Archives for posts with tag: image comics

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2014 was an interesting year for comic book covers. Some Vertigo titles experimented with putting the first panels of the story on the cover. Independent publishers like Image Comics, Top Shelf, and Oni Press drew inspiration from wells outside of traditional comics to unleash some phenomenal design and the Big Two continued to offer loads of variants while still ruining covers by filling them with ads for movies and TV shows. Convention floors, the blogosphere, and comic book shops had readers and creators discussing the merits of covers while speculators looked for hidden Easter Eggs and social activists looked for opportunities to progress a higher discourse. Two covers in particular stirred more conversation in 2014 than all others. The re-reboot of Teen Titans and a reboot of Spider-Woman faced resistance specifically from critics for whom the representation of women is elemental to their comics critique. Here I will discuss both those covers and the cover of the second volume of the Justice Society of America omnibus. Before I begin, let me just admit that my white male privilege allows me to write this article without fear of rape or death threats. It’s disgusting that we live on an internet where a noticeable portion of its populace respond to ideas they find threatening with threats of physical violence. The fact that such behavior finds a home in discussions about comic books is especially sad- what would Superman say if he saw you writing rape threats to a stranger because of her opinion on a comic book cover?

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For the first issue of their latest Spider-Woman reboot, Marvel recruited the talents of Milo Manara, an Italian comics creator known for his hyper-sexual style. Full disclosure: I’m not a Marvel reader and don’t have any emotional ties to Spider-Woman as a character. I am however a fan of erotic art and have an appreciation for low brow art. I also appreciate the long standing tradition of sequential art itself as a marginalized art form. When I heard an esteemed erotic artist would provide art for a mainstream variant comic book company, I thought it sounded like a cool idea. I love diversity among artists and believe comics generally benefit from outside influence. For example, I think the Scribbenauts variants and most of the Robot Chicken variants that DC’s been using look pretty dumb, but I appreciate that such distinct styles are been experimented with and I like to see a wild mix on the comic book shelves. Still, much of the controversy had little to do with those few defenses I just offered, but rather focused on the use of such an artist to promote a book that had been admittedly targeted towards women and on book about a character that many female readers had identified as an example of progressive representation. A lot of male readers and the creators responsible for creating it took the criticism very personally.

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Some readers found humor in the controversy.

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Some readers got scientific.

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News operations outside of the world of comics like TIME magazine even picked up the story, reporting on the cover controversy and supplying Marvel with a bit of free publicity.

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The other cover that drew a great deal attention is the first issue of the re-rebooted Teen Titans. Unlike Spider-Woman, the Teen Titans are characters that I do follow and for whom I have developed some sentimental attachment. The controversy over this cover began when former Bat-title editor Janelle Asselin wrote an article about its cover where she described it as “not just a terrible comics cover, it’s a prime example of how even the most corporate comic book companies can make basic mistakes regarding the potential audience for a book.” I have a little trouble with her describing it as a “prime example” as it seems as if she picked it arbitrarily. Her critique of the cover is largely valid; I just think it can be applied to scores of other covers that supply greater evidence to support her criticism. You can read her original article and you won’t find anything too confrontational. You might feel a little bad for Kenneth Rocafort being singled out for a trend and tradition in comics that is much larger than his own contribution to the medium, but Asselin articulates pretty clearly in her article that her intention is not to attack the artist.

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Asselin’s complaints are in some ways more justified than those made against Spider-Woman and in some ways less. For example, Spider-Woman is a variant cover and this Teen Titans cover is the official cover. On the other hand, the Spider-Woman cover is explicitly sexual while the Teen Titans cover more subtly directs attention towards Wonder Girl’s breasts. Both Asselin’s critique of this cover and the general complaints about the Spider-Woman cover made specific points about how the two books are targeted somewhat to female readers. In that instance, the real criticism is “hey comic book companies, you’re marketing your books poorly!” not “hey comic companies, you’re perpetuating a hate crime!” Disgustingly some of the public responded the criticisms as if they had been the latter “hate crime” accusation by responding themselves with very hateful speech and even threats of physical violence. Coupled with the species-wide embarrassment that was Gamergate, geek males looked really bad in 2014. Not simply because they acted like monsters towards others, but they demonstrated such resistance to advancing the mediums they purport to love. Of course, this demented vocal element of the comics reading community represents only a small portion of that community. Neither the critique against Spider-Woman nor the one against Teen Titans were revolutionary nor were they particularly sophisticated, but they absolutely belong in our discussion of comics which makes the toxic reactions so absurd. I find Asselin’s critique to be somewhat arbitrary and forced. I find the controversy over Manara’s Spider-Woman a little dumb because 1) it’s a variant cover, not the official cover 2) it’s painted by an erotic artist with the intention of being hyper-sexual, so being upset with it parallels hating ice cream sandwiches for being delicious. Still, both critiques have value. Now I would like to present a critique of the cover used for the second volume of the JSA omnibus that requires less nuance to explain.

