Death and the Frenemy’s Claw

Here’s a quick look at some new indie series.

Death Ship from IDW is a 4 issue mini-series based on an untold story from Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. Behind Cliff Nielsen’s spooky cover I was pleasantly surprised to some equally moody art. Being printed on slightly rougher paper, with muted colours by Dom Regan, means that Death Ship will carry you to its 1897 setting with ease. Stuart Sayger’s artwork is like a more refined Bill Sienkiewicz or Klaus Janson. His work is suitably sketchy, yet equally enchanting and fits beautifully within the old world setting, which is filled with tough as nails sailors with manly beards. Sayger knows when to fill the pages with simplicity, which adds great tension to Gary Gerani’s script. The first few pages initially seem like a bland tale of sailors vs the sea; the kind of film you catch in black and white on a lazy Sunday arvo on TV, but it soon reveals itself to be something more, as a sinister force lurks about their vessel. There’s a boy, a tough veteran, a wise captain and a scared priest, but it all works well, plus the art is awesome. I’m thankful for comic moments like this, when I pick something by blind faith and it proves to be better than expected.

The Claw and the Fang. This new series has great covers, and that’s what intrigued me. That, plus the preview art looked unusual – in a good way. Bluewater Productions have become known as of late for their bio comics on stars of the moment, but that’s not all that they produce. This issue begins with Justin, a hardcore gamer losing his job before crossing to Outer Mongolia where a witch summons a huge, hooded demon to serve her. From then on it moves quickly, as Justin gets fed up with the MMORPG he’s invested his life in, and the supernatural world and his dull existence collide. There’s a slight awkwardness, as this hurriedly takes place and it would’ve benefitted from an extra few pages, but this debut ish has laid enough seeds to hopefully bear fruit in the remaining issues. Michael Kutcher’s script is filled with great captions that carry the tale without revealing too much just yet, and Matias Basla’s angular art lends a refreshing design to the pages. The sparse use of colour is a great addition to the mainly earthen look too.

Frenemy of the State has its Hollywood tongue planted firmly in its cheek and is an unashamedly fun adventure. It’s written by actress Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks and Recreation), Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis and comes to us from Oni Press. Opening with a quick account of protagonist Ariana Von Holmberg’s life in the spotlight (via Twitter snapshots) as she attends an Alice in Wonderland theme party, we soon learn that she’s not just a dumb heiress, but a well educated woman. She also seems to know her way around hi-tech security systems, but with all those skills, she’s still not above seeking revenge on a cheating lover. The script is rather obvious from that point on, as she becomes a C.I.A recruit. The odd flashback transition comes from nowhere, when all that’s needed was a simple caption, but otherwise, the issue is fine. It’s not a remarkable debut, but the central concept leaves a lot of room for story possibilities. Jeff Wamester’s art is light, with a slight Kevin Nowlan approach and the simple feel adds to the bubbliness of the story. It’s not hilarious by any means, but fans of pop culture with an awareness of celebrity obsessed media will find this likeable enough.

John DiMaggio Talks The Joker

Here’s an official interview with famed voice actor John DiMaggio about his new roles as The Joker in DC’s next animated film.

John DiMaggio Undertakes a Villainous Icon as The Joker in “Batman: Under the Red Hood”

Known to adults as “Bender” in Futurama and tweens as “Dr. Drakken” in Kim Possible, John DiMaggio takes an iconic step forward as the voice of The Joker, the pivotal villain in the all-new DC Universe animated original movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood.

In the film, Batman faces his ultimate challenge as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. One part vigilante, one part criminal kingpin, Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. And when The Joker falls in the balance between the two forces of justice, hard truths are revealed and old wounds are reopened.

DiMaggio gets free reign to play the iconic villain amidst a stellar voice cast that includes Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) as the Caped Crusader, Supernatural star Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as Nightwing.

Best known for his near-100 episodes as “Bender,” DiMaggio has parlayed his deep, gravelly tones and versatile acting style into a major force on the voiceover scene for the past decade. DiMaggio’s credits include roles in Kim Possible, Samurai Jack, Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Duck Dodgers, Jackie Chan Adventures, The Penguins of Madagascar and Chowder.

Voiceover has so dominated his time that DiMaggio has virtually abandoned his on-camera career – despite past work as a regular cast member on Chicago Hope and a number of guest roles in TV series such as Becker, N.Y.P.D. Blue, Felicity, Bones, Without a Trace and My Name is Earl.

