Friday, May 31, 2013

C2E2 2013 PANELS: AVATAR PRESS



Big surprise:  the trend continues, and Avatar Press panels remain very small affairs.  There couldn’t have been more than 20 people in the room, including me.  Here’s the big disappointment:  Mike Wolfer couldn’t make it.  He was too busy working on Max Brooks’s new book, EXTINCTION PARADE.



That left us with one of Avatar’s executives, Jim Kuhoric, the creative director.  That’s right, a one-man panel.  Remember my first year, when they had Wolfer, Jacen Burrows, Brian Pulido, and William Christensen?  How awesome was that?  And now we just get Kuhoric?



Let me be clear, I liked the guy.  He was very nice.  But he tended to be a bit monotone, unless someone asked him a question which amused him.  Not a good way to get across your plans for the next year.



Regardless of his delivery, he did bring us lots and lots of news.  Oh yeah, I mentioned that Max Brooks has a new book with them, right?  EXTINCTION PARADE, which is going to be out on June 19, a day before the WORLD WAR Z movie is released.  Its Brooks’s take on zombies vs. vampires, but it’s not as cheap as it sounds.  He’s working with a lot of social commentary, according to Kuhoric, so it should be pretty interesting.  It’s based on a short story Brooks wrote, and it’s going to be 11 issues long.



Kuhoric talked about UBER from Kieron Gillen.  For those who don’t know, it’s about what would happen if Germany came up with actual supermen before the end of the war, and how that changes the outcome.  Kuhoric says that it doesn’t just automatically show Germany winning the war, but just how that CHANGES the war and the nature of reality.  Personally, I didn’t care for UBER, but we’ll see where it goes.



Speaking of Gillen, he’s also got another book coming out from Avatar called THE HEAT, but Kuhoric didn’t talk much about it.



Remember when Avatar worked with George R.R. Martin a while ago?  Well, he’s got a new book coming out from them called SKIN TRADE, based on the novella he wrote a while ago.  Many of you probably don’t remember, but it was published in NIGHT VISIONS 5, otherwise known as THE SKIN TRADE with short stories by Stephen King and Dan Simmons, as well.  It’s an amazing volume, even though I’m of the opinion that Martin’s piece is the weakest of the bunch.  Kuhoric also suggested that Martin might cover superheroes after this one.



Finally!  Two years ago, they announced a follow up to Christos Gage’s ABSOLUTION, which would be called ABSOLUTION:  RUBICON.  Well, that kind of dropped off the face of the earth.  Good news!  It’s coming soon!  And in one throwaway remark, Kuhoric mentioned something about Gage working on CROSSED, so it would seem that he’s the next writer on the BADLANDS series.



Looking for more Alan Moore news?  It looks like he’s teamed up with Jacen Burrows on another Lovecraft project, this one called PROVIDENCE.  It’s being advertised as a follow-up to NEONOMICON.



Here is a bit of unexpected news:  Boundless, the imprint Avatar publishes LADY DEATH and WAR GODDESS under, has been put on hiatus.  I suppose it’s not performing as well as they’d like, and they’re reevaluating everything.  It will return soon with new LADY DEATH and a few other titles that Kuhoric couldn’t discuss at this time.



They also announced that they would soon have issues available from Comixology, if that’s your thing.



And then there’s CROSSED, but you already know about the webisodes coming soon from Garth Ennis, and the new webcomic, not to mention the one they actually have going on right now.  Actually, this segment turned into Garth Ennis news, rather than CROSSED news.  He’ll have a new SF book coming out from them soon that is supposed to be ALIEN-ish.  There’s also a war story, which I suspect is the submarine story he mentioned at a Dynamite panel two years ago.  And there’s another book, too, something that is along the lines of Evan Dorkin’s BEASTS OF BURDEN.  I don’t know if I like the sounds of that last one, but he handled the talking rabbit in THE CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD pretty well, so . . . .



By this point, we’d reached the Q&A session, and most of the questions were about how people could submit work to Avatar.  But there were some interesting questions.  One person asked about the two incomplete Warren Ellis series.  Kuhoric jokingly said that Ellis still owes them scripts, but they would really like to continue working with him.  Someone else asked him if they ever received hate mail due to the extreme nature of their work.  They very rarely get such correspondence, and Kuhoric thinks it’s mainly because people who pick up an Avatar book know what they’re going to get.



And then there were my questions.  I asked him who he would want to work on CROSSED, if he had the choice.  He said there were a few writers and artists he couldn’t talk about at this point, but he’d really like to see what Tim Seeley would do on the book.  I also mentioned that the most extreme thing I’d ever seen outside of Avatar was Howard Chaykin’s work on his BLACK KISS titles.  Since BLACK KISS 2 came out late last year, I asked if Avatar tried to get the title.  They did.  They would love to work with Chaykin, considering how Harlan Ellison-esque he is.  The man speaks his mind without fear, which means he’d be a perfect fit for Avatar.



Then I asked if there was anything Avatar wouldn’t put in their books.  He didn’t think so.  They’d never turned down something in the past for being too extreme.  This led to a question about the CROSSED videogame I’d heard about two years ago.  Yes, they still wanted to do it, but there is nothing going on in regards to it at this time.  Kuhoric thinks videogame companies are afraid of something like this, and fair enough.  If there was an outcry over GRAND THEFT AUTO 3, CROSSED might crack the world in two.  At one point, Kuhoric glanced around the room, looking for children.  When he found none, he said, “What would the weapons be for a game like that?  Would you be able to kill people with a horse cock?”