First, let’s look at the cover:

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For the cover of the omnibus, DC Comics decided to use the wrap around cover from JSA #50, an iconic cover featuring most of the primary players in the series. In terms of aesthetics, I think DC could have used better images for both volumes, but this isn’t a discussion of aesthetics. As you can see, the characters that appear on the front cover are Green Lantern, Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Captain Marvel, the Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sands, and Hawkman. These are all important characters though some are more prominent than others. Two things that the characters all have in common are their race and gender.

Second, let’s look at the full image from JSA #50‘s wrap around cover to see what other members of the Justice Society appear on the back:

all those heroes with so few pockets

Here we see the rest of the team: Atom Smasher (white male), Power Girl (white female), Hawkgirl (white female), Black Adam (middle eastern male), Mr. Terrific (black male), Jakeem Thunder (black male), Hour Man (white male), and Stargirl (white female). As you can see, all of the women and minorities have been placed on the back cover. Because this image is originally from the fiftieth issue, what we are seeing here is DC Comics deciding to make the same offense twice. None of these offenses- Manara’s Spider-Butt, Rocafort’s Wonder-Boobs, or the JSA’s occasional instance of segregation- are end-of-the-world problems, but they ought be discussed while creators and readers alike consider the vulnerability of the medium and the value of constructive criticism in order to produce higher quality art and tell more compelling stories. While conventional wisdom tells us not to a judge a book by its cover, we should recognize the role the cover plays in determining the reception, reputation, and overall destiny of the book.

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While the first installment of the gift guide served as a starting point for fans of The Flash, Man of Steel, GothamSmallville, and the Batman:Arkhamverse/Injustice crowd and the second installment aimed to help readers looking for strong female characters and fans of the creepy comic book shows Constantine and The Walking Dead, the third installment deals (mostly) solely with (mostly) independent (mostly) non-superhero comics.

ALL-AGES ALTERNATIVE HISTORY: Buying something for a new reader? I’m a huge fans of using comics to both teach language and provoke the reader’s historical imagination. One book that I’ll giving this year is Van Jensen and Jose Pimienta’s The Leg: The Remarkable Reappearance of Santa Anna’s Disembodied Limb, which tells the story of the remarkable reappearance of Santa Anna’s disembodied limb. The book wanders around 20th century Mexican history with a few surprise guest appearances. The language and subject matter is age appropriate without being boring and an added bonus: strong female lead. Other alternative history tales for new readers can be found in the Crogan Adventures series by Chris Schweizer, Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang, and Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis Wiebe. That last one borrows pretty heavily from Peter Pan, so it makes a good gift for a Peter Pan enthusiast as well.

MORE LITERAL HISTORY, LESS ALL-AGES CONTENT: Two books that really knocked my socks off that I came across this year are Jim Ottaviani’s Feynman and Li Kunwu’s A Chinese Life. They tells two pretty different stories, but both offer incredibly human faces for incredible phenomena.

LITERAL & ALL-AGES? March Book One– stick a copy in the stocking of every young person, which bring me to…

COMICS FOR ANGELA CHASE AND JORDAN CATALANO: If you’re shopping for angst-ridden teenagers, may I suggest the Morning Glories series, Deadly Class Vol. 1: Reagan Youth, and One Model Nation?

COMICS FOR PERVERTS: Is there a better way to put a smile on a pervert’s face than by giving them a comic book gift? Probably, but comic books are good too. There are some classic filthy books like Grant Morrison’s The Filth, Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, and just about the entirety of early underground comics, but there are some really special titles you may not have heard of that will surely give the pervert on your list something to smile about while also challenging their long-held beliefs concerning the nature of the universe. These books include Sex Criminals, which tells the story of people who can stop time with their orgasms; Girls, an invasion parable from the Luna Brothers; and The Pro, a hooker with a heart of gold and superpowers. Also I’d recommend checking out the adult section of your neighborhood comic book shop if they have one- it’s fun to thumb through a few dirty pictures books, catch a glimpse of the zeitgeist and probably some pubic hair. Also the eye-candy offered by Cassie Hack of Hack/Slash might please the pervert on your list, depending on their tastes.

WORTHY CROWD PLEASER: Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staple’s Saga continues to be the best book on the shelves. With the recent release of an omnibus collecting the first 18 issues, you’re sure to make just about any literate person happy with such a collection. If you know they already read (and love) Saga, I also encourage you to look at some of their earlier work. Staples adds her artistry to Mystery Society, a book that while well-written does leave the reader longing for Vaughn’s enigmatic writing. Vaughn’s previous stuff includes Y: The Last Man, a very long story about the last man on earth and his monkey; Pride of Baghdad, a tale of lions that escaped the Baghdad zoo; Ex Machina, a post 9/11 story about a mayor than communicates with machines; and Runaways, which is not indie, but Marvel and would make a good gift for the angst-ridden teenagaers mentioned earlier in the list.

