Thursday, June 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim

Last night I finally got around to re-reading the Scott Pilgrim books, something I've been wanting to do with the movie just around the corner. Actually for some crazy reason, I'd only read up through half of volume four previously and as I loved the Scott Pilgrim books the first time I read them, I really don't know how I managed to put continuing to read the Scott Pilgrim books on the back burner.

Scott Pilgrim is a six volume manga-sized series written and drawn by Bryan Lee O'Malley, published by Oni Press. Besides the size of the Scott Pilgrim books, the other similarities that Scott Pilgrim has with manga is that it is very kinetic, the characters are all young with big eyes, and the Scott Pilgrim "universe" has its own rules regarding the things the characters can do that wouldn't work in other works of fiction. For example, while Scott Pilgrim is primarily about Scott Pilgrim trying to woo Ramona, his new heart's desire, by defeating her seven ex-boyfriends, the Scott Pilgrim series is really just about young hipsters (late teens and early 20's in age) and their romantic entanglements.
When Scott Pilgrim goes into battle with Ramona's ex-boyfriends, the humor gets cranked up quite a few notches as a number of the characters (including Scott) have crazy fighting skills and powers that they are able to access like the characters from video games have. While the fight scenes are crazy funny, I prefer the parts of Scott Pilgrim that are just about the characters hanging out, going to see bands or band practice, and finding out which characters will connect with each and whether Scott will ultimately win Romona's heart.

My favorite character is one of Ramona's ex-boyfriends, Todd, who claims to be a vegan, which gives him psychic powers from, as he describes it: "You know how you only use ten percent of your brain? Well, it's because the other 90% is filled with curds and whey." Well I don't have any psychic powers I know of from being a vegan for twenty years, but I never graduated from the top of my class at a vegan academy like Todd (grin), but then again I don't try to fool others by eating foods that aren't vegan and claiming they are (I've only lapsed when I used to eat a piece of cake at weddings I went to or if I get a dish at a restaurant that has dairy ingredients that I wasn't aware of after asking for no dairy) - so I'm at least better then Todd in that respect (grin)!

For those of you who haven't seen a trailer yet for the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World movie that comes out August 13th, here's a link: I think it looks great, sounds great, and is well cast and hope it finds the audience there is for what O'Malley is doing with Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim, the comic, already sells very well, but as more people see the trailer and the movie, there's going to be even more people wondering how the charms of this series eluded them for so long.

Alternate Reality Comics will have Scott Pilgrim volume 6 (subtitled Finest Hour) available on July 20th for a special Tuesday release date, so let me know if you want me to reserve one for you so that you can be the first on your block to read the conclusion!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Al Williamson

This morning, I was catching up on facebook, and people were posting that comic book artist Al Williamson had died yesterday at the age of 79. People that started reading comics in the mid 1980s, would have been mostly familiar with Al Williamson's art largely as an inker (I especially liked his inks on John Romita Jr.'s Daredevil), which he did from the mid 1980s until his retirement in 2003, mostly at Marvel.

I don't know when I first noticed Al Williamson's artwork, but when I started reading comics regularly in late 1975, Al Williamson had already been working in this medium since the 1950s, mostly on science fiction and fantasy titles for EC and working on comic strips such as Flash Gordon and Secret Agent X-9. During the 1970s, Al Williamson became know for being one of the first comic book artists to work on the Star Wars comic books and comic strip.
So though I can't remember the first Al Williamson comic I saw that made me fall in love with his work, I always got anything he worked on that I could find because if Al Williamson worked on a comic, I knew that that was going to be a really sharp, beautiful looking comic. Al Williamson, on one hand was highly inspirational to many artists for his fine brushwork on photo-realistic comic books and strips, but on the other hand, he is also fondly loved as being a great illustrator of fantasy and science fiction characters and landscapes - there wasn't anything Al Williamson couldn't draw and really well at that. Another comic art GIANT is gone, but because Al Williamson had produced such a large output of art over fifty years, all of it amazing, he'll never really be gone.