Yes.  Once again, horse cock has been mentioned at an Avatar panel, and I couldn’t be happier.



Which reminds me, you better fucking believe that I asked about the new DICKS books.  Finally, it can be said:  DICKS 3 is happening.  A few issues are even finished, but at this time, it’s not on the schedule.



And that’s it.  So yeah, we have a lot to look forward to from Avatar Press.  If you’re not onboard with them yet, what the fuck are you doing reading this?  Get on CROSSED, CALIGULA, DICKS, FERALS, DAN THE UNHARMABLE, and everything else that they publish.  Do so immediately.  They’re doing some of the best work in the industry at this time.




P.S.  Every time I see William Christensen, I try to get an interview with him.  Sadly, he was not there this year.  Not that I expected to finally score the interview, but I would have liked to at least try.  The guy has an amazing eye for talent, and something tells me his sensibilities run in the exact same direction as mine.  I think such an interview would have been a showstopper.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

C2E2 2013 REVIEW: OH, HELL #1



First of all, the title grabs you by the balls.  How could you pass up a book called OH, HELL?  It already has its claws in you, but does it succeed in keeping them there?



This is the story of a group of kids who have been sent to a special kind of juvie by their parents.  Instead of an actual institution, this juvie hall is really Hell.  Not metaphorically.  No, writer G. Wassil means it literally.  It is generally accepted that these kids are problem children, but it is unclear as to the purpose of sending them Down There.  Are these demons supposed to whip these kids into shape?  Or is this just a trash receptacle for lost causes?



That’s the main problem with this issue:  while it introduces the situation, it doesn’t introduce the conflict.  As a result, it leans too heavily on the characters.  If a writer has great characters, that shouldn’t be a problem.  While Wassil doesn’t have weak characters, he doesn’t have them fleshed out enough to hold one’s attention yet.  He falls back on a few clich├ęs, hoping that they’ll fill the gaps.



It should be noted that this was originally a webcomic, and it’s now being collected in physical form.  As such, it’s not structured like a regular comic book.  It ends on the drop of a hat.  There is tension there, but it’s not the cliffhanger it should have been.



Artist Dave Hamann fares a bit better.  His work is perfect for this kind of story.  It leans in a bit of a Ryan Ottley direction, but that’s not entirely bad.  This is essentially a horror book for high schoolers.



This book should probably be viewed from a greater perspective.  There isn’t enough in this first issue to truly judge it.  Maybe approaching it from the webcomic angle would be better, but from an issue by issue basis, it has promise, but isn’t impressive.



OH, HELL #1
Written by G. Wassil
Illustrated by Dave Hamann
Published by Oh, Hell Comics
25 pages

$5

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

C2E2 2013: MEETING JIMMY PALMIOTTI



Ladies and gentlmen, after being a huge JONAH HEX fan for nearly 15 years, I finally have a few issues signed.  No, none of the classics, sadly, but they’re still kick-ass issues.  The first five from the new JONAH HEX.  Not the ALL-STAR Hex, but when he first came back after Lansdale’s final run.



At first, I was going to thank Jimmy Palmiotti for finally getting Hex out of Gotham, back to his element, but I didn’t want to become the whiny fan, and besides, Palmiotti was too nice to take shit from me, since thanking him for that would mean complaining about the storyline (and the stupid sidekick idea).  In fact, aside from James Cosmo, Palmiotti was probably the happiest to be there.  He greeted me with one of the strongest, most enthusiastic handshakes I’ve ever experienced at a show, and he had one of the most natural smiles I’ve ever come across.  He was eager to talk about Hex, and when I told him I had every appearance, he was all the more excited to talk about the book.  He strikes me as an actual longtime fan of the book, which is rare in this day and age of making classic characters “their own,” whoever “they” might be.




I should mention that I met Palmiotti before the DC New 52 panel, at which some awful news about the future of Hex was revealed.  Chances are, I would have still played nice, because Palmiotti is a hell of a guy and I like him, but part of me would have wanted to beg him to abandon this foolish idea.  Besides, the story’s done already.  There’s no going back.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

C2E2 2013 REVIEW: TEUTON, VOL. 1



Men of God versus the pagan horde.  It’s a story as old as Christianity, and the Dark Ages seems to be the perfect setting for such stories.  TEUTON uses just such a stage, but almost right away, you can tell something is different about this one.



One of the pagan leaders is a man named Aras, and early on in the story, while praying to his gods, one of them actually answers him.  That’s right, in this book, the gods are real, and they like meddling in the affairs of humanity.



If Aras is the embodiment of the pagans, then Tamm is the representative of the One True God.  Like most soldiers, he’s tired of the bloodshed, yet he has resigned himself to what seems like a never-ending conflict.  His faith is strong, but he knows exactly how fucked up this war is.



Both Aras and Tamm seem destined to clash, to put their respective faiths to the test, to see whose gods are stronger.  But the road to such a climax is long and fraught with many perils, many monsters, and many blood-soaked skirmishes.



Writer Fred Kennedy is clearly a fan of the fantasy genre, and it is clear that he researched his subject matter very deeply.  Not only is the plot amazing, the characters are incredibly well drawn.  Aras is a fucking stone, unwavering in his certainty that he’s doing his gods’ work; and so is Tamm, who refuses to budge, no matter the circumstances.  In one scene, Tamm has been tortured by Aras’s men, and he refuses to give the location of a pagan relic his former commander had stolen.  When one of the pagan gods learns of his presence, he decides to take a turn, only to find that Tamm has brass balls the size of church bells.  Get this:  Tamm promises to tell the god where the relic is only if the god can beat him in battle.