 

 

Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Welcome to second installment of the World’s Second Greatest Detetective’s 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide! In the first installment, I offered suggestions to those shopping for fans of the television programs The Flash, Gotham, and Smallville, the video games in the Batman: Arkham-verse and Injustice, and the film Man of Steel as well as some suggestions for a person’s individual fancies regarding Superman. While I enjoyed writing that list and believe it could come in handy for a handful of holiday shoppers, I felt quite embarrassed when I got towards the end (blogger’s exhaustion as it were) when I realized I had compiled a list almost exclusively contained heterosexual white males. This is 2014 and while heterosexual white dudes still dominate comics in both content and the industry, there are plenty of interesting characters and talented creators who have overcome the default settings that always inhibited Western media. I’ve included a mere fraction on this list.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO LIKES BATMAN AND HAS AN ELEGANT TASTE IN DESIGN: Batwoman has consistently been one of the most beautiful books in the past decade. Like Batwoman’s costume, the book’s art has experimented heavily with black, gray, and red to create a superhero book that looks more like a haunted luxury hotel than a comic book. You have two options really: before the New 52 or in the New 52.

BEFORE NEW 52: Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s run on Detective Comics has been collected in Batwoman: Elegy. This book stands well by itself and costs less than $20, but if you really want to impress…

NEW 52: I’d recommend the first 4 volumes of Batwoman. J.H. Williams III sticks around and is joined by W. Haden Blackman. Their departure from the series was a small controversy and the story told in these volumes came to an underwhelming conclusion in the first issue contained in the fifth volume, but don’t let that discourage you.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO ALSO LIKES BATMAN BUT PREFERS CRIME NOIR: I suggest you take a look at Batwoman and if you think the person on your list would like it more if there were less skulls, you need not worry. Renee Montoya, one of Batwoman‘s ‘Eskimo sisters’ and a supporting character on television’s Gotham, is another prominent bad-ass lesbian in the DC universe. Her appearances in the New 52 have largely been limited to the background of the various Bat-titles, but prior to the New 52, Renee Montoya was kind of a star. I recommend Batman: War Games, any of the Gotham Central collections, and The Question: Five Books of Blood. Having made those recommendations, I should admit that I believe 52 is the best Renee Montoya story ever told, but I do not recommend you purchase 52 for a novice DC Comics reader. Much like I wouldn’t suggest Crisis on Infinite Earths for a fan of The Flash television program, 52 requires a good bit of background knowledge to fully appreciate.

COMICS FOR COWGIRLS: Without thinking too deeply on it, I’m going to declare Pretty Deadly as the best current title featuring a female main character, strong female cast, and predominantly female creative team. While I haven’t read everything out there, I feel pretty confident in my assertion because few artists provide layouts that can compare to Emma Rios’s pages and her style works so well with the story Kelly Sue Deconnick has written.

There’s only one collection of Pretty Deadly available, so if you really want spoil the cowgirl in your life, I recommend your pick up all the volumes of The Sixth Gun, a slightly brighter tale than Pretty Deadly with a significantly less creepy art style. The Sixth Gun is also appropriate for a wider age range than Pretty Deadly.

COMICS FOR READERS WHO WANT HISPANIC CHARACTERS AND ARE CAPABLE OF SHRUGGING OFF PATRONIZING STEREOTYPES: In the New 52, there are two characters that I consider guilty pleasures- actually that’s true, a lot of them that are guilty pleasures that require a suspension of  some of my values in the hope of developing a sophisticated world-view beyond good and evil- whether my affection for scantily clad superheroines, ultra-violence, or a bit of racism, something about reading comics makes me lower my ethical guard and it is in this state that I fell in love with the lovable gay Mexican undocumented immigrant Bunker of Teen Titans and to a lesser extent the Detroit-born Latin cheeseball Vibe, appearing in various titles including a his own short-lived title series. I’d recommend the collection of the Vibe series, titled Justice League of America’s Vibe: Breach, to people who like the fashion in Joel Silberg’s cinematic masterpiece Breakin’. There’s plenty in Vibe that worthy of being subjected to the harshest of structuralist, post-colonialist, deconstructionist, etc. critiques- have a friend writing a thesis on representation of Hispanic Americans? This is the book!

However, I find Bunker much more enjoyable than Vibe. Heavily defined by his sexuality, ethnicity, and geographical origins, Bunker comes across as a bright-eyed bundle of sunshine optimism. Everything in the US is awesome! Everything about being a superhero is awesome! Teen Titan Friendship is awesome! I’ve written before about the Othering of the Bunker character and in that post, I focused primarily on Bunker’s portrayal as an immigrant more than as a Mexican gay man and I still believe it is the most heavily contributing factor to his characterization.

COMICS FOR FANS ON THE CONSTANTINE TELEVISION SHOW: If the person on your list likes Constantine, I suggest you go the source material and start at the beginning of the Hellblazer titles. Most of the volumes are priced at $19.99 and can be found cheaper in the rainforest. Each collected volume is about 300 pages, so a single volume is a pretty hefty gift. If the person on your list likes Constantine but wishes John Constantine ran into Superman and Swamp Thing on a regular basis, I’d push you towards the New 52 Dark titles like Justice League Dark (soon to be a major motion picture…maybe), Constantine, The Trinity War, or perhaps the Forever Evil: Blight collection (but that only really works if you also pick up Justice League Vol. 5, Justice League of America Vol. 2, and the Forever Evil main collection…well, maybe not…)

COMICS FOR FANS OF THE WALKING DEAD SHOW WHO EITHER ALREADY READ THE WALKING DEAD OR FIGURE THEY’VE SEEN THE SHOW AND DON’T REALLY WANT TO GET WRAPPED UP IN THE COMIC: There are so many zombie comics out there now and many of them are pretty good. Want a funny zombie book? Try Last Resort. Want a zombie story set in wartime Afghanistan? Try Graveyard of Empires. Prefer the Vietnam War? Try ’68. Is the zombie enthusiast on your list like to be one step ahead of  the crowd (a good move during the zombie apocalypse)? I’d recommend the collection of the digital comic iZombie or the animal zombie tale The Other Dead as both will coming to the small screen some time soon. Still, my top recommendation for zombie books is Revival. It’s a small town tale that does it’s best to reconcile the humanity of their reanimated loved ones with the terrifying implications of the dead coming back to life.

