Wednesday, June 26, 2013

C2E2 2013 WRAP-UP

It’s no secret that over the years, I’ve come to favor C2E2 over Wizard World Chicago each and every time.  As a result, I felt betrayed when I was notified that C2E2 would not be granting me a press pass for 2013.  It hurt pretty badly, especially considering how fucking expensive it is to get into this thing for the whole weekend.  But when I thought more about it, I wasn’t quite so pissed.  Last year, I got sick on the first day, so I was only able to use what precious little material I was able to gather on Friday of the 2012 show.  While I think it’s unfair (because I spent the weekend in the ER being pumped full of fluids, anti-nausea medicine, and Dilaudid, which was not fun, rather than hanging out at C2E2 with my friends, meeting people, and going to panels, which is fun), I can see why they turned me down.

So I made it my personal mission this year to gather as much info as I could and write as many articles as I could muster.  Hence the incredibly long list of C2E2 coverage this year.  Seriously.  You just read seven weeks of C2E2 coverage.  If this doesn’t earn me a press pass for 2014, fucking nothing will.

I’m sorry to say that Friday seemed kind of lackluster.  I’d brought my friend, Fitz, along for the ride this year, and it was his first convention ever.  It was cool to watch his reaction to the whole thing, but I could tell even he was a bit disappointed.  He got to meet Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea on THE WALKING DEAD.  He actually brought a photo of her on the set of the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN TV show, which she probably found absolutely ludicrous.  As we walked away, he told me she was the first celebrity he’d ever actually talked to.  He was with me when I met James Cosmo and Natalie Dormer, but Holden was his First.

He handled it pretty well.  I remember when I met my first celebrity, which left me a bit starstruck, but after all of these years, it never strikes me anymore.

Anyway, Fitz was really hoping to meet Ron Perlman (and so was I, a bit), but the line was always too long, or he just wasn’t there.  Fitz felt the same way about the guy who played the Green Power Ranger, but the line was way longer than anyone expected.

Fitz had hung his hopes on meeting a lot of people, but as it turns out, most of them decided to only show up on Saturday.  He even wanted to meet J. Michael Straczynski because of the writer’s involvement with THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS cartoon, but that turned out to be a no-go.  I think Fitz had a good time taking in the experience, but when it came to meeting celebrities, he was let down.  I was, too.  Friday was kind of a bust.

The highlight was introducing Fitz to Jon Lennon.  Here’s the thing:  Jon tried to get a table in Artists Alley, and they turned him down.  Sure, all of the tables were taken, but there was a ton of room for more tables.  They could have fit him and Mat Festa and anyone else who had requested to PAY for a table.  I could see them turning down a press pass for me, but to turn away PAYING ARTISTS?  That was lame.

It was also great to see Leo Perez, Kevin Bandt, Z.M. Thomas, and a few other Artists Alley friends (although surprisingly enough, I didn’t get to see Kurt Dinse until Sunday).  Josh Filer showed up the next day, so it was fun shooting the shit with him.  It was great to find out that he’s been telling people about all the horrendous stories I’ve told him in regards to my life.  The burn victim story, as portrayed in an issue of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY, seems to be a favorite.  I wished I could have gotten drunk with them on Saturday night, but by that point, I’d been fucked up beyond all belief.  I was ready to collapse.  I was still fucked up on Sunday.  Guys:  when Wizard World Chicago comes around, I promise to get drunk with you.  I have more fucked up stories about my life to tell.  Since the StrangeHouse guys will be there, maybe I can get all of you together for an evening of absolute lunacy.

My favorite part of any convention is hanging out with my Artists Alley friends, but this year I only got to stop by a couple of times.  I was too busy getting material for my C2E2 coverage, meeting celebrities, getting interviews, going to panels, etc.  I also had to dedicate some time to picking up a few books for my collection, like the most recent volume of THE GOON.  I was missing a few issues of SAGA, which I promptly bought.  Much to my surprise, Avatar’s new CALIGULA series had begun.  I guess my comic book shop must have missed it, so I got the four issues they’ve released so far (and yes, it’s fucking intense and crazy).

One of my big regrets is not getting a pulp magazine this year.  Every convention, I at least buy one, but not this year.  I couldn’t find a place selling them.  I’m sure there was one somewhere, but I don’t think I would have been able to afford it, anyway.  I spent the last of my money on something far more cooler than a pulp magazine:  a sketch from John McCrea.

Oh, you want to see it?  We’re almost there.  Hang on just a while longer.

I don’t regret the pulp thing too much, though.  My comic book shop now has a section for pulp magazines, and I’ve got a bunch on my pile, so that satisfies at least a part of my collecting OCD.

