

Posted by – September 20, 2009

The confessions of Julius Antoine -- LeaI picked this 1989 Fantagraphics translation up out of the bargain bins at Dark Tower over the summer, which can be some very fruitful bargain bins for any of your Chicago North Siders reading this. It was originally French, and pages are album formatted (extra wide). It promises big on the back with jacket copy that says “In the tradition of Hitchcock and Truffout.” Well, either of those two film greats it is not. But for the buck I paid for it it was a better read than most of the stuff you’ll find on the racks week to week.

The writer’s name is La Tendre, the artist’s name is Rossi, and the English translator’s name is Dick Hansom, who evidently edited some stuff at Dark Horse, but who I’ve otherwise never heard of suspect to be a nom du guerre. If anyone knows about that, you should let me know. Anyhow, the illustration is ornate and just what you’d expect from a bookstore-quality Euro import like this. And if I were to describe the story’s hook through to the twist at the end, it sounds like a serviceable enough story. This designer struggles with his attraction to younger girls, and when he is thrust into a climactic moment of Prufrockian decision everything spins out of control, and you the reader are left to judge whether or not he committed a heinous crime.

The jacket copy also calls this a morality play, which I guess fits because it’s about whether or not he acts out on his impulses or not, but fundamentally it’s about whether he kills this girl or not. The alcohol binge as a plot device comes off a little contrived, and I think that’s what hollowed this story out for me overall. But the high concept of Hitcockian plot-twisting and Nabokovian tension just shot way too high and failed to deliver for me in the end with anything that really took me around a corner and caused me to question my own moral assumptions. Nevertheless, it was fun to watch them aim that high.

100 Days, 100 Comics #14: ‘B.P.R.D.: 1947’ #2

Posted by – September 20, 2009

B.P.R.D. 1947 #2I wrote back in July about how much I enjoyed the first issue of the latest B.P.R.D. mini. I initially thought this second issue was going to be a bit weaker, but then the glorious baroque witch hurricane blew in straight out of the horror reduxed Mary Poppins trailer, and the thing got sailing with me as a reading experience. Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá kill it as you’d expect them to art-wise in the best way. It did lose a little steam at the end, though, mainly due to the ending not being nearly as menacing or meaningful as issue #1 was.

Issue #2 did what it needed to, but beyond the confrontational moment with Baron Konig (which was magnificent), it feel like mostly a bridge chapter without a lot stand-out moments. Nevertheless, that’s probably par for the course since it’s a miniseries, but also reason I probably could have held off on B.P.R.D. : 1947 until it comes collected to trade.

100 Days, 100 Comics #13: ‘Blackest Night: Batman’ #2

Posted by – September 20, 2009

Blackest Night: Batman #2“Merry Christmas! And here I thought guns were on the ‘things we don’t use’ list.”

That line from the early splash page in this issue really sums up my amusement with it. “Blackest Night” at it’s most basic level is a green light for ultra-violent fights that don’t actually kill people because the enemies are already dead. Films have known this secret of zombie use for years, and Marvel figured it out with Marvel Zombies, but DC has now caught on as well.

I still can’t find Blackest Night: Batman #1 at any of my local shops. Couldn’t find it the week I was out in New York either. But gosh darn it if this wasn’t everything I’d hope it would be. You’ve got Tim Drake (Do I call him Batman? It still feels uncomfortable) roasting un-dead Black Lanterns with flamethrowers, Red Robin plowing through un-dead Black Lanterns with his air vehicle, and un-dead Flying Grayson Black Lanterns. My favorite Marvel Zombies issues can sort of eat their hearts out at this point, because “Blackest Night” has given me these moments. I was also delighted to see Frank Quitely’s Robin from Batman and Robin so heavily influencing Ardian Syaf’s Robin here.

Right now, as long as someone crazy comes back from the dead, some living character gets killed or left on a cliffhanger at the end of the issue, and several great, gory, status-quo zombie fights with Black Lanterns take place by the end of the story, it’s pretty difficult for these spin-off books to fail outright — and this was an exceptionally strong tale all around. Suddenly infinitely goofy people with no business in a modern story like the Trigger Twins carry some weight again.

100 Days, 100 Comics #12: ‘Citizen Rex’ #1

Posted by – September 20, 2009

Citizen Rex #1Hernandez Bros. stories are always enticing when I find a new one getting underway at the shop, and this new sci-fi mini Citizen Rex by Mario and Gilbert includes a lot of the organs and parts that come standard — mesmerizing line work, pungently inspired genre tones and moments that you can feel yourself enjoying as a reader as much as you feel they must have had putting them on paper.

This one comes with a mise–en–scène descended from one part Lars von Trier, one part Phillip K. Dick, and a pinch of the old George Reeves Superman episodes. The textures and character designs are a real visual treat as always, and there’s a good beating heart of a crime noir mystery beneath it all in the vein of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or I, Robot. What’s really impressive is how they still manage to keep that dramatic heft while endowing their characters with a light, Hanna-Barberian physicality.

I interviewed Gilbert and Jaime for a Wizard retrospective on their work (which is unfortunately not longer available on, so I may have to rectify that on here soon) a few years ago — and Gary Groth too, actually. It was one of the more fascinating explorations into comic history that I got to do while I was there, and the full version of it only ran online. I also ran into Gilbert at the subsequent SPX, where he did me up an awesome sauce Matter Eater Lad sketch (I should post that on hear, too). Anyway, the point I was going to drag this personal history into was that I adore how these guys are able to dive into their incredibly unique storytelling abilities without taking their content too seriously, by which I mean that an occasional moments of emotion can feel as rhetorical and outlandish as a moment in Archie, but the bones of the story and the plot’s momentum almost always seem to stay intact despite the levity.