Holy fuck, right?  A mere mortal is willing to take on a god in battle?!  In many ways, this makes him stronger than ArasAras is certain of his gods because he’s actually talked with them.  They really exist.  All Tamm has is prayer; he’s never seen God.  Yet he believes so strongly that he’s willing to take on something he cannot possibly beat on his own, and he shows no fear about it.



Artist Adam Gorham is the perfect match for work like this.  He depicts battles that jump off the page, gods that radiate intimidation, monsters with amazing detail, and just about anything Kennedy would need him to do.  In black and white, it lends a nice stark feel to the work.



There is another volume out there already.  Kennedy and Gorham are working on the third and final volume.  Get on board, before it’s too late.



TEUTON, vol. 1
Written by Fred Kennedy
Illustrated by Adam Gorham
Published by Big Sexy Comics
A whole buncha’ great pages!

$10

Monday, May 27, 2013

C2E2 2013: THE WILDSTORM CHRONICLES #3: MEETING PATTON OSWALT



Honestly, I didn’t expect that I would get to meet Patton Oswalt.  I wanted to, but I knew his line would be impossibly long, and there would be no chance of getting in there.  Still, on the off-chance that I did manage to succeed, I wanted to bring one thing for him to sign.  I have a bunch of movies and TV shows he’d been on, but I wanted something a bit more personal.  The only stand-up work I have of his is digital, and I wasn’t about to ask him to sign my laptop.



And then it hit me.  Holy shit, he wrote a part of the “Masks” storyline in WILDSTORM PRESENTS!  Why not bring that along?



Like I said, I knew it would be super-hard to meet him, because he was only signing for an hour.  30 minutes of that would be spent by me in the IDW panel, which I had to cover.  It went the whole time, too, so I only had a half an hour to make it down to Oswalt’s autographing table and stand in a line that would probably be too long.



Sure enough, when I got there, I had 15 minutes to go before he had to go, and the C2E2 employee told me and a few other latecomers that Oswalt strictly had to leave at the top of the hour.  Great.  I looked at that line and knew there was no way in hell I’d get up there.  But fuck it.  At that time, I didn’t have anything else going on.  Might as well take the chance.



I’m glad I did.  The line moved super fast, and the reason was because he was rushing through the signing, hoping to get everyone before the next celebrity showed up to take over.  I knew I’d only have a few words with him while he signed the one thing I’d brought along.



At the very top of the hour, I made it to his table.  I greeted him and told him it was nice to meet him.  And then I put the issue of WILDSTORM PRESENTS down on the table, and he looked very confused.  For the third time that day, someone whose work was in the book had no idea what they were looking at.



“I don’t think I’m in this one,” he said.



I told him that he did a part of “Masks” with Amanda Conner, and then he snapped into recognition.  He told me that, surprise, he hadn’t seen this one.  He signed it as quickly as he could and sent me on my way.  I had time for just one final sentence:  “You’re great on JUSTIFIED!”



He smiled graciously and thanked me as the next fan rushed to meet him.




There were two more people in the book that were at the convention.  As it turned out Brian Azzarello wasn’t doing a signing, so I wasn’t able to get him, but that left Doug Mahnke . . . .

Friday, May 24, 2013

C2E2 PANEL: IDW

http://www.one-quest.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/idwpublishing.jpg



I got to this one a little early, surprised to see how many people were already in the room.  This surprised IDW’s Dirk Wood, as well.  “Are you guys here for the IDW panel?” he asked, confused.  To his shock, everyone said yes.



Shortly, he was joined by Ted Adams, Andy Diggle, Phil Hester, Menton3, and latecomer Mike Costa.  Then, since there were so many of us, they decided to start early.



Wood led the charge, and I have to say I was impressed with his presence.  His deep voice boomed across the room, and he seemed very much at ease, almost to the point of cockiness.  He had a Han Solo-ish kind of charm as he addressed all of us.  If only all comics companies had a guy like him for their public announcements.



First up was Star Trek news.  For a while, they’ve been building up to the movie with their prologue, and about a week after the film debuts, they’re going to release their epilogue, which takes up exactly where the movie ends.  The prologue—COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS—has a bunch of easter eggs hidden in it that no one will apparently understand until they see the movie.  Interesting.



And now they have X-FILES news!  Coming soon, season 10!  That’s right, Chris Carter has given IDW his blessing.  This is how the series would have continued if it had been given the chance.



They also announced something called WILD BLUE YONDER, which is creator owned.  It’s nice that they do that every once in a while.  While they own some pretty kick ass properties (and some that are not so kick ass), it’s good to have some creator owned work out there from this company.  It worked out pretty well for LOCKE & KEY, didn’t it?



Do you like TMNT?  They have a new storyline coming up called “City Fall,” which is supposed to be a big deal.  I don’t care much for the series, but that might mean something for someone out there.



KISS KIDS?!  Really?  For everything that IDW does correctly, there are maybe two turds they give birth to.  KISS comics was bad enough.  Now they have to go the route of LI’L ARCHIE?



Here’s something kind of cool:  SUPERMAN SILVER AGE DAILIES ’58-’61.  People care so much about comic books that they forget that a lot of their favorite characters had comic strips in newspapers for years.  Personally, I don’t give a shit, but I’m glad to see a generally forgotten art form is going to survive through this.