What surprised me the most was how busy it was on Sunday.  I expected it to be packed on Saturday, so I got there as early as my hangover would allow.  I still wound up parking on the roof, and it was in a handicapped space.  (What?  Don’t look at me like that.  The parking attendant TOLD ME to park there.)  On Sunday, I wound up on the roof again, but all the handicapped spots were taken.  The attendants were making up parking spots, and one of them directed me to such a non-existent space.

But even after a good night’s rest (and no hangover), on Sunday I still felt like collapsing.  I left a bit early, two hours from closing time.  I think I might be getting too old for this shit.

Either that, or I’ve finally gotten too fat for conventions.  Anyone who has seen me at one of these things can attest to how out of breath and sweaty I get, and that’s when I’m in fairly good shape.  This leads me to my next problem.

Will I get my press pass back for C2E2 2014?  I hope so . . . but I’ve decided that if I don’t get it, I’m going to give up.  These things are taking too much of a toll on me.  Besides, I’ve pretty much interviewed everyone I want to interview by this point.  There are two on my list that I want, and I know I’ll never get them:  Garth Ennis and William Christensen.  I’ve tried for the former the few times I’ve seen him, and the latter has apologetically turned me down ever since I first saw him at a con several years ago (being editor-in-chief of Avatar during a con is a pretty busy job, so I understand).

I’ve also had to face facts:  I’m not that great of an interviewer.  I’ve found that I can handle myself pretty well as an interviewee, but when I’m asking questions, I think I’m just mediocre.  I’ve only ever done a handful of great interviews, and they are as follows:  Jon Lennon and Leo Perez at the same time, Josh Filer, Jason Yungbluth, and this year’s John McCrea.  (There was also the interview Leo Perez and I did with Brian Azzarello, which was really good, but it was more Leo than me on that one.)  Those felt more like conversations rather than interviews, and that’s the way it should be.

If C2E2 gives me back my press pass, I will definitely do all the things that would require of me, but if they don’t . . . I guess I’ll just go for one day.  Whichever day has the most panels I want to sit in on will be the winner.  I’ll cover them, of course, because that’s fun, and I’ll review whatever I pick up in Artists Alley . . . although I’m starting to think some of you don’t believe the disclaimers I post for all the books I review that are written and/or illustrated by my Artists Alley friends.  Even they probably don’t believe me on some level, and saying otherwise will convince no one.

I’m pretty sure that Wizard World Chicago will grant me a press pass, and I’ll cover the shit out of it.  It’s just not as exhausting as C2E2 is, which may be what is killing it for me.

Even though Friday was disappointing, the other two days completely made it up for me.  The whole excursion was worth it.  It was great meeting so many new people, so many new creators, and hanging out with old friends that I know I couldn’t pass up another such opportunity.  C2E2 is still as fun as it was the first year, and it shows no signs of diminishing.  If you have the chance to go for 2014, I say do it.  I’ll be there.

I might be, as Robert Browning said near the end of “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” “the last of me, a living frame/for one more picture” by the time you see me, but I will still be there.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  I can’t tell you how much this sketch of Tommy and Natt from HITMAN means to me.  It is now one of my most prized possessions.  These characters have long been gone from the DCU, but for just a brief second, whenever I hold this sketch, they’re alive again.  I now present it to you as my final word on C2E2 2013:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


[DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE:  I know Z.M. Thomas, and I consider him a friend.  That said, I do not give out favorable reviews due to bias.  Luckily, I’ve never had to trash a friend yet.  I think that’s because I’m really good at meeting and befriending talented people.]

Remember how awesome and blasphemous ABE THE ABORTED FETUS was?  Writer Z.M. Thomas has done it again, but he’s upped his game this time in the “official” sequel to the Bible, THE BIBLE 2.  Hands down, this is the funniest trade you could have found in Artists Alley this year.  If you missed it, you’re a fool.

The story starts out on Jesus’s resurrection day, when he reveals to his followers that he’s leaving them to go to a faraway land called Utah, and no one should know that he’s there.  Mary Magdalene then creates a secret society dedicated to protecting this secret.  (Oh yeah, and Jesus gets there by riding a unicorn powered by rainbow farts.)

Fast forward about a thousand years, and Pope Clement V and the king of France are conspiring to draw Jesus out of hiding.  In the meantime, Tsidhqiyah, the descendant of Mary Magdalene and the last surviving member of the JLA (no, not THAT JLA, the Jewish League of Assassins), has come to ask Jesus for his help against the Pope, who is really the Devil himself in disguise.  A reluctant Jesus goes back home to take down the Papacy and save the world.

Yes, you read all of that right.  This is an actual book, and it’s even greater than this description.  Thomas has taken Jesus and turned him into an action hero, one-liners and all.  In fact, this book is so full of awesome one-liners, you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to not quote it to your friends.  This time out, Jesus has rocket sandals and laser eye beams and guns and he even smokes!

