Wednesday Comics

wednesday-comicsJust in case you haven’t heard, DC’s new venture is entitled Wednesday Comics (as new comics come out every Wednesday in the U.S). The concept was launched from the brain of artist and Art Director Mark Chiarello. Every weekly issue is only 16 pages, but will be filled with superb art from some great storytellers, and it will be big art too. Bigger then the average comic size, it will be like a large tabloid, newspaper supplement. It’s a bold direction but it should pay off. There are some great artists in the industry that will take gleeful advantage of this. Below is  a preview of John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo’s Superman story and a Batman tale from the 100 Bullets team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. Also included in the upcoming 12 part series will be a Metamorpho tale by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred, Supergirl by Kimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and Joe Kubert on Sgt. Rock. Creators such as Kurt Busiek, Dave Bullock, Walt Simonson, Ryan Sook, Dave Gibbons and Paul Pope are also involved. Look for the first oversized issue in July. Awesome news.

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Teen Titans

Two Sons

We haven’t seen any Marvel teaser images for a while, so here’s a couple  for you. Following the success of World War Hulk and Planet Hulk, Bruce Banner’s boy is all grown up and looking to follow in the footsteps of his father by wreaking havoc. The Planet Skaar Prologue hits shelves on May 15 and is written by Greg Pak with art by Dan Panosian. The other image is related to a mysterious new storyline running through upcoming issues of Amazing Spider-Man, beginning in May 27’s #595. It’s written by Joe Kelly and pencilled by Phil Jiminez. Part 2 in ASM #596 is drawn by Paulo Siquera, while  ASM #597’s Part 3’s art chores are handled by Marco Chechetto. Using my deductive reasoning, it appears that this story arc will focus on the original Green Gobiln, Norman Osborn in his new power play, post-Secret Invasion. Apparently he gets a new costume and starts to look more like a superhero. It’s about time he got rid of the Star Spangled Iron Man outfit. 

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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #1 Review

I published my review of the latest League adventure from masters Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill in the 2nd ish of Extra Sequential, but seeing as the book is coming out this month, I thought I’d run it here too, for those who haven’t read it. Obviously Moore and the League have a lot of fans, but Century may not live up to their expectations. Read on…

lxg3coverThis third volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen opens at the bedside of a sweating man with feverish dreams involving a young lady swimming naked and cloaked cult members’ ambitions to create a Moonchild, whatever that may be. As the man, Tom Carnacki, the ghost finder wakes he speaks of his night-time adventures to his fellow team-mates, Orlando, A.J, Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain. Thus we are introduced to the latest batch of “gentlemen.” This has been an extraordinary series from the outset. Well, mostly. Writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell) and artist Kevin O’Neill unleashed their concept of famed adventurers from the annals of literature upon the world in 1999. Mina Harker, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was tasked by British Intelligence to form a team and gathered Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo and others along the way to saving London. The second volume was a great tie-in to H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds while the third was a stand-alone graphic novel entitled The Black Dossier. Dossier was not the high point that the first two series were, mainly due to its varied narrative and frequent use of Moore extras such as prose pieces, letters, maps and the like. The greatest asset throughout the series has been the constant relationship of Harker and Quartermain in the different time periods. Dossier was light on that but did fill in some details about other incarnations of the League, reminding comic readers again that Moore is no slouch when it comes to research.

Not nearly as accessible as the first two volumes, Century is the first to be published by Top Shelf, instead of DC Comics. This is the first in a trilogy of 80 page one-shots, with this introduction set in 1910. The next one will delve into the swinging 60s, with the finale set in the present day. That prospect intrigues me. However, this isn’t the Leagues’ greatest outing, though I am curious to see where it goes. O’Neill’s harsh lines are perfect to Moore’s creation, with it’s dark humour, nudity and brutal violence and he makes the most with the dirty world they inhabit.  League has always been unashamedly gritty and multi-layered, like most of Moore’s work, but League has always been, not surprisingly, his most literary series. You either feel smarter for having read it, or dumber for not grasping the references to works of fiction scattered throughout each page. Student of literature will continue to have a field day with this series.

The problem with Century is that there is simply too much going on. I know doubting Moore’s genius is like slapping Shakespeare, but whereas the first two volumes were just manic fun with a boy’s own adventure feel stamped all over it, this feels unnecessarily complex. The number of characters is greater than a Cecil B. DeMille film and the League gets diluted because of it. Saying that, I’ll attempt to break down the plot as best I can. Here goes…

The woman from Tom’s dream, Jenny Diver walks past a popular reproduction of Captain Nemo’s impressive battle ship, Nautilus and discovers from Nemo’s old friend Ishmael that the Captain’s last wish was to give his recently changed beauty of a ship to his only child. The crew need a Captain, but the stubborn woman doesn’t want to be any such thing. She eventually changes her mind for some reason and goes on a mad rampage.