In related news, they have more Artists Editions coming soon.  These books are huge, like the size of actual comic book paper, and they look like they just came off the artist’s desk, blue lines and all.  The next one they’re doing is THE BEST OF EC, and it’s all hard to find stuff.  They’ve done Jack Davis, Will Eisner, and Sergio Aragones, and they show no sign of slowing down.



In July, they have a Rocketeer/Spirit crossover with DC done by Mark Waid and Paul Smith.  If that’s your thing.



Phil Hester is working on THUNDER AGENTS.  Apparently, this is a classic book with superheroes done right.  Their powers come with a price:  whenever they use them, it takes years off their lives, or it gives them great pain, or they lose more and more of their souls.  When these guys die, they stay dead.  In the words of Chris Ryall, “With great power comes great paychecks.”  This actually sounds pretty cool to me, so I’ll have to look into the originals before giving the new stuff a try when it comes out in August.



Coming soon:  WIZARDS & ROBOTS by will.i.am with covers by Menton3.  Speaking of Menton, he’s got something new coming soon called MEMORY COLLECTORS.  Menton says that he was kind of put off by people saying that MONOCYTE was an amazing book, but it was also confusing as all hell.  His goal this time out is to have a clearer story and some sexiness to it.



Ah.  Some G.I. JOE news.  Costa does the COBRA FILES book, which is my favorite of the new titles.  He has an announcement to make:  the next story arc will be the most devastating he’s ever done.  While he is introducing new Cobra characters, he says that in #7, all characters will be emotionally destroyed.  At least, those who survive.  Any other book (including JOE books), I wouldn’t believe it.  Costa’s got a stone where a heart should be, so I believe him.



LOCKE & KEY NEWS!  Joe Hill has been saying that “Omega” is the final story arc.  Well, not anymore.  He couldn’t finish it all in “Omega,” so now there is going to be one more story arc beyond called “Alpha.”  It’s two issues long, and it will be the end of the series.



Wood talked a bit about how IDW wound up working with Hill.  Adams had read 20th CENTURY GHOSTS when it was only available in the UK, and he was really impressed with it, so he contacted Hill, eager to work with him.  LOCKE & KEY is the result of that.  No one at IDW knew Hill’s dark secret at the time.  In fact, when it was revealed that Hill is Stephen King’s son, it took them all by surprise . . . until they actually met him and saw how much like his old man he looks.



All right, now for some bad news:  IDW has acquired POWERPUFF GIRLS through a deal with Cartoon Network, in which they also got Samurai Jack and Ben10 and a number of others.  They also have Rocky and Bullwinkle now, as well.  And yes, they also have Sherman and Peabody.  I could see Samurai Jack, but the others?  Do we really need to bring Gold Key-type stuff back?



They announced a collection of something called THE RED STAR, but I don’t know what that is.



Remember those joke MARS ATTACKS covers they came up with a while back?  They decided to make one of them a reality:  MARS ATTACKS VS. JUDGE DREDD.  *sigh*  Yes, that’s going to be a thing.



Whoa!  IDW is bringing back Kevin Eastman’s classic, ZOMBIE WARS?!  When Wood asked the audience if anyone else remembered this series, I was the only one who clapped.  They’re going to reprint the originals and do some new material.  That’s pretty fucking amazing and completely unexpected.



The last announcement was for something called THE OTHER DEAD, which will apparently be an animal zombie book.  I have zero expectations for that.



They opened it up to questions, and because they’re promoting KILL SHAKESPEARE, they said that anyone who posed their question in a Shakespearean fashion would get prizes.  I probably could have done it, but I was really hungover and didn’t care enough.  However, two audience members managed to do so.  One of them was a bit herky-jerky, but the other did pretty fucking well.



I asked if they had any plans to work with Joe R. Lansdale again (since he did so well with the Lovecraft and Bloch adaptations).  Nope.  No plans, but like with Joe Hill, they have an open door policy for Lansdale.  Anytime he wants to come in and play, they’ll accommodate him.



I also asked about the possibility of doing a new INFESTATION series, but with the POWERPUFF GIRLS.  All right, I was maybe trolling them a bit with that one.  Wood didn’t rise to the bait.  He joked that it could happen.  At least, I hope it was a joke.



My last question was that since they’d picked up so many ‘Eighties properties, would they be picking up SECTAURS as well?  I baffled everyone in the room except for Costa, who wound up explaining it to the others.  Wood said they were open to ideas.  In fact, I got the impression that one of the reasons for doing this panel was not only to make announcements about new projects, but also to gather ideas for new projects from fan suggestions.



So maybe we’ll get new SECTAURS stuff from IDW soon.  Probably not, but if we do, you’re welcome.



I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t talk TRANSFORMERS, but that was all right.  I had plenty of fun, and I learned a lot of cool shit.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

C2E2 2013 REVIEW: HEAD SMASH



It’s hard to discuss this book, mostly because it’s just a sample of a bigger graphic novel that is scheduled to be published later.  There is a lot going on within these pages, but not enough of the plot is revealed to be fairly talked about.



An orphanage kid by the name of Smash is one day cornered by his fellow orphans, who think he’s a good target to be bullied.  They are wrong, because he’s a savage fighter.  He throws a rock at the head of one of them, and he breaks a bottle across the face of another.  These actions bring him to the attention of Maurice, who recruits soldiers for the Horde.  He hangs out in places like this because he knows some of the best warriors are those who have already lost their families.