Blogger’s exhaustion has hit again. I should return to present the 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide pt. 3. If you have a comic fan that you’re having trouble shopping for, feel free to send me a description of their interests to waynexiaolong@gmail.com or leave some info in the comments below. Feel free to do so after the holiday season has passed- I’m happy to consult on gifts for any occasion. If one of your celebrity friends had their nude photos leaked by hackers, you might not want to give them a copy of The Killing Joke.

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For the second year, the World’s Second Greatest Detective presents an assessment of the comics I’ve read, awarding accolades to books that impressed me. Like last year’s list, this one comes at the beginning of September because my comics year begins and ends with Dragon Con in Atlanta. A lot of titles that I mentioned last year continue to turn out great work: Saga, Revival, Batman, Manhattan Projects– but I’d rather steer attention to titles that didn’t make last year’s list either because of my ignorance, their slow creep to trade, or the fact they didn’t exist last year. There will also be some categories this year. For example:

Best Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

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Katana in “Beware the Batman”

I should remind you that I don’t read any Marvel books, though the announcement that Charles Soule is leaving all his DC titles and the particular temptation of his Death of Wolverine has me eying the other side of the fence a bit. My decision to abstain from Marvel Comics is sort of arbitrary, but not totally without reason- limits on time and resource do not permit me the luxury of reading every comic book, so I picked one of the big two companies and don’t read the other at all. Though I do read a lot of independent comics and that’s really where my heart belongs. I picked DC over Marvel because of many reasons, but the simplest is Batman.

Not all of the accolades will categorized. Nor may all those mentioned really be ‘comics of 2014’ in the truest sense. For example, thanks to a generous donation by Oni Press to the WonderRoot Jackie Ormes Comic Book Library. I had the privilege to read two series that knocked my socks off:

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Courtney Crumrin is the fun story about a misanthropic little girl who lives a society worth hating, but luckily finds an uneasy friendship with her witch uncle and a few easier friendships with netherbeasts. It’s a clever book and the content is acceptable for most age levels.

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The Sixth Gun is an epic story set in a very Wild West, shaped by all sorts of occult and heebie jeebie ghost stuff. Cullen Bunn and the other creators of The Sixth Gun have moved onto other things and the news that DC would cancel All Star Western saddened me a little. East of West is still kicking around, but 2014 has  introduced a Western title that I may enjoy more than all three of those titles.

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Pretty Deadly contains some amazing art. Much like the best work of J.H. Williams III or Francis Manpaul, Emma Rios’s artwork stands out for her creative use of the medium. Panels and pages work together to create a fantastic pace. As Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing takes the story in and out of stories and timelines, the art and especially the coloring distinguish the different parts of the whole quite well. Deconnick opened the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at this year’s Dragon Con with a rousing talk touching on a variety of subjects such as how we learn publicly and with record in a fast-paced technological society and how that empowers a ‘gotcha culture’ which in turn hinders our ability to learn; the use of the white male as the default character; the futility of overly emotional and aggressive responses to opposing ideas; and comic books. Her husband writes a pretty good comic too.

doing it and doing it and doing it well

Sex Criminals is a twist on Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Out of this World, 9 Songs, the Matrix, A Dirty Shame…and yeah, it isn’t. It’s an incredibly original story about a girl who stops time when she orgasms and a boy who also stops time when he orgasms. They discover this shared ability during the act of coitus and put it to good use, robbing banks to raise money for a library under attack by a viciously greedy bank that the boy happens to work for and where he poops in his boss’s office plant once a day.

Another catergory?

Worst Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

For the video game-inspired animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, a bit of a revolution for the animated superhero movie with its Guy Ritchie-like pace, excessive profanity, explicit sexuality, and a level of violence exceeding even last year’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC made a Suicide Squad movie under the guise of a Batman movie. One thing I like about it is how they retained the original physical attributes of Amanda Waller instead going for the Angela Bassett model. One thing I didn’t like is how they turned King Shark from this:

Joker lipstick on a shark

King Shark in the comics to:

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King Shark in Batman: Assault on Arkham

He looks a cross between Bane and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. Their motivation for desharking the shark is unclear to me. I also don’t understand why David Goyer wants to demartian the Martian Manhunter.