Tom, along with Mina, new League member Orlando (known as he-she, behind his/her back), thief A.J Raffles and Quartermain (who is introduced as his own to avoid suspicions of his newly gained immortality presumably) visit the Merlin Society. While the team wanders around a room full of occultists, A.J does some snooping around and the team discover Doomsday premonitions from magicians Simon Iff and Oliver Haddo. Tom eventually barges into the cult’s HQ and sees the events of his dream played out before him -almost. Amongst all this, there’s plenty of singing from various characters espousing exposition, claims that Orlando posed for the Mona Lisa, and wields the famed sword Excalibur, the return of a famed serial killer and a meeting with Andrew Norton a figurative prisoner of London. All of these characters and more are from old novels, though don’t ask me which ones, and they do serve a purpose in moving the story. However I think Moore needed to restrain himself. The majority of the scenes, and singing, just appear indulgent. This could have been a tale with fewer pages and it would have been a lot less shambolic. References to actual events of the time, such as King George V’s coronation, as well as the events of the brilliant previous series help give this perspective, but it’s not enough.

Fans of Watchmen will be familiar with typical Moore devices, particularly the panels that are filled with details that go over this uneducated fanboy’s head. After reading Century, I’m still a fan, but one of the earlier, and simpler tales. I don’t mean to say that I’m a fan of the much-diluted film version (which made Sean Connery retire from cinema) but Century has gone too far the other way. This is strictly for League lovers only. However, I am curious to see where the next two one-shots venture forth. League is far too grand an idea to let go just yet.

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Preview available here.

Comics Waiting Room

CWR is an on-line magazine all about comics. It’s text-focused, rather than littered with art, but the few topics they cover every issue offer something for everyone. The brand spanking new #31 features a great interview with the creators of Image’s intriguing Olympus series, a peek at Marvel’s mistreatment of female readers (and characters), an honest look at Y: The Last Man and much more. The writing quality is varied, but most of the team do a good job offering up concise and interesting views on comics and the world around them. There’s an even mix of articles for fanboys/girls and newbies too, and that’s always a good thing.

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And There You Are Review

atya-coverWriter/artist Ronnie del Carmen has had an impressive career, working on storyboards, designs and as a story consultant from Batman: The Animated Series to WALL-E and the upcoming Up, from Pixar. He’s also self-published a few comics focused on his dream walking character Nina. His latest comic is a 64 pager from AdHouse Books entitled, And There You Are is an engrossing peek at his journals and sketchbooks, all lovingly laid out before us. We featured the book in Extra Sequential #2, and I’ve just reviewed the whole thing over at Broken Frontier. Here’s a peek at what I said….

“Words are few and far between, and I think that’s a wise choice on the artist’s part. Del Carmen chooses to step aside and let his art speak for itself. Occasionally he’ll mention where this pencil sketch, or that water colour piece was done, such as the beach or a café, but there’s a genuine sense that we’re given a glance at his thoughts anyway, simply by seeing his vast array of art displayed before our appreciative eyes. Sketchbooks have a real wrinkled texture about them, complete with hand written notes and curled edges. I studied art a few years ago and it makes me long for those days where a blank piece of paper meant one thing – potential.”

If you like dreamy, inspirational art, pick it up. Read the rest of the review right here.

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Comics On Comics

Now, this is a good idea. The name pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but read below for more info, especially if you like laughing, comics and Battlestar Galactica.

Comics on Comics takes on Battlestar Galactica this Wednesday, April 15 at The Comic Bug!

Host Juan-Manuel Rocha welcomes one of the stars of both Battlestar Galactica TV series, Richard Hatch (Apollo, Tom Zarek) as well as Michael Taylor (co-executive producer of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Mike Wellman, (Tokyopop’s Battlestar Galactica: Echoes of New Caprica) along with comedians Asterios Kokkinos (Cracked Magazine, NPR’s Marketplace) and Robb Fulcher for an intergalactic night of comics and comedy! The taping begins at 8pm and admission is FREE! Be sure to show up early to grab a good seat! 

Additionally, Richard Hatch and Mike Wellman along with artist Anthony Wu (Image’s Popgun anthology) will be signing copies of Tokyopop’s Battlestar Galactica: Echos of New Caprica from 6pm to 8pm! 

You can RSVP for this event on facebook, or you can find us online at ComicsOnComics.com The Comic Bug is located at 1807 1/2 Manhattan Beach Blvd in Manhattan Beach, CA. For general inquiries, please email press@comicsoncomics.com

About Comics on Comics: Comics on Comics is a WebTV series where “The Greatest Comic Minds Meet The Greatest Minds In Comics.” The show, which gathers three professional comedians and one comic book creator for a round-table discussion of the latest comic book news, is hosted by Juan-Manuel Rocha and is taped in front of a live audience. 

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Black Freighter/Under The Hood DVD Review

Available now is the double feature DVD tying in to Watchmen, and is a must for fans of the film or ground breaking comic series.