Maurice takes Smash under his wing, and before long, Smash has grown up to be an operative.  His mission?  To retrieve a serum from a mad scientist.  What is the serum?  It’s never explained, but it is dangerous.  Where will this lead us?  Who knows?



Writers Vlad Yudin and Erik Hendrix are ruthless in their depiction of violence.  Smash is very good at it, and where he walks, he leaves blood and broken bones in his wake.  They’ve created an interesting character in an interesting situation, and while it’s a nice tease to interest readers into buying the complete book, it’s not enough.



Well, maybe.  The character is certainly captivating enough, but the stakes are so unclear it’s hard to gauge how eager a reader would be to continue Smash’s adventures.  However, there is a great moment when Maurice kills a traitor, and with his face still spattered with blood from the kill, he starts eating ice cream.  Very funny, and very unsettling.



Artist Dwayne Harris is the perfect match for this work.  He hits all the right marks, and he makes everything look as nasty as it needs to be.  His style with blood is a little bit forced, except when Maurice kills the traitor, but this is a minor quibble.



It looks like this book is going places, and it’s definitely worth checking out.



HEAD SMASH PREVIEW
Written by Vlad Yudin and Erik Hendrix
Illustrated by Dwayne Harris
Published by Arcana
20 pages

$5

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

C2E2 2013: MEETING JASON HOWARD




Jason Howard is one of the few people I met at C2E2 for the first time.  I’d loved his work on THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN for Image, and when I saw him in Artists Alley, I jumped at the opportunity to talk with him about the book.



He seemed to really miss working with that character, and he implied that sales weren’t all that great for the book, hence its early demise.  We talked about the Wolf-Man’s appearances in INVINCIBLE, and he always seems to get a kick out of that.  He says he hopes that Kirkman will bring him back to his own book.  I agree.  Even though it’s a superhero book (and I hate superheroes), it’s quirky and fucked up enough for me to enjoy it.  Also, Kirkman is as relentless as ever with these characters, just like he is with INVINCIBLE (another of the few good superhero books) and THE WALKING DEAD.



Just as I was packing up, I saw a poster for SCATTERLANDS, and I nearly slapped my forehead for forgetting about that.  I mentioned the online comic and said it was an amazing concept—one panel a day—but it seems that the story is on hiatus.  It’s too bad.  A hiatus for that kind of format is essentially death.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

C2E2 2013 REVIEW: TERMINAL ALICE




Take a look at that cover, and understand the one important thing about this book:  it is exactly what it looks like, and nothing more.



Meet Alex, Laura, Ilena, Cara, and Eve (ALICE, get it?!).  They are five extremely beautiful hitwomen, and someone has just taken out a contract on all of them.  One million dollars a head.  They decide to strike back in an attempt to save their own lives.



It’s all right for what it is.  The problem is, that’s it.  If you like watching beautiful women killing people in fairly gory ways, then you should give this book a try.  If you’re looking for something with a bit more meat . . . well, you might want to cast your line elsewhere.



There is one thing writer Jeff Kaufman does well, and that’s describe Alex’s relationship with her father.  She was raised to be a hitwoman by a hitman father and a KGB spy mother.  Very ALIAS of them, but the way Alex interacts with her father is pretty interesting, especially when he tries to teach her life lessons by letting her deal with being hunted on her own.  Well, kind of.



But the rest of his time, Kaufman is too busy squandering precious pages on bad dialogue, and it’s really, really bad.  At one point, one of the killer women complains about getting her nails damaged in a battle, because she’d just had them done.  Really.  That’s to say nothing of the rest of the crap that gets spouted throughout this story.



Another problem is that so much of the beginning is padded out, it kills the pacing.  Even though we’re introduced to the conflict early on, it takes maybe 30 pages to get the action to progress.  Not good.  Even worse, Kaufman repeats himself when it comes to introducing these characters.  Each woman has her quirk, and he relentlessly strikes upon it over and over again in a sloppy attempt at characterization.



This is to say nothing about the incredibly bad twist in the end.  At first, it seems unexpected, and one might mistake it for clever, but the more one thinks about it, the more one realizes that it’s completely unnecessary, and it doesn’t make much sense.



This is a definite style-over-content kind of book.  At least artist Marco Turini gives you exactly what you would expect from such a book.  Well, except tits, because these guys think they’re too high class to go all the way.



All in all, it’s not a bad book, but it’s not good either.  Unless this is your thing, you should pass.



TERMINAL ALICE
Written by Jeff Kaufman
Illustrated by Marco Turini
Published by Zenescope
Too many pages to count (why can’t we just number pages anymore?)
$10

Monday, May 20, 2013

C2E2 2013: THE WILDSTORM CHRONICLES #2: MEETING JILL THOMPSON



All right, I’d met Jill Thompson before, and I always bring some of her stranger work for her to sign.  Anyone else remember FINALS around here?  I didn’t think so.  This time, I had my copy of WILDSTORM PRESENTS, and I stood in her line and watched as a couple of reporters interviewed her.  They also seemed to be fans, because they walked away with a signed print.



I finally got up to her and dropped a few bucks in the charity jar.  However, when I presented her with the book, she shook her head.  “I’m not in this.”



Where have I heard that before?



“Oh no.  You’re in there, all right,” I said.  I was about to point out which story was hers when she started flipping through the pages.



“I don’t remember any of this stuff.  Are you sure?  That’s Deathblow.  I don’t really do that kind of work.”