This is Jesus as you’ve never seen him before, and thanks to artist Amelia Woo, you get a very clear picture.  She pulls no punches, and she takes no prisoners.  With her help, you buy both the weed-smoking Jesus and the ass-kicking Jesus, even when they’re sometimes mere pages apart.

And yes, before you ask, Jesus does bring the dinosaurs back for his final charge on Vatican City.

If all of this doesn’t convince you to buy this book, chances are you’re a hardcore Christian.  Still, aren’t you curious to find out what happened after Jesus rode off to Utah on his unicorn?  Pick up this book and find out the true story of what happened to your savior in the thousand years after his resurrection.  You won’t be sorry.

Written by Z.M. Thomas
Illustrated by Amelia Woo
Published by Trepidation Comics
A shit-ton of pages, all of them funny as fuck


Friday, June 21, 2013


Jack and Sam are back in this new installment of Chris Lukeman’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN . . . series.  The first was reviewed here.  In case you’re unaware, this is not the ‘Seventies you remember.  No, in Lukeman’s world, there is a rift in time and space that has opened up over the city (it apparently moves around, not in a fixed location).  Every once in a while, the rift spits something from the future out, which is why Jack and Sam have such cool (for the period) toys.


Never mind that something like a rift in time and space wouldn’t be carefully locked down by the government.  Such common sense things aren’t important to a tale like this.  Story has never been the strong point of these movies.  Dialogue and style rule over all.


Anyway, this time out, more robots have descended upon the city, but this time they’re dressed as . . . pimps.  That’s right, pimps.  And they’re using Bud again as a tool so they can finally succeed in destroying the boys this time.  They’ve taken over a disco Jack and Sam hang out at with their girls, and they’re intent on destroying everything.


Or are they?  Bud seems to have a list of people who they’re not supposed to kill because they’re important to the future.  And then there’s the mad scientist on the roof of the disco.  Is he the guy whose hand we saw at the end of ONCE UPON A TIME IN 1972?


Lukeman has not lost his flair for the ‘Seventies.  The costumes are perfect.  The settings are perfect.  Even the mustaches are perfect.  The special effects this time out do utilize CGI, but he keeps it in the same tone as the ‘Seventies.  There are some great cheesy ray gun effects that will bring you back to the good ol’ days.


The acting is a bit better this time out.  Most of the actors are a bit stiff, but it looks like Jonathan Harden is finally comfortable in his role as Jack.  The true standout is Thomas Nicol as Sam, though.  He’s so laid back and witty, he is the best actor of the flick this time out.  Matt Fear is his usual sleazy self as Bud.  The Man on the Roof (ie. aforementioned the mad scientist), played by Peter Davis, is outstanding in his calmer moments.  He hams it up a bit too much when he acts a little crazy, but when he’s subdued, he’s actually a bit creepy.


Once again, Lukeman hits all the high points with his new film.  The last scene, however, is rather chilling.  It would seem that he’s going to some very dark places with the next installment.  If you haven’t checked out the series yet, you should hop on board now, before things get nasty next time out.


Written and directed by Chris Lukeman
Produced by Kill Vampire Lincoln
2013, 27 minutes

Thursday, June 20, 2013


[DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE:  I know Jon Lennon, Leo Perez, and Josh Filer, and I consider them friends.  That said, I do not give out favorable reviews due to bias.  Luckily, I’ve never had to trash a friend yet.  I think that’s because I’m really good at meeting and befriending talented people.]

This is it.  After years of tormenting Chicago conventions, PRODUCT OF SOCIETY has reached the end.  This is the last issue.  Creator Jon Lennon has been at this since 2007, and now he’s ready to move on to new projects.  Does he go out on a high note?

As with the last few issues, this one is an anthology, a primer for anyone who wants to peruse Artists Alley.  He starts this one out with a story written and illustrated by him called “At a Trailer Park.”  A bunch of rednecks hang out in a trailer park as one of them boasts that he finally got his chick pregnant.  The baby, sadly, looks like a flipper-handed alien.  Oh yeah, and Jesus is hovering around over this guy’s trailer, and He is pissed.  As usual, Lennon is grotesque and offensive as all hell, and he comes armed with awesome lines like, “My grandma taught me to fuck like a stoned giraffe,” and “He shit out a black hole!”  Where can you go wrong?

Next up is Josh Filer’s “Boar Semen Extender,” which was reviewed here.

The third story is Leo Perez’s “The Hidden Truth,” about a spaceman in the future who discovers that L. Ron Hubbard—sorry, El-Ron—is still alive.  He’s been feeding off Thetans and living on the outskirts of Venus, where his head as gotten really fucking large.  Of course, the spaceman has a plan . . . .  Seriously, you can’t go wrong with a story that not just makes fun of Scientology, but also tears it to pieces.