For a great, more thorough remembrance of Al Williamson, here's a piece artist Mark Wheatly wrote:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Knight Life

The last couple of years, Keith Knight has been doing a daily comic strip called The Knight Life, which is basically an extension of the weekly comic strip that Keith used to do, called The K Chronicles, that appeared in alternative weekly newspapers everywhere (and is collected in several nice trade paperbacks and in the nice massive 500 page collection from Dark Horse called The Complete K Chronicles). Last week, The Knight Life "Chivalry ain't Dead", which is the first The Knight Life daily collection arrived and clocks in at just over 200 pages for just $17.99.
The Knight Life, like The K Chronicles, is a very funny cartoon strip about the cartoonist himself, his family (which has grown), his friends, as well as Keith Knight's humorous insights into the world around us. The Knight Life "Chivalry ain't Dead" also collects the Sunday strips in color - for those of you unfamiliar with Keith Knight's strip check out: for some examples of his cartoon magic and see why Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) and Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) sing their praises for Keith Knight.

And I'm happy to report that Keith Knight will be a guest at this year's Las Vegas Clark County Comic Festival to be held Saturday, November 6th, so mark your calendars accordingly!

Wednesday Comics - it's huge!

Last summer (2009), DC Comics produced a twelve issue weekly comic called Wednesday Comics (the title was selected to celebrate the day of the week comic book stores have the new comics on sale). The weekly version of Wednesday Comics didn't look like your average comic, you had to fold it out like one of the large metropolitan newspapers and you got to experience each story in the dimensions the old Sunday newspaper comic strips used to appear (14"x 20"). In every issue of Wednesday Comics you got one page of fifteen different stories, so you'd get another page of that story every week.

The Wednesday Comics hardcover that came out a couple of weeks ago collects all of the fifteen stories and is HUGE - 200 pages, sized at 11"X 17", which while not as large as the original comics that folded out, is still definitely a REALLY BIG comic book (at 11"x 17" the pages are the size of the pages that most comic book artists do their original art on)! This is definitely a book you'll want to keep on display as a great showcase to share with others how amazing comics can look and read when creators think outside of the "normal" parameters of the average comic book.

The writers and artists who contributed stories for Wednesday Comics are a who's who of some of the very best comic creators, such as Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso on Batman, Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook on Kamandi, John Arcudi & Lee Bermejo doing Superman, Dave Bullock on Deadman, Neil Gaiman & Mike Allred doing Metamorpho, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner doing Supergirl, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Kevin Nowlan doing Metal Men, Walt Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze doing The Demon & Catwoman, Kyle Baker doing Hawkman, and Kurt Bsiek & Joe Quilihones doing Green Lantern.

My favorite of all the stories contained within Wednesday Comics, is Adam Kubert and Joe Kubert's SGT. Rock because it's always a treat to see Joe Kubert's powerful, expressive art, with my other favorites being Dave Bullock doing a great Darwyn Cooke / Jack Kirby mashup on Deadman, Gibbon's & Sook's Hal Forster (Prince Valiant) spin on Kamandi, Busiek & Quilihones' Green Lantern, which has a great 1950's sci-fi feel to it, and Gaiman & Allred totally playing with what they can do visually having a story appear in such a large format in their Metamorpho story. This Wednesday Comics production is the perfect example of the very finest in sequential art (superhero centric). It also would make a great Father's Day (next Sunday) gift!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

neil young's greendale graphic novel & daytripper #7

Today is a banner day for people who like their comic books to be off the superhero path, with the arrival of neil young's greendale graphic novel from Vertigo written by Joshua Dysart and illustrated by Cliff Chiang and the new issue of Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

Greendale is the title of a concept album and movie about small town living, environmentalism, and corruption that Neil Young released in 2003. Vertigo's neil young's greendale graphic novel is an extension of that album and the graphic novel is excellent onto itself, without the reader having to know anything about the album or movie. As I remarked in an earlier entry about this graphic novel after reading an advance copy a few months ago, a person doesn't have to be a Neil Young fan to enjoy greendale, the graphic novel, one just has to be someone who enjoys their entertainment with great characters, great writing, and great art, that touches on environmental issues without being heavy-handed. neil young's greendale gets my highest recommendation with its superb production values (hardcover, full color, for only $19.99) and a powerfully charged story that will stay with you long after you read it.
And continuing with my monthly lovefest of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's Daytripper Vertigo series, of which every issue takes place during a different year in the central character, Bras' life, I'd like to also shine a spotlight on its arrival.
issue #7 of Daytripper is titled 38 and is a great story about friendship. There's just three more issues to go in this ten issue series, with the hardcover coming out in early 2011. Daytripper is one of those rare series that I'd say is worth getting in single issues to share with others and will I'm sure will make for a really nice hardcover (I just wish it was going to be out for the holiday season).