Best Comic Book Companion to a video game

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Injustice: Gods Among Us begins before the video game’s storyline. In the simplest terms, Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane who is pregnant with Superman’s baby. Superman gets so mad that he kills the Joker, beginning the fascist reign of Superman and a doting Wonder Woman. Because it is an Elsworlds story with so many DC characters involved, the opportunities for bringing the essences and flaws of these characters abound. Tom Taylor wastes none of them. The Bat family is especially well-done is the book- particularly Alfred and Catwoman.

Best Art in a Superhero Comic Book

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Jae Lee did some of the best work of his career during his time on Grag Pak’s Batman/Superman. Of all the superstar artists from the 1990s that have continued in comics, I think the development of Jae Lee’s work has been the most interesting to watch. If you haven’t seen his work on Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I highly recommend that one too. Batman/Superman is a dreamy book, but it is not without a strong sense of character and expression. This collaboration between Pak and Lee stands out as a triumph in comic storytelling.

Second Attempt That Makes The Most Sense in the New 52

Giving Deathstroke another chance at having his own title. Also looking forward to Gail Simone returning to her Secret Six roots later this year.

Second Attempt That Makes The Least Sense in the New 52

Why are the Teen Titans starting over again with issue 1?

Best Volume 3 collection of the New 52

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Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics fulfilled its own prophecies in Vol. 3: At The End Of  Days. Morrison’s writes for the long haul and sometimes it works really well (Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, the epic story of Damian Wayne, Doom Patrol, Filth). His eighteen issues on Action Comics is separated into three acts, best illustrated by their separate trade collections. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel comes off as a pretty typical superhero comic- it’s action-packed and reintroduces many classic characters from Superman’s mythology such as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo (Metal-Zero), and Brainiac. There are few weirdo moments, typical of Morrison’s work, but don’t overpower the straight-forward superhero elements. Vol. 2: Bulletproof is pretty weird, more distinctly Morrison. The story is all over the place, referencing itself, making the most out of the queer moments from Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, as well as introducing a Barack Obama doppelganger named Calvin Ellis- another dimension’s Superman. Finally, in Vol. 3: At the End of Days, all the kookiness starts to make sense and the details of Clark’s arrival in Metropolis in Vol. 1 become enriched by a Myxlplyxian plot that satisfies the patient reader.

Best Vol. 4 Collection(s) of the New 52

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While The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse, Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War, and Batwoman Vol. 4: The Blood is Thick all continued runs by outstanding creative teams, it is books like the Green Lantern family of books, Justice League Dark, and Green Arrow that have seen new creators come in and take the books in different directions to which I’d like to draw your attention. Much praise has been tossed to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, collected in Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. The art distinguishes itself from the unofficial DC house-style and the writing invigorates Oliver Queen as a character. I do think that in praising Lemire and Sorrentino’s work, a lot of undeserved criticism has been thrown Ann Nocenti’s way. Her depiction of Oliver Queen as an Ugly American in the People’s Republic of China is one of my favorite instances of seeing China portrayed in a superhero comic. Jim DeMatteis has seemingly inherited the Dark family of DC titles, emerging from his run on The Phantom Stranger. In Justice League Dark Vol. 4: Rebirth of Evil, he takes over for Lemire- moving the story from Trinity War to Forever Evil territory. The little demon Constantine‘s are great, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more Frankenstein, my favorite member of the Justice League Dark. With the announcement of Charles Soule signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, I expect DeMatteis may take over Swamp Thing, which had a good, but short Vol. 4: Seeder. Matteis does interesting things with the character in Justice League Dark, but if I was going to pick the new writer of Swamp Thing, I’d go for either Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, or Angelo Tirrotto. To write an Animal Man title despite his joining Justice League United, I’d recruit Corinna Sara Bechko or Joshua Ortega with the instructions to keep Animal Man dark. Finally, the new slew of Green Lantern creators gave the ring-slingers an exciting year. Ranked best to least best: Red Lanterns, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians. Outside of those Vol. 4s, I was disappointed with the Larfleeze title, but look forward to Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro.

Best Non-Picture Book Author to Write a Picture Book

the boys are dead and girl just wanna have fun

Toby Litt on Dead Boy Detectives

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the work of Toby Litt, an author whose work was not available in the United States, and absolutely fell in love with it. Deadkidsongs, in particular, left me creeped out and inspired. When I heard he would be rebooting the Vertigo series Dead Boy Detectives I waiting in hefty anticipation for the trade to be released. While I was not disappointed, I must admit that Litt has not taken to the medium as quickly as the likes of Brad Meltzer who blew the comics world away with Identity Crisis. I do however see great potential in the future comics work of Litt as he adapts to the medium. Reading the trade, you can see him become more comfortable and, in turn, more capable.

Best Superhero Live-Action Movie

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its predecessors, stands well above the rest of the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier). Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the classic mutants put on a great show and new arrivals like Quicksilver brought energy to the film. This and X-Men: First Class are my favorite of the X-Men movies. They somehow managed to make Fan Bing Bing look terrible, which is my only real complaint about the film.

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In conclusion, I’m looking forward to more great comics this year though I have some concerns about a few creative teams at DC (Wonder Woman) and will miss some of my favorite creators and titles as they disappear from the shelves, hopefully replaced by new books of splendor, wonder, and ideas.