The fourth story is “Consume,” written and illustrated by Thor Fjalarsson.  It’s a rather unsettling story about how corporations ruthlessly use their employees.  A boss calls one of his employees into his office not to fire him, but, well, read the story and see for yourself.  That last page is fucking intense.

“Alien-Zombie-Vampires . . . from CANADA!!!” is probably the weakest story in the book.  Written and illustrated by Ray Wegner, it tells of the Canadian invasion of America, in particular Chicago.  It would seem that Canadian scientists managed to put together a hybrid of the three titular monsters, which they used to take down Chicago.  The problem is, this isn’t much of a story.  It seems like a prologue to something bigger.  The art’s pretty cool, though.

The last story, “Ailment,” is written by Lennon and illustrated by Alexis Moulds.  It seems to be about the deconstruction of beauty.  Surely, those who read Lennon’s work aren’t used to cute deer, birds, and squirrels in his work, but never fear.  It doesn’t last long.  A young girl frolics in the forest with her woodland creatures, but something is amiss.  What happens is brutal and gorgeous.  Check out that last panel.  It’s the perfect way to end the final book in the series.

Be sure to check out PRODUCT OF SOCIETY #6.  Lennon says maybe someday the title will come back in a much different form, but for now, this is the end of one of the finest series Artists Alley has produced.  Buy it before it goes out of print.

Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by CheeseLord Comics
24 pages


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Oh, I could slap the shit out of myself!  What the fuck is wrong with me?  I’d heard Andy Diggle was going to be at C2E2 this year, and I made sure that I retrieved my copy of SNAPSHOT #1, which I reviewed earlier this year.  Then, after I’d gotten the chance to meet him, and ONLY THEN, did I remember that he had a run on HELLBLAZER.  Fuck my stupidity!  I could have brought some issues of HELLBLAZER for him to sign!  Argh!

And here’s the thing:  sometime between packing up for C2E2 and actually getting there, I lost my copy of SNAPSHOT.  Couldn’t find it.  All weekend up until the moment I met him on Sunday, I wanted to slam my stupid head against the wall, and that was before my HELLBLAZER revelation.

Anyway, I saw that he had a few issues of SNAPSHOT for sale at his Artists Alley table, so I thought I’d approach him and buy a new copy.  He was really nice about it.  I told him about my own idiocy, and he even offered to give me the book for free to make up for it.  That was an incredibly nice thing for him to do, but I didn’t want my stupidity to be rewarded, so I forked over the three bucks, and he signed it for me.  He was nicer to me than I deserved, but I’m incredibly grateful to him for it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


[DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE:  I know Josh Filer, and I consider him a friend.  That said, I do not give out favorable reviews due to bias.  Luckily, I’ve never had to trash a friend yet.  I think that’s because I’m really good at meeting and befriending talented people.]

While Artists Alley is one of the best parts of any convention, it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll walk away with winners.  However, there is a handful of creators that you can always count on (and oddly enough, they usually sit pretty close together).  Josh Filer is one of those guys.  If his books don’t make you feel uneasy, if they don’t offend you on some level, and if they don’t make you laugh, then there is something wrong with you.

His new book, HYPER-ACTIVELY ATTENTION DEFI--LET’S GO! (which, by the way, is the most apt title anyone could ever come up with for this issue), is a collection of short strips that will fuck with you and will fuck you up.

He starts out with “Moon Shits,” which was also in a recent issue of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY reviewed here [link].  It’s followed up by “Rap Battle,” which one can only, desperately hope was based on a true story.  A young Josh rides along with his father, who is an auctioneer who likes to practice on his son a lot.  Like, A LOT.  He goes so fast his words literally bounce off young Josh’s head.  Along the way on their road trip, the ol’ man runs into a fellow auctioneer, and they decide to have a showdown.  Even though there is nothing obscene about this one, it is probably one of the more surreal things Filer has ever done.

Relax.  The next strip, “Boar Semen Extender,” makes up for the lack of obscenity.  A father is angry with his wife for feeding their kids . . . something.  It’s very vague at first, but she reluctantly agrees near the end of the argument.  As soon as he’s gone, the kids beg for goo, and she complies by feeding their pet boar something called, you guessed it, “Boar Semen Extender.”  You don’t want to miss what happens next, because it is one of the filthiest, most awesomely vile things ever put to page in a comic book.  It even beats out some of the things in DICKS, and that’s a really fucking hard thing to do.

Ready to be offended?  Then “Fire Retard Ant” is for you!  Two ants are hanging out in a grocery store, thrilled to be shitting all over the floor, when one of them is run over by a cart.  He survives, but now he’s incredibly slow, to put it politely.  He wanders into “black territory,” where all the ants look like Al Jolson in THE JAZZ SINGER.  No shit.  They’re all in black face, and they’re all eating watermelon.  And then, something REALLY uncomfortable happens . . . .