Black Freighter DVDTales of the Black Freighter

As Watchmen readers know, the pirate adventure Tales of the Black Freighter, was a comic within the comic. As an eager kid read it at a newsstand, sometimes the panels would spill over into the narrative of the Watchmen tale. Originally, film director Zack Snyder wanted to film Black Freighter in a manner similar to how he approached 300, but due to budgetary and time constraints, chose to make it a stand-alone animated feature instead. And it was a good choice as Black Freighter is a lush, engrossing story. Written by Snyder with Alex Tse, and directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith, this 25 minute short film mirrors its printed inspiration beautifully. 300’s Gerard Butler is the primary voice, narrating the descending horrors faced by his sole survivor of an attack by the titular ship of ghouls. Washing ashore, he uses the bloated carcasses of his dead crew as a makeshift raft, fighting sharks and his own descent into darkness, to Davidstown. It is here that his wife and daughters live, and it is also the Freighter’s next target. At least that’s what the captain believes.

The mini-comic inside Watchmen gave me just as many memorable moments as Watchmen did, and it’s satisfying to see them on the screen. It’s filled with simple, yet bold colour choices and gross visuals such as seagulls eating brains and plucking eyeballs. Thus the R rating is understandable, compared to the PG of Under The Hood. The animation is superb and fluid and though not a lot happens, it’s still highly entertaining. You don’t have to look too far to see the allusions to Watchmen’s thematic explorations. Though at first a dark pirate tale may seem an odd companion to a superhero deconstruction, it does sit proudly on the same shelf, just like the other film included on the DVD.

Hollis MasonUnder The Hood

The live action Under The Hood is an imagined documentary about the life of Hollis Mason, who was the original costumed adventurer Nite Owl in the 1940’s world of the Watchmen. Played by Stephen McHattie, as he did in the film, it also includes interviews with Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre, her agent and former husband, as well as bad guys (also seen in the film) Moloch, and the imprisoned midget Big Figure. Set in 1985 TV host Larry Culpeper (played by Ted Friend) introduces us to his 1975 report on Mason in an episode of the Culpeper Minute. He and Mason talk about Mason’s career as a baddie-basher, first as a cop, and then as Nite Owl, in the Gunga Diner. Dialogue from Alan Moore’s Under The Hood excerpt is used, and it brings a geeky smile to my face as Mason explains how he constructed his costume, his motivations for being a superhero (“because it was fun, and the right thing to do.”), how he was inspired by the mysterious debut of the first costumed do-gooder, Hooded Justice, and the assembling of the Minutemen (whose members are seen in authentic looking news footage).

Tying into DC Comics’ rich history, Mason mentions also being wowed by Superman’s first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1, and the Golden Age Green Lantern and Blue Beetle are also shown on comic covers.

The archival footage of WWII is used well, but we are only jarred out of the realism when obviously Photoshopped pics of the young Mason are revealed. The whole Hood doco really is well done though. The interviews look like they’ve been lifted directly from 1975, with their slightly grainy and faded look, without being distracting, and the 1985 ads for products such as Veidt’s Nostalgia fragrance, and Seiko’s cutting-edge LCD watches, just add that extra realism.

The actors are vital to these kinds of endeavours. All the cast sell the premise well. Sometimes these kinds of fake docos can be very unconvincing, but writer Hans Rodionoff, director Eric Matthies and the actors pull it off ably.

Special Features

The extra features are a nice touch too. Usually on straight to DVD experiences like this, the bonuses are usually just an afterthought from the marketing department. However, with Under The Hood, Black Freighter plus the extras the running time for the whole shebang comes in at a rather impressive 2 hours.

Story Within A Story – The Books Of Watchmen is essentially a combination of behind the scenes footage of Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter.  There are interviews with cast members (Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), DC creators of the original maxi-series (Jenette Kahn, Len Wein, artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins) and the director of Under The Hood, Eric Matthies. It’s not exactly a riveting 25 minutes, but is necessary viewing for those unaware of the importance of Alan Moore’s original extras, such as newspaper cutouts and prose pieces as well as the Black Freighter pirate comic that runs within, and alongside the Watchmen story. And if you feel like getting intellectual, influences of Black Freighter, such as German playwright Bertolt Brecht, are mentioned by a few of the interviewees.

Curiously, it also includes a behind the scenes look at the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason attacking a punk in his home. I assume this will be on the Director’s Cut of the film.  Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see how director Zack Snyder manages to squeeze the Black Freighter into the film itself when the Director’s Cut DVD is released in July.

The other substantial extra is Chapter One of the Watchmen Motion Comic, which also runs at 25 minutes. I’ve seen so-called animated comics before, and the concept has been around for a long time, but this is far and above the best approach I’ve ever seen. The original Watchmen comic really does come alive, but I’ll say more once I check out the whole 2 discer Motion Comic soon.

The final inclusion amongst the special features is the first look at Green Lantern: First Flight, the next animated DVD release from Warner Bros./DC. It’s being released in July and it looks fantastic, and is a nice present for Hal Jordan, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his creation this year.