Pay Attention! Comics News Round-Up 05/24/10

Farel Dalrymple does Spidey

Stranger Tales? Farel Dalrymple posted a quick preview of his Spider-Man/Silver Surfer short from the Strange Tales sequel. I think this is the first time we've gotten confirmation that Strange Tales 2 exists, and really, who can turn down more art from Farel Dalrymple? Speaking as a Spider-Man fan, I've gotta say that Dalrymple did a fantastic job. Thin, gangly, a little bit creepy… it don't get much better than that. If the rest of Strange Tales 2 is of this caliber, it's gonna be a killer.

GrahamBlog Brandon Graham has a new post! As usual, click through for tons of dope art, a little bit of which is NSFW, and a ton of funny ideas. Graham creates one of the two best comics on the stand (King City is neck and neck with John Arcudi, Mike Mignola, and Guy Davis's BPRD as far as I'm concerned) and his livejournal is like an shotgun blast of dope finds. I'd kill to know where he finds all of his old manga scans. Some of that stuff is incredible.

To Terra Kate Dacey is hosting this month's Manga Moveable Feast. The subject is Keiko Takemiya's three-volume work To Terra. Kate's first post provides a history of the series, details on the plot, and provides a little context for newcomers, as well. She also posted the first link roundup, with more to come throughout the week. The manga blogosphere is wildly diverse, and I look forward to seeing what critical essays, and differences of opinion, pop up during the MMF. Keep checking back, I think you'll be pretty entertained.

Colleen Coover is the best.

Might Knight Your Socks Off Laura Hudson interviewed Colleen Coover and the results were great. Coover is an immensely talented creator, and judging by this interview, an entertaining speaker, too. Colleen Coover, and the rest of Periscope Studio, has been involved in some of Marvel's best comics in recent memory. Coover has a style that I like a lot. Her art is clean, with very clear and instantly recognizable storytelling. She can draw kids that actually look like kids (something a lot of comic artists can't do), she does great emotions, and her layouts are impeccable. If I were to make a list of artists that deserve to be superstars, Coover would definitely be on it. She's currently doing introduction pages for Girl Comics, but holy crap someone please hire her to do Lois Lane, Intrepid Girl Reporter. I'm begging you here.

Moebius Strips Jean "Moebius" Giraud is one of those all-time greats as far as comics goes. He's versatile, whether working on Blueberry (a Western), The Incal (sci-fi), or Silver Surfer: Parable with Stan Lee. This gallery of his covers is worth skimming, at the very least. The post is entirely in Spanish, but the visuals are on point. This guy's good enough to make your heart skip a couple beats. I have a couple of French editions of his work kicking around somewhere, and I don't even mind that I can't read it. Good art is good art. You could easily describe this guy as "your favorite artist's favorite artist."

Mandarin Found Iron Man's arch-nemesis The Mandarin is a pretty problematic villain. He's steeped in Yellow Peril paranoia and pretty dated because of that. Tim O'Neil, though, has the solution. His take on the Mandarin is pretty nuanced, and features a revelation that makes me view Iron Man in an all-new light. Mandarin is still the front-runner for the next Iron Man movie, after being the subject of a fairly opaque subplot in the first two, and he'll definitely need some work to be acceptable. I think if the writers go with something like O'Neil's take, we'll be in for a rocking movie. For a fun bonus, Sean Witzke unearthed an old Paul Pope and Jim Krueger revamp of the Mandarin from Marvel's TimeSlip pinups from the '90s.

Light Years A Day

Light Years Before I Sleep Adam Rosenlund and Ethan Ede have been producing webcomics for a while now, but this week begins their first "event" for Light Years Away, their flagship strip. Adam and Ethan are going to be daily for this week. Seven strips, seven days, and a whole lot of sleepless nights, I'd bet. Adam's style is pretty insane and the strip is well worth checking out. All they ask is that if you read it and like it, to tell a friend. So, friends, go check them boys out. You can read the comic here.