Now that you’ve been grossed out, baffled, and offended, it’s time to show you something batshit crazy.  Like, Ryan Browne-kind of lunacy.  “Shark Castle Monster Truck” is . . . well, it’s about a bunch of sharks driving a monster truck that is actually a castle, and they kill a lot of people.  Oh yeah, and there are tits!  And something else, but who knows what the fuck is going on with that last page?

Filer rounds the book out with a prologue from GROSS, GRANDPA! #3.  Bones and Rusty Buttfuck are appraising the damage to the tree house when Bones brings Rusty down to the basement to show him his fishing lure collection before revealing his little surprise.  By the way, if anyone should ever ask you, “You wanna’ see something I have chained up in the basement?” the answer should probably be a resounding NO.

Filer has done it once again.  This book is his mind unfettered, and his mind is a mishmash of horrendous, hilarious, and reprehensible shit.  In other words, it’s one of the best books from C2E2 this year!  (Also, be sure to check out the “ad” on the back cover for Dry Corn Turds.)

Written and illustrated by Josh Filer
Published by Josh Filer
20 pages

$5--Get it here!

Monday, June 17, 2013


There’s not much I can say about meeting J. Michael Straczynski.  I got to see him for about ten seconds.  He wanted to keep his line moving as quickly as possible, so he put a 5 item limit on everyone.  That’s cool, it happens.  Nothing to get upset about.

But Straczynski clearly did not want to be there.  I don’t want to call him an asshole, because he wasn’t, but unfriendly would seem a fair assessment.  It was kind of weird, because he wasn’t even at the convention for all that long.  His table was bare except for two times during the whole weekend, and those were the only two times he was actually there.

I enjoy his work.  His BEFORE WATCHMEN stuff wasn’t the best of the series, but it wasn’t the worst.  I told him MOLOCH had been my favorite of his work on the series, and he coldly thanked me for it.  He at least tried to smile, so I can’t fault him all that much.  Maybe he was having a bad day.  It happens.  He’s far from the most unfriendliest creator I’ve ever met at a convention.  (If you want to know the name of THAT person, I’ll tell you off the record.)

Friday, June 14, 2013


I must have told the story about a thousand times.  When I was in my senior year of high school, my friend, CJ, got me back into comics by lending me three books:  EVIL ERNIE, PREACHER, and HITMAN.  From that moment, my life changed.  John McCrea illustrated HITMAN back in the day, and it was great to meet him.  Some of you will recall when I wrote about meeting him last year, but this year was waaaaaay better.  Not just because I got to hang out with him for quite a while, and not just because he drew one of the awesomest sketches any artist has ever done for me, but because I also got to interview him.  I stopped by on Friday and asked if I could do an interview with him, and he asked me to come back on Sunday, when things were a bit quieter.  (It should also be mentioned that when I stopped by that first time, he was working on a sketch of Tommy Monaghan for a fan.  While he was doing this, his phone rang, and he talked with someone who was either his wife or his child.  The whole time he talked, he didn’t stop working.  He produced this amazing sketch.  It was the finest example of multitasking I’d ever seen.)

I came back on Sunday, and he was working on a sketch of Wolverine for another fan (who was absent at the time).  He asked if I minded whether or not he worked while I interviewed him, and I said I was completely OK with that.  However, after we’d been talking a little bit, he stopped working on the sketch.  It seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the interview, which I consider to be one of my finer moments (if I don’t say so myself; more on that in my C2E2 wrap-up).  Here is what he had to say . . . .

[WARNING:  Here there be HITMAN spoilers.  If you haven’t read the series, you might want to do so before reading this interview.]

JOHN BRUNI:  First of all, HITMAN was one of my all-time favorites—

JOHN McCREA:  Thank you.

JB:  Do you ever miss it?

JM:  Of course.  I think I worked on that book for seven years of my life pretty much solidly.  I did a few other things here and there, but it was seven years of Tommy and Natt, and they all sort of seemed like friends.  When the book ended, it was like—well, you’ve seen the ending.  It’s a real tearjerker.  When I read the script, I had a little tear in my eye.  Just saying bye to Tommy and his friends, it was a relief in one way.  It was a slog, physically producing that much work, but to say goodbye to Tommy and Natt was quite a tearful experience.  I do miss them, but at the same time, it was the right end.  They had to go.  Garth [Ennis] and I were adamant that [UNCLEAR, BUT HE SAYS SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF “THEY HAD TO DIE], otherwise it would ruin the whole thing anyway.  People ask us if there’s a chance with the New 52 of bringing them back.  No.

JB:  It was one of the greatest endings in comics ever.