 

 

So Dragon Con is finally over and I’m too tired to type too much. I had a ton of fun volunteering at the Art Show- a great gang of volunteers- much better experience than when I volunteered with Security last year. I think my panel went well- I was amazed how many people showed up despite the parade going on outside. Anyway, I promised some folks I post some pictures of costumes I saw over the weekend. My friend printed me a bunch of stickers of my drawings (mostly images that I’ve posted here) and he asked I take a picture of the people to whom I gave stickers. Unfortunately because I spent over 20 hours in the Art Show where photography is prohibited, most of the people you got stickers are not posted here and a few of these pictures are from Friday and the stickers didn’t arrive until Saturday. SO… enjoy these pictures.

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Green Arrow (New 52)

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Marko (from Saga, the best comic on the shelves) & Alan (Zach Galifianakis’s character from The Hangover). This was my favorite cosplay I saw all weekend.

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Psylocke

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Black Canary

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Macho Man Randy Savage (there was a lot of wrestling cosplay this year)

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The Penguin

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Greendale Human Being (Go Greendale. Lower your standards. Six seasons and a movie.)

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I don’t know, but I dig it. The tail is especially creepy.

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Raven

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Princess Daisy

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Harley Quinn After Hours

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Huntress

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Sinestro

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Static Shock

To my pictures from last year, click here but I should warn you that not all of the images are suitable for all audiences- you could say that are not safe for work, if that’s your lingo.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

(warning: some pictures might not be suitable for all audiences)

Dragon Con this year went pretty well. I enjoyed nearly every panel which I attended, which was considerably less this year as I volunteered for the first time. As usual, the panels from the academic conference were the most interesting. I must admit I had the most fun at my panel, “Comics Through A Socio-Political Lens.” The other speakers were very nice and delivered witty papers. The crowd was engaging and even included a real life superhero- Jet from the Rock City, Alabama! I got to speak with a lot of artists and writers, such as Neal Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor, Brian Stelfreeze, Darwyn Cooke, Van Jensen, and others. Because I was a volunteer, I ended up meeting a lot of movie and TV stars including Malcolm Macdowell, George Takei, Edward James Olmos, and the guy who plays Hank on Grimm. I did feel a bit starstruck meeting the cast of Smallville, especially Allison Mack- talking to her was just like talking to Chloe Sullivan. Supergirl is even more beautiful in real life and Brainiac has been working out. The other volunteers I met were generally nice. Some of them were more interesting than others.

The most interesting person I met wasn’t actually a guest at Dragon Con. I was walking out the Marriott when I spotted a guy wearing a Strange Talent of Luther Strode t-shirt and I complimented him on it. It turns out he’s Tradd Moore and he gave me a copy of Luther Strode Vol. 2, which was pretty sweet.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

After Dragon Con, I realize that I left two great titles from the past year off the list of best comics. Obviously the omission of Luther Strode is a bit embarrassing and perhaps even a little corrupt in light of his recent generosity, but it’s definitely a book that stood out this year. The other omission is the unreasonably controversial and incredibly well-done Before Watchmen series, which I really feel like rereading after hearing Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Connor talk about it.

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To see more pictures from Dragon Con, click HERE

Ten Best Comics of 2012 2013

Like US military intervention in Syria,  Dragon Con looms in the very near future. Feeling less informed on Syria than comics, I present what I hope will be an annual tradition for Wayne Xiaolong. I present my list of the best comics of the year. These are comics that I read between last year’s Dragon Con and this year’s Dragon Con, so rather than mark the year from New Years to New Years, we’ll be marking the year from Labor Day to Labor Day.

THE BEST COMICS OF THE YEAR (in no particular order, but the first one is the best one)

Saga

In my opinion, Saga is by far the best comic book of the year, if not the best comic book ever. Saga continues to amaze not only with each issue, but with each page and in every panel. The dialogue will make you think, laugh, and smile. This book compelled to read most of Brian Vaughn’s back catalog and I highly recommend you read  Y: The Last Man in its entirety and also check out Pride of Baghdad. He’s also producing “Under The Dome,” which is starting out interestingly enough. Fiona Staples’s art is amazing and I am drawing much inspiration from her style on some of my own projects.

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer

This is a fun book put together by two creators slated to appear at Dragon Con, Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins. It was announced at Comic Con that all of the volumes of Pinocchio Vampire Slayer will be collected in an omnibus edition, which is probably the way to read it because the individual volumes are quick reads that leave you wanting more.

Batman

The whole Bat-family of books has been a joy to read since the launching of the New 52 despite the death of my favorite Robin of all-time, which happened in Batman Inc. not Batman. Batman has carried the weight of the two major crossovers in the Bat-family of books, “The Night of Owls” and “The Death of the Family.” Both have been really creepy. Greg Capullo’s art compliments Scott Synder’s twisted imagination to create an almost fatty macabre noir. Really great stuff. Seriously though, all the Bat-books are worth reading- Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Detective Comics, etc.

68

68 is a zombie book that takes place mostly in Vietnam during the late 1960s. Rich in historical reference and detail, overflowing with sophisticated humor, and filled with consistently creative art (which is often difficult for a war comic), 68 continues find value in an idea that lesser creators would turned into a dull gimmick.