I was about to tell her which page to turn to when her jaw dropped, and she looked even more surprised than Amanda Conner.  “This is that ‘Masks’ story!  I love this story!  It’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever worked on!”



And then, she went on to tell me what went into the writing of this piece.  It’s essentially a superhero version of COPS.  In order to get in the right frame of mind, Thompson told me that she’d watched a ton of COPS episodes, and she was always surprised by the stupid criminals.  Her favorite was of a guy who tried running from the police . . . while wearing shoes that light up when you take a step.  The guy was absolutely baffled as to how the cops found him each and every time.  “I just kept thinking, look down at your feet, stupid!”



It was at this point that I started realizing that I had something special here.  No one who did the book remembers doing it, but as soon as they see their own work, they start gushing over how awesome it is.  I started wondering if I was the only one in history who owns a copy.  Clearly, the writers and artists didn’t.  Thompson told me she’d never seen it before.



Who else could I confuse and delight with this book?

Friday, May 17, 2013

C2E2 2013: THE NEW 52 PANEL




All right, this was the panel I was least interested in.  I don’t care much for DC (just like I don’t care much for Marvel).  I only read their books when it’s a character I love (which is rare), or if a book is written by a writer I respect.  Not surprisingly, it was the most overcrowded panel I attended at the con.  Standing room only.



You know why I went there.  I have only 2 DC interests, and believe you me, these days they are waning.  I didn’t even know who most of the panelists were.  I recognized Peter Tomasi, Bob Harras, and Doug Mahnke, but I had to resort to the internet to identify the others as Bobbie Chase, Charles Soule, Sterling Gates, Kyle Higgins, Aaron Kuder, and Patrick Gleason.



(Before I go any further, I should mention a pretty decent thing the DC folks are doing:  We Can Be Heroes.  It’s an Indiegogo charity to fight hunger.  They’ve raised more than 2 million so far.  You can get some pretty cool stuff, like exclusives, special editions, extras, all sorts of stuff.  If you buy these things, DC matches your donation.  Not bad, eh?)



Anyway, I didn’t really care much about what their topics, for the most part.  They say there are no plans for a new Robin just yet, but then they hinted that there might be a new Robin soon.  You know, the usual Big Two bullshit.  In the meantime, they’re portraying Batman going through the five stages of grief, and at the same time, it looks like Nightwing has moved to Chicago.  That got a cheer out of the room.  It would seem that the guy who killed Dick Grayson’s parents is still alive and living under an assumed name.  Nightwing is in Chicago hunting him down.  The villain sounds like a SAW ripoff.  That could be cool, but ultimately, it’s not a thing for me.  Oh yeah, and the new Batwing is the son of Lucius Fox.  They also talked about SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, which is coming out the Wedneday just before the new Superman movie is released.  Scott Snyder is writing that one, but hell.  It’s Superman.  I can’t bring myself to care.



The stuff I was there for:  John Constantine and Jonah Hex, of course.  It would seem that the DC writers have been planning something called the Trinity War in the Justice League books from the start of the New 52, and that includes JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, for some reason.  It involves Pandora and the Phantom Stranger.  I kind of like the Phantom Stranger, but he does not need his own book.  Am I the only one saying that?  Guys like him can’t have their own books.  They need to be enigmatic, showing up in other people’s books from time to time.  If you give him his own book, he loses all of that shit.  Besides, constant exposure to him will eventually wear thin.



ANYWAY . . . the new SWAMP THING writer has a few plans for John Constantine outside of the Trinity War.  He goes to a small town in Scotland that has grown something called a Whiskey Tree (and I don’t know what that is, but it sounds like I might be reading that issue of SWAMP THING).



And then there’s ALL-STAR WESTERN.  You know how recently I was gleeful that we were finally getting Hex back to his western roots?  And then he teamed up with Booster fucking Gold?  Well, I’m about to get even more disappointed with the series.  Coming soon, Hex will be TIME TRAVELING TO MODERN TIMES.  Oh yeah, and while he’s in the 21st Century, he’ll be GOING BACK TO GOTHAM CITY.  Motherfucker!  Are you shitting me?  Do you remember the last time Hex time traveled?  We got stuck with fucking HEX.  How well did that work out?  It was canceled after 18 issues (which was 18 too many, if you ask me).  I can only assume that we’ll be losing this book pretty soon.



One of the last things they talked about was a free guide that will be coming out at the end of the month in comic book stores everywhere.  It’s a list of all the DC graphic novels and the suggested order you should read them in.



I didn’t have the stomach to stick around for the Q&A session, I was that disgusted.  At least they gave me a copy of BATMAN #701 for free.  It was actually a pretty good read, but since it was written by Grant Morrison, I wasn’t that surprised.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

C2E2 2013 REVIEW: THE VEGGIE DOG SATURN SPECIAL




Who is Jason Young?  Anyone who picked up this book at the convention will definitely become familiar with him within the pages of THE VEGGIE DOG SATURN SPECIAL.  It is a collection of true-life stories written by him and illustrated by a variety of different artists.



It kicks off with “Cecil,” illustrated by ONE YEAR IN INDIANA scribe Kurt Dinse.  An elderly Young describes his elementary school experience with a n’er-do-well by the name of Cecil (pronounced See-sill, according to the first panel).  Cecil is a badass who steals food off of people’s lunch trays, so they all train themselves to eat as quickly as possible, so he can’t get their food.