JM:  Part of it’s the fact that it’s finite.  You have the whole story, and it’s not just rolling on and on forever.  They lived by the gun, they had to die by the gun.  It was the right ending.  It improves the story, I think.

JB:  Very Butch and Sundance.

JM:  Oh God yes.  I think Garth wrote that in the script.  It was Natt who said it, wasn’t it?

JB:  Yeah.  Why do you think the book didn’t hit it off with a wider audience?

JM:  Garth and I always intended for it to be finished around about . . . originally we hoped for seventy issues.  There were a few other stories we wanted to tell, one of them being the JLA/HITMAN story, which we eventually did.  DC told us at a certain point that the sales are okay.  Probably pretty good by today’s standards, but for the time they were okay.  They were going to cancel it.  We had a choice between finishing it at 60 and finishing it properly the way we wanted to, chopping out the non-essential stories, or we might make it [to 70] or we might not.  We didn’t want to risk that, so we just finished it.

JB:  That sounds like the smart way to go.

JM:  Well, DC were honest and decent about it.  They let us know, so . . . it could have been a disaster.  It has a good, solid fan base, it just wasn’t big enough to continue the series.

JB:  There is still one character from the book lurking around the DCU somewhere.  Will there ever be a Bueno Excellente one-shot?  [Come on, you all knew I was going to ask it.]

JM:  We’re all hoping for that.  He was one of the most deranged human beings I ever got to draw.  Him, and possibly Six-Pac is still around.  I think a mini-series would be a pretty sweet thing.  An untold story, four issues.  If only people had realized how wonderful a superhero team [Section Eight] were, like the JLA.  We could have had action figures.  A little wind-up guy, or maybe a Dog Welder with detachable dogs.  What I would do for that!

JB:  You and Garth Ennis do a lot of work together.  How did you guys meet up?

JM:  We went to school together.  We’re from Belfast, and he was in my brother’s year at school.  He knew I was into comics, and after I finished school, one of the first things I did was run a comics shop.  I started one of the only comics shops in Belfast, and Garth used to come in and buy his comics.  One day, he just said we should do a book, and that turned into TROUBLED SOULS about the Troubles in Northern Ireland.  It was very successful, and that was that.

JB:  TROUBLED SOULS also has Dougie and Ivor from DICKS.

JM:  That’s true.  That is true.  They were incidental characters in TROUBLED SOULS.  We kinda-sorta made fun of them.  Garth in particular is not enamored of TROUBLED SOULS, so he kind of wanted to piss all over it.  He used Dougie and Ivor as a way to do that.  We’re working on a new book in the series now.  Garth’s written it all, finished it about two years ago, and I’ve been slowly grinding my way through it.  I’m on issue four at the moment.  Two more to go.

JB:  Some of the covers are pretty crazy.  Is there anything you wouldn’t put on the cover of DICKS?

JM:  I haven’t run into it yet.  There might be.  There are a few things, but I don’t want to even answer for fear of getting arrested.  So far, not yet.

JB:  Garth Ennis has a reputation for going a bit too far, like with CROSSED.  Would you ever want to work on the book?

JM:  I read one issue of CROSSED, and that was just about enough for me.  It was too much for me.  When I read a comic, I like to enjoy myself, not be harrowed to the marrow.  It was too harrowing for me.

JB:  Have you ever thought to yourself that you might be going too far with DICKS?

JM:  Oh God no.  Never.  When I first started doing these books, William [Christensen, editor-in-chief of Avatar Press] kept saying, “No, no, no, you haven’t got the idea.  Not enough.  Not enough.  You’ve got to make it worse.”  Now, I think I’m at the level I think he’s happy with.

JB:  If you had to be Dougie or Ivor, which one would it be?

JM:  My God, what a choice!  Uh . . . probably Ivor.  He’s just happy in his own self-absorbed moronic way.  Dougie’s just miserable because he’s relatively intelligent and can see the terrible travesty which is his life.  So yeah, I think it’d be Ivor.

JB:  Can you talk about what’s in store for us with DICKS 3?

JM:  Satan and the Dong are both back.  They’ve teamed up, and they’re trying to destroy the world.  It’s up to Dougie and Ivor to travel through time, collecting the icons of bigotry that the Dong are using to destroy the world.  They have to go back in time to gather these objects in order to stop the Dong.  Much hilarity ensues.  At one point, Dougie and Ivor get to meet Garth and myself.  They end up in our studio . . . by, uh, complete coincidence, and even more hilarity ensues.

JB:  So they get to meet their gods?

JM:  Exactly!  Not just meet them, they do quite a lot more.

JB:  That sounds very cool.  What else do you have coming up besides the new DICKS?