Revival

Like 68, Revival is a book about the dead coming back to life, however the walking dead in Revival retain a lot more motor function.

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The Flash

The Flash puts the science back in science fiction. The art in The Flash is arguably the best in the New 52.

Batwoman

Remember when I said the art in The Flash is arguably the best in the New 51? Batwoman is the reason for the argument.

Strange Attractors

Nearly all the books on this list use the comic book medium in new, exciting ways specific to the medium. Perhaps most so in The Flash and Strange Attractors. Strange Attractors actually makes me want Charles Soule and Francis Manipaul to team up- the whirring lines in both books almost create a new dimension in the format, elements of movement that challenge the medium but also echo Silver Age Flash as well as the Family Circus. This book is a great gift for anyone from or who lives in New York City. There are a lot of great lines in this book.

The Manhattan Projects

This book is crazy and crazy in a well-researched and incredibly creative way. Hickman’s writing is absolutely top notch and nearly overshadows Patarra’s incredibly innovative art and approach to story telling as well as the book’s sleak overall design.

Lost Cat

More greatness from Jason.

No Place Like Home

I love this creepy spin on the Wizard of Oz and can’t wait to learn what’s really going on.

Hopeless Maine

Tim Burton should direct this comic book. If you like Coraline or similarly creepy stories with assertive young girls facing physically impossible odds, you’ll appreciate this spooky story of orphans and friendship.

Anyway, that’s the list. I better get to bed as I’ll be volunteering all day tomorrow for Dragon Con- figured I’d get as much of my volunteering out of the way on Thursday, so I can enjoy the actual Con. I’m looking forward especially to “Gender, Race, and Identities in Comics” on Friday; the parade, post-parade brunch, Amanda Connor, Darwyn Cooke, Neal Adams, and some Bootie mash ups on Saturday; Jimmy Palmiotti on Sunday (and of course, my own panel “Comics Through a Socio-Political Lens”); and being able to still stand as I do my last volunteering on Monday.

It’s going to great weekend, Atlanta. Maybe it’ll even be a great year.

 

 

faceoff

In honor of Wayne Xiao Long now appearing on the social media platform known as Facebook, Wayne Xiao Long is presenting the first Wayne Xiao Long Faceoff. Employing the ancient customs of facing off and offing face, Wayne Xiao Long Faceoffs will pit brother against brother, thesis against antithesis, children against their parents, and, as always, Batman against Bruce Lee. Here in the first Wayne Xiao Long Faceoff, similarly themed graphic novels will duke it out in the arena of Wayne Xiao Long’s personal preferences and refined tastes.

WAR ZOMBIES

’68 vs Graveyard of Empires

If you haven’t read this books, I recommend them both, but who has time to read every war zombie graphic novel? Both stories tell of a zombie outbreak witnessed by American military overseas. From the titles of the texts, you should be able to tell which military action that refer to (1968 was the year of the Tet Offensive and consequential change in thinking about Vietnam while Graveyard of Empires is a nickname for Afghanistan.) ’68 finds the zombies beyond the battlefield, eating brains on the domestic front as well, while Graveyard of Empires features a contained and coordinated zombie infestation that spans the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. occupation following 9/11. If you’re really short on time, go for Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta’s Graveyard of Empires because it’s a mini-series. While Graveyard of Empires is a great read, ’68 wins this faceoff. Both stories benefit from a lot of research and great art, but Mark Kidwell did more research and the team of Nat Jones and Jay Fotos created better art. One of the main characters in ’68 is an American-Chinese soldier named Yam; he’s fed up with the racist U.S. military, the distrusting local population, and, of course, the zombies- all in all, a very sympathetic character. As much as I like Yam, I’m disappointed with what little attention Kidwell paid to the Chinese language and to the way Chinese people speak pidgin English as he has given Yam’s mom a distinctly Japanese mispronunciation of English. Of course, if you know me or follow this blog, you know I can be a little nit-picky about how China is represented in comics.

WINNER: ’68 by Mark Kidwell, Nat Jones, and Jay Fotos

VAMPIRES OF A DISTINCT NATIONAL CHARACTER

American Vampire vs The New Deadwardians

A faceoff between Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire and Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard’s The New Deadwardians is not exactly fair. American Vampire is a much longer ongoing work while The New Deadwardians is not. Still The New Deadwardians holds its own as a unique and valuable contribution to vampire literature and as a worthwhile criticism of Edwardian Britain. Both books feature vampires and use vampire mythology to reveal their respective nation’s essences, but they differ in many crucial ways. In The New Deadwardians, the reality of vampires is public knowledge while it remains underground (barely) in the American Vampire series. The New Deadwardians covers a much short time period than American Vampire, which stretches nearly a century from the end of the U.S. Civil War to the tumultuous times that followed the Second World War. Both works are political in nature, but follow something Margaret Thatcher said once about how European politics being compelled by history and American politics being driven by philosophy. The plot of American Vampire, like the American vampires themselves, is driven by the needs of individualism while the plot of The New Deadwardians and the European vampires of American Vampire are much more interested in social control and power than the ideals of freedom or personal justice. Having said that, the suffragettes are my favorite part of The New Deadwardians. If you have the time and resources, I highly recommend reading them both. I also highly recommend sharing comics- my copy of The New Deadwardians is on loan to a Dracula expert at Georgia Tech and I am grateful to my wife’s tallest co-worker for lending me all the American Vampire books, which is a hefty set that all public libraries should carry. Yay, sharing! The final results of this faceoff may be biased by my own totally awesome American-ness, so you should probably just read both titles (and write to DC telling them to put Dan Abnett back on Resurrection Man). Book 4 of American  Vampire is the weakest of the series, but still better than most stuff being published.