Let's Fight Tom Spurgeon points out three arguments that comics fans should be having. I like all of his suggestions, especially number three. Spurgeon wants to know "What Are All These Superhero Comics Really Saying?" I don't know that I have anything even resembling an answer (I do have snarky jokes if you're interested), but it is a question that's worth answering. I love critical analysis of comics, and I'd love it if more superhero comics were produced that stood up to analysis beyond, "Yep, that two-page splash sure was cool!" Entertainment doesn't have to be empty, and I think you'll find that the best and most entertaining things say something or present a certain point of view. Look at Buffy's spin on horror movie cliches, or the creepy sexual aspect of HR Giger's work, or even the way the X-Men represents various marginalized peoples. You don't have to be preachy to have a point, y'know? Spurgeon's other questions, which are about why so many comic shops are still female unfriendly and the moral component of archival reprints, are also good. So, let's fight, all right? You go first.

CMX No More CMX, DC's manga publishing arm, shut down last week. It was a frustrating and disappointing move. Johanna Draper Carlson has a roundup of the reactions, which range from disappointed to angry to just plain sad. I've only read a few CMX books, but I thought they had a decent lineup. It's true that CMX never had a tentpole book like Naruto or Bleach, and I think that hurt it in the long run. Regardless, I hope the people who worked there land on their feet.

Tonci Zonjic, Heralds

Heralds Tonci Zonjic shares some art from an unnamed series that I'm pretty sure is the upcoming Heralds with Kathryn Immonen. That's pretty definitely Agent Brand of SWORD, isn't it? This guy's art never fails to impress me. Like Colleen Coover, his style is very easy on the eyes and clear, but still distinctive and interesting. His style doesn't even have a whiff of a house style, and he's great at body language, too. He's a guy to pay attention to. He was great on The Immortal Iron Fist and I expect he'll be just as good on Heralds. I think I like these brief tastes more than the previews most companies send out. It lets me see the art in high detail, a little bit of process, and is also a little… tantalizing. It's a tease.


David Brothers has been listening to Janelle Monae, B.o.B, Camp Lo, Minnie Ripperton, and Billie Holliday for the better part of a week. He writes at 4thletter!


  1. I don’t get the Moon Knight reference but I liked that mandarin stuff…

  2. Great roundup as always. The topic about critical analyses of comics is great.

    There’s two parts to the problem. The first is what you address when you say that you wish more comics were made that stand up to weighty criticism. This is true. Even good comics from celebrated creators are often superficial in terms of sociological meaning. Rucka’s take on Batwoman? It’s great and I’m glad a lesbian character has been given such a high-quality platform. But in terms of queer theory? The character is paper thin and doesn’t say anything cohesive or of extensive value. Brubaker’s Marvels Project? Cool historical story, but like almost all WWII comics the historicism is really nothing beyond what you’d read in two paragraphs in an elementary school textbook; there’s simply no deep, complex understanding of history shown–hence, nothing to really analyze in any rigorous way. Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men? The best the title has been in many years, and the "Prop X"/anti-mutant stuff was nice to see. But was it any better than what Claremont did in 40 pages of "God Loves, Man Kills"? No, and in fact Fraction is almost completely without nuance or depth in his anti-hate arguments. He simply repeats and mimicks what he sees in mainstream news headlines; there’s no complex portrayal of minorities worth really thinking about after you’re done reading through an issue of Uncanny the first time.

    So even some of the best superhero comics today simply aren’t made of complicated enough stuff to encourage deep analysis. The other side of the equation is simply the overwhelming majority of readers’ lack of interest in reading anything critically. This is their right, but all 99% of them want is straightforward entertainment. That’s fine, that’s understandable, but it’s ultimately boring if you’re one of the oddballs (like myself) who actually want more from comics and reader responses. Most of the time everything is discussed in terms of "good" or "bad", when really, if you’re going to analyze something critically, the extent to which a reader "liked" the material hardly even enters into the equation. What matters is unpacking the meaning of the work and drawing conclusions. But begin down that road on most comics sites, and the denizens will tell you you’re overthinking things. They’d rather give a book 5-stars because they think it’s funny and cute to see Volstagg on a Goblin Glider. That’s fine, but it means that such an online community simply isn’t a place to foster deeper, more complex UNDERSTANDING (as distinct from ENTERTAINMENT) of art.