JM:  I’m working on MARS ATTACKS for IDW.  I’ve finished the ten issues, which was supposed to be continuing, but they decided to can it and do mini-series instead.  I’ll be doing MARS ATTACKS/JUDGE DREDD, a four issue mini-series which is written by Al Ewing, who writes JENNIFER BLOOD as well.  It’s fantastic.  It should be out in the not-to-distant future.  I’m working on something called PROGENITOR, which is written by Phil Hester for David Lloyd’s new online comic called ACES WEEKLY.  So, I’m busy.

JB:  Speaking of IDW, they have a lot of franchises from the ‘Eighties.  Is there any one of those that you’d like to work on?

JM:  I wouldn’t mind doing the Turtles.  I like the Turtles.  I’m not really a TRANSFORMERS guy.

JB:  What about G.I. JOE?

JM:  When I was breaking into comics, I did two stories for ACTION FORCE, which is the British name for G.I. Joe.  I did a Snake-Eyes five-pager, and I did a Storm Shadow five-pager.  I enjoyed those.  I like the ninja guys.  I would love to do Snake-Eyes.

JB:  Thank you very much for your time.

JM:  It’s been a pleasure.  Cheers.

At about that point, he realized that he’d forgotten about his previous sketch, which he put the final touches on before starting the sketch for me.  I requested Tommy Monaghan and Natt from HITMAN sitting at Noonan’s bar, just having a drink, and the request seemed to surprise McCrea, but he was happy to do it.  I hung out with him, just talking while he drew.  I told him about how even my mother enjoyed reading HITMAN almost as much as I did.  We talked about other things Mom liked to read, which comprised of a lot of Garth Ennis’s work.  It was one of the few things that brought me and her together, especially near the end of her life.

While we hung out, talking about this and that (he mentioned that he was persona non grata over at DC, except for the short he did for GHOSTS), I can’t tell you how many fans came up and saw what he was doing for me.  Each and every single one of them said, “That is the coolest sketch ever.”  One of them said, “I wish I’d thought of that.”  I talked with a lot of fellow fans while McCrea worked, and I discovered that I’m not alone in thinking that some of the best parts of HITMAN were the quiet moments at the bar, when Tommy and Natt were just shooting the shit, maybe talking about THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.  Why?  Well, it’s because that’s what I do with my friends.  I hang out in bars and just talk the night away.  I felt a real connection with Tommy and the boys in those moments.

I was going to run a scan of the sketch he did at the end of this piece, but I think I’ll save it for my wrap-up.  It is seriously that good.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


[DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE:  I know Kevin Bandt, and I consider him a friend.  That said, I do not give out favorable reviews due to bias.  Luckily, I’ve never had to trash a friend yet.  I think that’s because I’m really good at meeting and befriending talented people.]

The cover is deceptive at first.  Artists Alley is usually filled with cutsey covers involving girls, kitties, and kitschy ‘Fifties elements.  The cover of CAT-LE DRIVERS #1 has all of these things . . . with a twist.  If you look at it more than three seconds, you’ll realize that the woman with the weird hairstyle is holding a platter with a roasted cat on it, as if she’s about to serve it up to the reader.

Yep, it’s that kind of book.

In the future, a terrible thing called the Hoof and Mouth Plague of 2019 has wiped out all sources of beef.  That’s right, goodbye steaks and cheeseburgers.  (That’s a scary thought on its own.)  Where does America turn to for its carnivorous needs?

Cats.  Cats the size of longhorns.

By now, the title of this book is probably making more sense to you.  Think of it as a modern-day RAWHIDE, but instead of cattle, you have cats, and instead of horse-riding cowboys, you have the Cat-LE Drivers who ride ATV’s.  Rachel, Lincoln, Sally, and Jan have all been hired by Mr. Morris to run herd on a group of 12 cats, driving them to a Missouri restaurant.  There’s just one problem:  they don’t exactly face the same dangers as Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates did.  No, it would seem that America has a bit of a vampire problem . . . .

How fucking impressive is that?!  It’s one of the most unusual books to be found in Artists Alley.  Writer and artist Kevin D. Bandt has pulled out all the stops on this one.  Considering how strange the future is, it takes a masterful touch to explain that kind of world.  Bandt eases us into it by starting off with a commercial for Cat Meat, Inc., which describes the world completely.  Best of all, he has the main characters ridicule it after it plays.  Even the art leaps dynamically off the page.  Check out how awesome the vampire on the last page looks.  Nasty, vile, and shockingly enough for a book with so much humor to it, a little unnerving.

The only weakness is Bandt’s insistence on using %@$* symbols instead of actual curse words.  Chances are pretty good that kids aren’t reading this book, so you might as well cut loose, right?