WINNER: American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, with others

REIMAGINED CHILDREN’S STORIES

Peter Panzerfaust vs No Place Like Home

Two of the coolest books being published right now are Kurt Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins’s Peter Panzerfaust and Angelo Tirotto and Richard Jordan’s No Place Like Home, which draw inspiration from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Peter Panzerfaust places a charismatic Peter Panzerfaust in World War II France with several lost boys. The book captures the magical excitement and child-like wonder of being an orphan in wartime as Wiebe adeptly pulls your heartstrings and stirs your imagination. Familiar characters like Tinkerbell and the Darlings slowly creep in the fill out this Peter Pan Fan Fiction. If Wiebe and Jenkins can keep up this energy, this comic could be made into a movie that my mom would absolutely love. On the other hand, No Place Like Home could be made into a movie that my mom would absolutely hate. No Place Like Home is a little trashy, much more so than Peter Panzerfaust, but that makes sense- one is a horror comic intended for adults and one is playful historical fiction meant for a wider audience. This difference makes this faceoff a little more difficult, so I’ll return to a myth a friend of mine shared with me back in Dalian:

“Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, a prince was too be married and needed simply to choose his bride. Three candidates were chosen for him and set a challenge before each of them as he directed them to one of many rooms in his palace-

‘Here is one hundred American dollars. You challenge is to fill this room.’

Each candidate left with their challenge and the money the prince had bestowed upon them. While the candidates fetched their materials, the prince and the other members of his court played FIFA Soccer 12.

The first candidate to return brought several bags of gold and put them in the room. The items covered less than one third of the floor.

The second candidate to return brought several Mylar balloons, filling nearly three quarters of the rooms volume.

The third candidate brought a candle, which she placed in the center of the room and lit, filling the room with light.

Who did the prince choose to be his bride? The one with the biggest boobs, of course.”

Using the wisdom from this ancient tale, the winner of this faceoff has been determined.

WINNER: No Place Like Home by Angelo Tirotto and Richard Jordan

sagacollage

The news that Apple has refused to carry Saga #12 on its iOS apps reaffirms my disappointment with the world. I know I tend to primarily discuss DC titles on this site, but I definitely read other books and Saga is probably the best comic being published right now. I really like Saga and love gay people, so I’m going to use this platform to offer my support to two things that help my life feel miraculous- Saga and homosexuals. I think the world benefits from seeing the contradictions in the human condition as exposed by the narrative of Saga. As someone in an interracial/international/intercultural marriage, I feel a certain affinity to the book’s protagonists and I believe anyone who has had immigration all up in their marriage should have sympathy for all the gays putting up with government roadblocks to their attempts at wedded bliss. I don’t think gay people should feel like they have to get married to prove anything though. I worry that the politicizing of gay marriage must put some additional pressure on many relationships. Apple’s decision to ban the book over potentially offense that would be taken over “two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex” is not only cowardly, conservative, homophobic, reactionary, against their economic interests, and universally uncool, but it’s also hypocritical. Saga is a sexy book and its sexuality consistently defies the limits of both our contemporary morality and our scientific understanding. Apple has made the first eleven issues available through their iOS apps despite their being liberally adorned with profanity, sexuality, and nudity. This issue is being singled out for its gayness and that’s not cool.

If Apple is worried about kids, they shouldn’t have ever made Saga available. It’s neither suitable nor intended for immature readers. The violence in the comic alone makes it a questionable choice of reading material for a child. A lot of conservatives speak of the spectre of the gay teacher who will transform classrooms into gay training camps. Gay activists and sympathizers usually try to appease the person in the argument by assuring them that gay teachers wouldn’t teach homosexuality. I think their argument is correct. I’m been pretty certain of the sexual orientation of many of my teachers and I never remember being taught homosexuality. I do remember being taught a lot of heterosexuality in school, brain-washing levels of heterosexuality. As I’ve gotten older and looked at a statistic or two, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are too many people on this planet and that it is in the interest of our species’ survival to teach more homosexuality to future generations.

I would like to recommend Saga to you if you aren’t reading it. You should know it does get a little sexy, gross, violent, clever, satirical, challenging, and funny in some parts. If that’s not something you’re ready for, maybe you should skip it. Finally, one more recommendation- you should consider being gay if you haven’t. It’s at least worth the consideration.

THINGS CAN CHANGE IN A DAY as a somewhat muddled explanation emerges from Comixology saying they made some sort of error…smells like a dog with a tail between its legs. Either way Saga #12 will be appearing on iOS apps sooner than Saga #13

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