    Even the aforementioned otherwise good titles (Rucka’s Batwoman, Bru’s Marvels Project, Fraction’s X-Men) could still be analyzed critically. What that would probably mean, however, would be to examine the works in terms of their deficiencies, in terms of pointing out how they effectively "overlook" or exclude certain types of information that WOULD make them more sociologically pertinent. I would guess that usually these exclusions are made so that the comic can simply be more "fun" and straightfoward. Unfortunately, again, anyone starting down this path would be told by the choir that a reader shouldn’t "overthink" things this way and that comics are meant to be enjoyed for "fun", not to look beneath the surface level.

    Sometimes on a site like this there will be a glimmer of hope for an more extensive level of reading, but almost always it won’t pan out. I remember when Josh made an issue of Batman & Robin his pick of the week, and in his review he professed to be really excited about figuring out the mystery of what happened to Bruce Wayne. But then he didn’t even discuss the following issue of the run, and the issue after that he said how bored he was by the "clues". So often a reader will trick himself into thinking he wants to critically read a comic, only–when the time comes to actually read critically–he discovers that he doesn’t want to actually put the work in. This isn’t a criticism of Josh; it’s just something I’ve noticed. All most people want is pure surface-level entertainment; anything deeper simply doesn’t appeal to them.

  3. @Frogg: You’re probably kind of right with that.

    I’d love to organize a semi-regular skype conference with folks willing to discuss deeper underlying themes in superhero comic-books.

    There is no escaping that it is an"elitist" pursuit. It requires a lot of energy that I don’t always have. I tried it under the Power Girl review and it kind of went sour. It can be exhausting if you’re not discussing these things in the correct context.

  4. That’s a good looking Spider-Man right there. So excited for the Strange Tales sequel. One of the few things that was practically ‘A+’ material by Marvel from last year.

  5. There is a danger in seeking philosophical, political, religious fulfillment from all your art and it comes down to the purpose of art.

    Let’s take music. I listen to a lot of music. A lot of rap music and while I love provocative music that makes me think like Brother Ali or KRS-One, I will still rock Jay-Z or some Lil’ Jon.

    I don’t need "intelligent" music all the time. Aesthetics are still important. Entertainment is still important.

    The smartest rap with the most boring flow over the crappiest production is not going to get any love just cuz it is philosophical.

    In the end, I’d argue that if you are going to be a zealot for "intelligent" comics, you are better off picking up a book and studying Hume and Kant than trying to get your intellectual stimulation from Superman.

    Basically, I’m saying I don’t need all art to stimulate my intellect when there are better ways to get exposed to the great ideas that humanity has created.

  6. @Scorpion: That’s roughly what I think but I still think there is a lack of balance. Mostly, comic book discussion amounts to "I like it, I don’t like it". I think there’s room for a bit more… passion, if you will. 🙂

  7. I agree with you. Both ends of the spectrum can be equally frustrating. People who are thoroughly entertained by mindless bullshit are just as foolish as people who can only find value in the "deep" bullshit.

    I have two gauges for enjoying pop entertainment.

    1) Has to have internal logic.

    2) Has to have more than just spectacle: I want some good characters, dialogue, ideas themes not just amazing action.

    You got those two things and I’m down to enjoy almost any form of storytelling.

    Music is a bit different.

  8. @froggulper: I don’t buy that people only want surface-level entertainment at all, in part of the reasons I talk about in the post. People still watch and discuss and enjoy Die Hard/Heat/The Killer, but no one cares about Blue Streak/Passenger 57. The same goes for Kraven’s Last Hunt/God Loves, Man Kills/Dark Knight Returns vs Maximum Carnage/X-cutioner’s Song/Batman: Contagion. People liked all six of those. Three of them actually had something to say. The other three didn’t.

    People enjoy surface-level, empty entertainment. I don’t think anyone is denying that. But, the stuff that stands the test of time, the stuff people love, rather than watch on TNT at 3 in the morning, tends to be the things that have a point. It says something other than "this guy with two guns has a funny one-liner forty-six minutes in."