(There are a couple of flaws, but those will be brought up in just a moment.)



Next up is “House Show,” illustrated by Jason Martin.  This is the story of Young running into an old friend at the grocery store, only to be invited out to a house party where his friend’s punk band is going to play.  He goes to the show, but his host goes out to help another band whose van broke down.  In the guy’s absence, Young takes up a guitar and plays a miniature show with a stranger.



The third story, and probably the funniest, is “My Bank Thinks I Sling Rock,” in which Young talks about being paid under the table for his comic book shop job, and because he always deposits it at his bank, he is under the impression that his bank thinks he deals drugs.



The weakest story is next, and it’s called “Mandy’s Grandma Question.”  Illustrated by Chris Hoium, it shows three people talking about the worst thing they’ve ever done to their grandmothers.



“The Scare-Wolf,” illustrated by Carrie Meninch, is one of the most appealing stories here.  It details Young’s Pez obsession when he was a kid (and a teenager . . . and a young adult . . .).  One day, he meets a fellow Pez enthusiast, a tattoo artist, and he trades a super-rare Pez dispenser for $300 worth of tattoos.



Next is “Fantastic Flu #9,” illustrated by Brian John Mitchell.  Young tells about the time he and his brother had the flu at the same time, and his brother wound up puking up a perfect replica of a scene from FANTASTIC FOUR #9.



The strongest story is “The King of Cartoons,” illustrated by Joe Gruenwald.  It tells of Young’s childhood neighbor, Mr. King, who would play reel-to-reel cartoons on his projector for the kids every Friday night, at least until the day he suffers a stroke and dies.  Later in life, after Mrs. King passes away, Young buys Mr. King’s collection of films and relives his childhood memories.



“The Label Maker” is the final story in this collection, and it’s illustrated by Eric Shonborn.  Young tells about a few pranks he pulled back in the day, but the main prank in question is when he used a label maker to put a sign on a Subway bathroom’s toilet asking patrons not to flush the toilet.



Is this all funny?  Sure.  Young has an excellent sense of humor.  Here’s the major flaw, though:  none of these (except “The King of Cartoons”) are actually stories.  They’re anecdotes, and most of them are told just to get to a really cheesy punchline.  Young is smart enough to recognize that his real-life stories are funny, but he hasn’t reached the point where he can structure them into actual stories yet, and as a result, all of them are letdowns in the end (with “King” being the exception, yet again).



Here’s another problem:  they all have the same frame.  These are all stories-within-stories.  It removes immediacy from the subject matter, and when it comes to humor, immediacy is almost as important as timing.



The artists fare well, more or less.  With the exception of two, they are just good enough.  The two who really knocked it out of the park were Dinse and Shonborn.  Their work brings such a vibrancy to the stories that one can forgive Young for a lot.



Does Young have talent?  Yes.  Someday, he could really kick some ass.  For now, that talent is a block of stone, and a lot needs to be chiseled away before you can get to the sculpture hidden within.



THE VEGGIE DOG SATURN SPECIAL
Written by Jason Young
Illustrated by various artists
Published by Buyer Beware Comics
$3
24 pages

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

C2E2 2013: MEETING JOHN SCALZI




Truth be told, I haven’t read a lot of John Scalzi’s books.  I’ve read a few short stories, and I’ve read REDSHIRTS, but for the most part, my main exposure to him has been through his wildly popular blog, WHATEVER.  He’s probably one of the most reasonable, sane people online, and he has an interesting way of dealing with trolls.  When I found out he was going to be at C2E2, I was hoping he’d be doing a signing.  When I got there and found out that he was only going to be doing a panel, I sighed.  Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I would definitely settle for it.  Luckily, it fell between two other panels I’d been planning on, so my schedule wasn’t damaged too much.  Much to my glee, it was announced during the panel that he’d be signing in a half an hour.  Much to my horror, I realized I would be in the Vertigo panel at the time.  I vowed to skip out when it came to the Q&A portion, but I’ll write about why I stuck around that one for the duration in my coverage of this panel.  Suffice it to say, Vertigo ended a bit early.



Unfortunately, it was still going to be tight.  In 15 minutes, the convention floor was going to close.  I had to rush in, find the Anderson’s booth, and hope that the line wasn’t too long.  At the Anderson’s booth, I was then told that he was signing at table 12 in the celebrities section.  I hurried over there only to find table 12 empty.  FUCK!  But wait, there’s Scalzi over at table 13!  I made it, after all!



In fact, he was just signing stock books for Anderson’s by the time I got there.  He very politely invited me to step up, and I asked if he would sign REDSHIRTS for me.  He did, and as he did so, we talked about the awesome panel that he’d done with Alex Hughes.  He said he’d had a lot of fun, and that he’s glad to have had such a good time.



While I spoke with him, I noticed a paperback edition of THE HUMAN DIVISION.  For those who don’t know, he’s been releasing this book in serial format online, charging a small fee for each part.  It’s scheduled to be published in one print volume later this year, and it blew my mind that it was just there on his table.  I asked if he was selling it early, and he said no, it was just a promotional thing.  It took everything in my power to not pick it up and at least leaf through it.



Some people say he’s kind of abrasive, but he was probably the most affable guy I met at the convention this year.  He couldn’t have been nicer to me, and also to his fellow panelist, Alex Hughes.  Hughes is fairly new to all of this (I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this was her first panel ever), and even though she seemed a bit nervous, Scalzi did his best to put her at ease.