It was a rich beginning, and I’m looking forward to more, even if this month’s budget hinders ample issue #2’s from appearing in my stacks.

100 Days, 100 Comics #11: ‘Red Tornado’ #1

Posted by – September 20, 2009

Red Tornado #1Telling around 2/3 of a comic in action and narrative boxes can be screwed up pretty easily, and the second I cracked this one open, an initial wince of trepidation walked me into the story. Thankfully, writer Kevin VanHook uses some of the best word economy I’ve seen, and this was actually a very balanced read to lead into this new six-issue mini. Red Tornado ranks among my favorite character designs, and he’s a great concept that VanHook seems to get.

The artwork by Jose Luisí and J.P. Mayer does him justice, too, in most cases, though it definitely excelled best in the spreads and splash pages. Emotionally, a lot of the characters came off a bit flat, which actually floated the tone of the book a bit for me given the android nature of the title character.

Topically, it took me back to how much I really loved 52 the mad scientist villains of the DCU, particularly T.O. Morrow. The story itself seems to be drifting into one of those classic goto Pinocchio/Frankenstein concepts a la Dr. Light/Megaman or Hank Pym/Ultron. It’s the equivalent of of a base hit for me as far as issue #1’s go, so I’ll probably give #2 a go.

Whose responsible this

Posted by – September 13, 2009

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THISThrowing my hat into this meme-fest from Topless Robot that was brought to my attention by the infamous Sean T. Collins.

Warmoth on Webcomics: John Allison

Posted by – September 10, 2009

[Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a staggered out series of some of my favorite webcomics creator interviews that previously ran on and were a part of the site’s archives that are no longer hosted there. John Allison’s Scary Go Round just posted its final installment and in going back through the archives I decided to drag this out for the blog. This interview was originally posted on December 22, 2006.]

Scary Go Round

(from Scary Go Round by John Allison)

John Allison’s webcomic Scary Go Round stitches a world of frightfully bizarre and at times even Lovecraftian happenings together with a brilliantly quirky cast indicative of his understatedly British sense of humor. A former web designer, Allison has made the lifestyle switch to working on his comic full time and designing snazzy T-shirts, which he sells on the side. I reached around the globe to gently pick Allison’s brain about the webcomics scene from where he stands, how he brought up Scary Go Round and when he’s coming back to the U.S.

Before you had started your first webcomic, Bobbins, what was your comics background like, what had you done, and why did you decide to give the Internet a go for publishing it?

I had no comics background at all! I had drawn comics like every comic-reading youth does—sporadically, and badly! When I was 17 or 18 I had an idea about drawing comics for common people, because I was embarrassed to go into comic shops with my friends. This was the era of “bad girl” comics and racks of covers with giant, anatomically bizarre cleavage. Comic books, [before] the manga explosion and mainstreaming of titles like Ghost World and the crossover of people like James Kochalka, seemed to be aimed at a tiny demographic that didn’t include me anymore. So I decided to make a comic strip (which I figured was “legit”) and submit it to syndicates. I colored my black-and-white samples in and put them on the Internet just to show I knew how to color things in, and that’s how I started publishing comics on the web in 1998.

What was your experience like looking for print syndication?

I submitted to King Features and Universal Features, once. The first 25 strip cartoons I had ever drawn! The hubris of this now staggers me but I was young and indestructible. I received nice, encouraging letters back from both—King Features were particularly generous with their comments considering what I had sent them. By the time they replied, I had got a job as a magazine designer but decided to carry on making five comics a week, reasoning that if I hadn’t “made it” in five years, I would give up. I actually drew my first proper month’s wages from my comic four years and 11 months later.


100 Days, 100 Comics #10: ‘Sweet Tooth’ #1

Posted by – September 10, 2009

Sweet Tooth #1It was a few shades of Faulkner with some Cormac McCarthian isolation and this eerily subdued Tromaville meets Narnia vibe, but I think main reason Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth just fit its hooks into me from issue one really came down to its raging amount of mystery and possibility that it uses to hollow out its world, home straight in on its main character — a deer-boy produced by some mysterious accident that affected births for all humans — and lets the horror around him just lurk in the opaque shadows and resonate with the reader’s imagination.

Right after I set it down I noticed that my pal Sean T. Collins reviewed Sweet Tooth as well this week, and I agree with him that there is a little bit of a cliché to be kneaded out with the boy’s “bumpkin naivete and the hunters’ gruff bad-guy-ness are a little too high-pitched to maintain that delicate quietness Lemire’s striving for.” Sean’s got a way with words.

Lemire’s got the skills though. There’s a hint of Gummo in his family culture that could probably be cultivated more, that would pull him away from the flimsier, less believable Guthrie family feeling that I think Sean called “Claremontian” when it came to his dialect. It is one of the weaker points in the book, but overall this was a refreshing read.

For a buck, you really couldn’t have found a more unique launch on the racks this week, and I’m always excited to see Vertigo stabbing outward into new territory instead of trying new books that feel like their old books. The splotchy and econonomically regulated amounts of blood and chocolate splashed around the wood and mud really synthesized an effective look for the story, too.