    @ScorpionMasada: No one is asking that everything be intelligent or that Superman begin delivering treatises on the difference between Heidegger and Plato. No one here is a "zealot," either. I just think that having a little more depth in the average comic would make comics more interesting and more fun to talk about, to boot. Empty entertainment only goes so far. Things that have some merit have legs. Scrubs look at blaxploitation as violent stories about guys who talk funny, pimps, and pushers, but there is a depth to the good blaxploitation films that made the genre an American classic. Those movies are about struggle, being marginalized but still finding justice, empowerment, and what it means to be black in America.

    Depth counts. There’s nothing about comics, even superhero comics, that makes it a poor delivery system for strong stories. I’d argue that comics are perfect for that. Even in your music point–Jay-Z is far from being empty entertainment. If he was empty, he would’ve gone the way of all the other Biggie clones. He’d be washing cars with Guerilla Black right now if he didn’t have that depth of subject matter that made his career.

  9. I realize that no one is calling for that in this thread. But there are people out there that will not touch a mainstream comic (Marvel/DC) because it isn’t deep enough. froggulper’s post just got me thinking in that vein.

    Same goes with rap music.

    Jay-Z wasn’t mentioned because he makes stupid music. He was mentioned because he happens to be the most successful mainstream rapper for the longest period of time. (Jay-Z is also not a Biggie clone).

    That reactionary impulse annoys me.

    Purely because he sells a lot of records and his raps revolve around certain topics makes a lot of "underground" heads hate him.

    I question people that feel a desperate need for all of the art they consume to somehow be enlightening.

    There are much more efficient ways to become "enlightened" than listening to rap/music, watching a TV/movie, or reading a comic.

    Strong stories do not always have to appeal to our intellect. They can also appeal to our emotions.

    I agree with most of your points.

  10. most comic book discussion (even on this site) is usually blind praise or obsessive nitpicking. Or worse…praise because of personal nostalgia. Seems like every review is a 5/5 just because it made it to the store. If you dare to not like a book people jump down your throat and say that you just don’t get it because you haven’t followed so and so’s run for the past decade. I’ve heard the terms "exquisite and breathtaking" overused to describe stuff thats pretty generic and systematic. 

    Objectivity suffers because comic readers have obsessive personal relationships with characters/titles/artists/writers. And with that comes the sameness that are comic’s biggest strength and weakness. I could put down Superman or Batman for a decade and come back knowing not much has changed.I love it, but it also bores me.  

    Don’t mean to rant, but these are just some of the frustrations i’ve had with comics and discussion as of late.  

  11. @wallythegreenomster: Or maybe there are people with different tastes than you who, for various reasons, would find something equisite that you find generic.

  12. I ranted so rant.

    I’d just open your rant up a bit more. People always have their favorites in every medium that either shields the creator or opens the creator up to criticism.

    I also think way too many 5 ratings are given out. I may have to refamiliarize myself with the scale here, but a 5 rating should mean something amazing cuz a 4 is a hella good rating already.

    Take the hip hop magazines (The Source/XXL). They rarely give out 5s cuz they mean classic or perfect.

    If someone cannot back up their opinions of art, that is a problem.

  13. @conor–well yes taste is one thing, but really i was talking about comics for the large part has a lot of same-ness in the illustration you see week in and week out and the universal praise for stuff thats largely subtle variations of the same thing. As much as comic art has evolved since its inception has it really grown and evolved as much as say painting or other forms of illustration and design in that same time period? I’d argue that it hasn’t.

    There’s so much more than can be done with sequential storytelling than what we see in the vast majority of mainstream comics. Comic layouts, panels, rendering styles, typography….its all subtle variations of the same flavor. As much as i love it, i also get bored by it. 

    I was also speaking to hyperbole being thrown about in reviews and objectivity being blinded by obsessive following of characters. That expected same-ness is one of the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the medium. 

  14. HOLY CRAP!

    I just saw the Silver Surfer art by James Stokoe on the Brandon Graham Blog.  My brain exploded!

    Everyone should check it out

  15. Fat Baby! 

    I just read Light Years Away, and it’s pretty good…but Fat Baby!  This is a great web strip!  It starts out comedy, then adds alternating crime and fantasy strips;  all part of the same story!  Great illustrations!  

    Thanks, David.  I’ve enjoyed all your Pay Attention! posts.  

    Fat Baby!!!