I felt bad that I hadn’t heard of Hughes before all of this, and she was sitting next to Scalzi at the signing.  Those who know me know I’m always open to books I haven’t tried, so I asked her for the first book in her series, and it seems pretty awesome.  It’s about a telepathic junkie in the distant future facing off against a serial killer who murders people with his mind.



Things were winding down at that time.  I was going to mention the issue of SUBTERRANEAN that Scalzi had edited, but I didn’t think I had the time.  I was going to jokingly mention that he’d rejected my story for it, but truth be told, I wound up reading the magazine, and my story wouldn’t have fit in with everything else in there.  He was right to turn me down.  [Incidentally, that story was “Amber” and can be read in my new book, TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE.]



Scalzi and Hughes are excellent people, and if you have the chance to meet them, I would recommend it.  If they’re ever on another panel again, and if you have the chance to attend, don’t skip it.  You’ll regret it for a long time to come.




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

C2E2 REVIEW: MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152 #4

Ugh.  Not another book about mice being fantasy soldiers.  How many of these things have to go around before this subgenre goes away?  Well, probably a lot more, because the industry clearly isn’t tired of this trend yet.
How does MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152 #4 fare?  Not too well.  It’s the story of 3 mice soldiers—Saxon, Kenzie, and Sadie—who are on some quest or other.  Along the way, they fight owls and bats . . . and that’s it.  Truth be told, the scene in which one mouse faces off against an owl is pretty cool, and when it happens with a bat a few pages later, it also looks pretty cool.  The problem is, that’s all writer and artist David Petersen seems to be going for.  He’s very good when it comes to imagery, especially when Saxon is rolling around in a mountain of mouse bones, but when it comes to story, he’s a bit lazy.  The poetry sequence is well done, but everything else is just too business-as-usual.
There is one exception:  when Saxon finds the bones of his mentor and breaks down.  It is not only a well-written scene, but it is also powerful and achieves the perfect emotional apex.  And the tone of the book is very nice, too.  It’s reminiscent of the old WATERSHIP DOWN cartoon.
Another problem with Petersen’s writing:  when he has mice referring to their own kind, he does something cutsey, but highly unrealistic.  One of the characters refers to his house as a “mouse dwelling.”  Female mice are referred to as “ladymice.”  That seems like a bit much.  For example, do we call our own houses “human dwellings”?  Or women “ladyhumans”?
All told, it’s a darkly beautiful book, but there isn’t much substance here.
MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152 #4
Written and illustrated by David Petersen
Published by Archaia Studios Press
$3.50
24 pages

Monday, May 13, 2013

C2E2 2013: THE WILDSTORM PRESENTS CHRONICLES #1: MEETING AMANDA CONNER



I’ll be honest, I’ve not come across much of Amanda Conner’s work.  The extent that I’m familiar with is her work on BEFORE WATCHMEN:  SILK SPECTRE and a small bit that she did for WILDSTORM PRESENTS.  The main reason I wanted to meet her was because I was trying to get as many BEFORE WATCHMEN people as I could.

Her line was one of the longer ones I waited in at this convention, and by the time I got to meet her, I could see why.  She’s done some pretty good work with Supergirl and a few other superhero titles.  Not my thing, but I can definitely recognize amazing artwork.

She was incredibly nice and engaging.  She was glad to see my issues of SILK SPECTRE, and as she signed these, I broke out one of my big guns:  a collection called WILDSTORM PRESENTS.  I’d initially bought it because I saw Brian Azzarello’s name on it, but when I found out who else was in it, I was impressed.  Georges Jeanty, Paul Jenkins, Ed Brubaker, Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, Richard Corben, Jill Thompson, and shocker of all shockers, Patton fuckin’ Oswalt.

Since many of them were going to be at the convention, I thought I’d get as many signatures as I could.

When I set it down in front of Conner, she looked puzzled.  “I’m not in here.”  I reassured her she was, indeed, in there, and pointed out which story.  Then, recognition blazed on her face.  “Oh yeah, I remember this!  I’ve never seen it, though.  Very cool.”  And she signed it for me.

Much to my surprise, this scenario would recur several more times during the convention.

She marveled at it for a while, flipping through the pages, excited to see her some of her work that she hadn’t seen since she put the finishing touches on it and sending it to Wildstorm.  She asked me how long I’d had it, and I said a couple of years.  She said she was wondering if it had just been printed.

I moved on then, because she was sitting next to Jimmy Palmiotti, and I hoped to get him to sign a few things.  Then, as I waited at the back of the incredibly short line, unpacking my things for Palmiotti, I noticed something.  I’d brought TRANSMETROPOLITAN:  I HATE IT HERE because I’d been working on getting all the artists in there to sign it.  I was hoping to get Palmiotti and Tony Harris to join the ranks of Rodney Ramos, John McCrea, Warren Ellis, Eduardo Risso, Tim Bradstreet, Dave Johnson, David Mack, and Cliff Chiang in signing this thing.

In that moment I realized that AMANDA CONNER IS IN THIS BOOK, TOO.  Fuck.  I turned around and saw that Conner’s line was just as long as it had been when I’d first gotten into it.  I just resigned myself to getting back in it when I’d finished up with Palmiotti.

Suffering through that line a second time was a drag, but fuck me for being so stupid.  When I got up to her table again, she laughed, surprised to see me again.  I apologized for being a fool and presented her with her page from the book.  Chuckling, she signed it and said, “Why am I always drawing people on the toilet?”

Why, indeed?