Monday, June 7, 2010

FreakAngels v.4

FreakAngels is a post apocalyptic online comic that Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield have been doing since February of 2008, with this, the fourth collection, having just arrived last week.

FreakAngels, like Daytripper (not that they're similar in any way), is a comic / graphic novel that I never have much new to say regarding how great they are, but I like to celebrate when a new edition comes out on Ich Liebe Comics! because they really are the best of the best.

Seriously, is there anything Paul Duffield can't draw!? While I'm not in a hurry for this series to end, I am curious as to how long Warren and Paul project this series to be, so if someone could ask them on twitter (especially Warren Ellis, as I've heard he uses that a lot), I'd appreciate that (grin)!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is a new graphic novel by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, published by Top Shelf, that uses as its setting, the efforts by the French and Germans during World War II to hide (and inventory and categorize) the collections of their major art galleries. Within this real historical framework, the Immonen's explore, in a fictional context, one scenario as to how this affected the lives of two people who are on opposing sides.

On the one side is Ila Gardner, a curator, who is suspected by officer Rolf Hauptmann (the other central character), to be hiding some of the galleries (and or has knowledge of where they're hidden) that the German Military Art Commission also have an interest in. Further compounding the mystery that officer Hauptmann is trying to unravel through his interrogation of Ila, is that they also have an illicit relationship with each other.

Stuart Immonen is mostly known as a superhero comic book artist (Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers, and Nextwave), so it is interesting to see the minimalist art style he employees for Moving Pictures, an artistic style that illustrates that less can be more. Stuart Immonen's use of black and white also works as a great contrast to the mystery that unfolds in Moving Pictures.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jonah Hex No Way Back

Anyone who reads the monthly Jonah Hex comic, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and drawn by a rotating line-up of great artists, already knows what a great, consistently entertaining comic it is. The Jonah Hex No Way Back original hardcover graphic novel that came out this week, also written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, provides more of their Jonah Hex high octane entertainment with a story that gets to run rampant over 130 pages. Jonah Hex No Way Back is a story about Jonah Hex's early family life and how that's made him the hard gunning, no compromising character he is and plays well to people new and old to the Jonah Hex character.

I hope the upcoming Jonah Hex movie is good, but while reading Jonah Hex No Way Back, I was thinking that if the Jonah Hex movie used as their story this story, the movie would universally be considered one of the best movie Westerns in some time.
In addition to the great treat that a lengthened Gray and Palmiotti Jonah Hex story is, the biggest treat on display in Jonah Hex No Way Back is legendary artist Tony DeZuniga, returning to a character he is the co-creator of and a character he'd drawn for years. Tony DeZuniga had drawn comics in his native country, the Philippines, for years prior to drawing comics for DC and later Marvel in the late 1960's and went on to draw for both companies (and others) well into the 1980's. So while Tony DeZuniga drew comics for years, it's been years since he's done so, but the gritty art style he uses for Jonah Hex No Way Back, perfectly fits this gritty story.
This photo was taken at this year's San Francisco Wondercon convention in early April. Meeting and being in a photo with Tony DeZuniga was one of my highlights of that convention (photo taken by his wife). And I'd like to say thanks again for all of the great comics you've drawn over the years, Tony DeZuniga!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A God Somewhere

A God Somewhere is a new DC graphic novel written by John Arcudi and drawn by Peter Snejbjerg. A God Somewhere is one of those books that is hard to write about because the less others know before reading it, the better the work is as the developments within unfold without the reader's prior knowledge of those developments forthcoming. Mike Mignola (Hellboy), with his cover quote, "The most human take on the superhero story I have ever seen." best describes what A God Somewhere is about, so I'll leave my commentary about the story at that, only adding that the four characters that writer John Arcudi focuses on are richly developed and the main reason this book resonates as it does.

As anyone can see from this interior page from A God Somewhere, artist Peter Snejbjerg knows his way around a comic page. A God Somewhere, with its almost 200 pages really allows Snejbjerg to put on display how much of a complete artist he is. Peter Snejbjerg is one of those artists that makes any project worth getting just to give your eyes a visual feast.