Batman: Under the Red Hood is the next entry in the popular ongoing series of DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movies from Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The full-length film will be distributed by Warner Home Video on July 27, 2010 as a Special Edition version on Blu-Ray™ and 2-disc DVD, as well as being available on single disc DVD, On Demand and for Download. But before you race to Amazon to pre-order your copy, take a minute to get to know John DiMaggio.

QUESTION: What were your initial thoughts about assuming this iconic role?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I was shocked when I got the role, shocked when I came in to record, and shocked when I saw the finished product during ADR. I just wanted to honor the real true lunacy of the character. I didn’t want to make him campy, but I wanted to pay a little bit of tribute to the past Jokers – and yet keep it original at the same time. That’s walking a fine line, if there ever was one.

It was a little intimidating because it is such an iconic role. It’s an honor to get this job — and especially to play the Joker in this version because it’s so dark and twisted. I felt like I got a really wonderful opportunity.

QUESTION: Can you remember your early connections with the Batman mythology, and how any of the previous Joker actors might have influenced your performance in this role?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I think the thing that influenced me the most when I was young is the television show, which is really sad because there have been so many great comics and graphic novels and stories about the Dark Knight that I haven’t been able to delve into yet – and yet I know about them. I actually would’ve loved to see Cesar Romero take the role to its darkness. There was a bit of Cesar Romero in what I did, but it’s Cesar Romero if he was in A Clockwork Orange. I guess my naiveté in my approach kind of kept it clean. I wasn’t trying to do a Jack (Nicholson) or a Heath (Ledger). I respect all the folks that have come before me, and their take on the character. Mark Hamill is awesome, Heath Ledger was unbelievable, and Jack Nicholson – what can you say? But I wanted to do my own thing.

QUESTION: Was there any particular direction you wanted to take this Joker?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I wanted to cover what I saw on the paper, and I wanted to ensure Andrea (Romano, casting/dialogue director) got exactly what she wanted. Usually if the script is good enough, you know where your emotions should be, where your character lies. It should all be in the dialogue, and it certainly was.

QUESTION: How do you interpret the Joker’s mindset?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I think the Joker thinks of himself, quite literally, as a necessary evil. And when I say that, I mean he really feels there is a place for him, and that he somehow balances the chaos with the non-chaos. It’s a yin and yang thing. And it’s really not personal, it’s business. Although he can get personal and he enjoys it. That makes it that much more twisted.

QUESTION: You’ve certainly done more than your share of villains. Do you prefer to go to the dark side?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I love playing the villains. I’ll play anything, I don’t care. As long as its not tons of walla or gasping, I’m good. I hate the inhale.

QUESTION: When you were a kid, did you ever imagine you’d be voicing cartoons for a living?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I was a class clown – I basically started acting when I was a kid. I wanted to play drums, but I couldn’t afford a drum set. It was easier to be in a play, so it just kind of happened. I walked into voiceover in New York in 1994. I was doing stand-up (comedy) at the time, and was looking to get out of it and into acting. An actor buddy of mine, Zak Orth, said it was a way to make a good living between acting gigs. I moved to LA, because there’s more animation here, and the rest is history. So yeah, thanks Zak – give me a ring.

QUESTION: Your primary focus is voiceovers these days. Do you have any inclination to do more live-action acting or stand-up comedy?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: On-camera acting is fun, but I don’t miss it. Voiceovers are quicker, and you get to work with such amazing, talented people – it’s a blast to play in the studio with these actors and writers and directors. With (on-camera) acting, there so much more waiting around, and my patience has run thin. Plus it beats the hell out of slinging jokes six nights a week at a Chuckle Hut in East Bumbleblard.

Scratch9 #1 Preview

Below are a few pages from the latest all-ages series from Ape Entertainment, and here’s the official description.

SCRATCH9 is the all-new, all-cats comic for young readers coming from Ape Entertainment and KiZoic (the same folks bringing you the SHREK and PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR comics).

The book focuses on a cat who gains the ability to summon any of his nine lives to help him out in his adventures. It was written and created by Rob M. Worley, with artwork by Jason T. Kruse and covers by Mike Kunkel.

SCRATCH9 #1 is available in the June Diamond Previews catalog for titles shipping in August (JUN10 0739).