If you walked through Artists Alley this year at C2E2, and you didn’t pick this book up, you’re a fool.  After all, Bandt was giving it away for free, as per his understanding of POST-postmodernism as described in the back matter of the issue.  Hunt it down here, and to quote a great man, “Head ‘em up!  Move ‘em out!”  And don’t forget to check out the recipe for cat on the last page!

Written and illustrated by Kevin D. Bandt
Published by Kevin D. Bandt and Megan E. Bandt
20 pages

FREE!  (At least, the black and white version is.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Well, technically it’s not Meeting Menton3.  I actually met him at Wizard World Chicago last year.  He went out for a smoke break with Jon Lennon and Leo Perez, and I went outside with them and hung out while listening to him tell a story about hanging out with Johnny Cash during the shooting of the “Hurt” video.  This guy is full of awesome stories about hanging out with famous people.  He even worked with my favorite writer, Joe R. Lansdale.

But it seemed pretty clear that he didn’t remember me.  That’s all right.  How many people does one artist meet over the course of a convention?  I don’t really stand out.  Besides, while most people would call me a loudmouth, I keep my mouth shut when geniuses are talking.  I absorb their stories, and a lot of times, I learn something.  I didn’t say a word while Menton3 told his stories in the smoking area.

This time, I saw him at the 44FLOOD booth.  I asked him if he would mind signing a few books he’d done with Lansdale based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft.  (THE DUNWICH HORROR, as you can see in the picture above.)  As he signed these, he told me that the person who owns the Lovecraft Estate is either a great-grandson or great-nephew of the man himself, I forget which.  However, he said that this guy saw Menton3’s work on this very book, and he said that his ancestor would have very much enjoyed it.  For those who don’t remember, Menton3 did the backup story for each issue, which was based on Lovecraft’s “The Hound.”  You might remember that I featured the book on Cool Shit a few times, and I gushed on about how awesome the artwork for the backup story was, even though the word adaptation was only okay.

To hear that Lovecraft himself would have liked Menton3’s work is perfect.

We also talked a bit about MONOCYTE (which I reviewed as part of my coverage for last year’s Wizard World Chicago, and he mentioned that he was working on a new book for IDW called MEMORY COLLECTORS.  I don’t even have to see it to recommend it.  Keep an eye out.  You can bet your ass I’ll be among the first to buy it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Of all the trades you’re going to find in Artists Alley, SWERVE is one of the top three you’re likely to come across.  It’s possibly one of the greatest crime books to come from a writer whose name wasn’t Brian Azzarello or Ed Brubaker.

Meet Eric Layton.  It’s 1976, and his pro-football career has just been destroyed by a bum knee.  He didn’t have a backup plan, so he winds up joining Tony Frank’s wrestling company, hoping to make enough money to send back home for his mom’s operation.  (Heart of gold?  Check.)  The problem is, Frank’s kind of a scammer, and wrestling for him just gets Layton chump change, no more.

Luckily (or unluckily) for Layton, Frank has another business:  crime.  Drugs, porn, you name it, he’s got a hand in it.  Hungry for the money he needs for his mom, Layton starts moonlighting as a criminal.  Sure enough, money comes pouring in, enough to take care of his mom, but before long, he finds that he can’t face his family anymore.  Some of the things he’s had to do . . . it turns his guts.  Soon, he wants out, and with his only friend, a wrestler and fellow criminal named Joe, by his side, he tries to run a game on Frank.  As you can probably guess, that doesn’t go very well for everybody involved.

On a basic level, this sounds like a typical crime story, but the details are what makes it so much more than that.  This book is full of dark shit, friends.  Not only do we have a protagonist who has killed and killed often, but we also have a staggering amount of betrayals, rape, kiddie porn, and so much more, it’s like taking a vacation to Hell.  But juxtaposed as it is against the wrestling world . . . wow.  As Layton learns some of the tricks of the wrestling trade by day, he learns how to kill people and live with himself by night.  Except he doesn’t master that whole living-with-himself thing.

Writer Jon Judy has an amazing voice.  It hits all the right beats, it flows like a shotgun blast of poetry.  With an artist like Dexter Wee to work with, it makes things all the easier.  By the time you’re finished with this book, you’ll have blood on your fingers; it just gushes from the book.

It’s practically flawless.  The only problem is the prologue.  Since this is told from Layton’s point of view, and he’s not in the prologue, it’s hard to fit it in with the rest of the book, especially since it’s told in his voice.  That said, the prologue is a masterful story in and of itself.

You need to add SWERVE to your collection.  That’s all there is to it.

Written by Jon Judy
Illustrated by Dexter Wee
Published by Arcana
More pages than any other book in Artists Alley this year


Monday, June 10, 2013


Here we have an actor from GAME OF THRONES that I’ve actually gotten to see on the show!  (As opposed to Natalie Dormer, that is.)  James Cosmo is excellent on that show as a stern but fair leader.  He takes no shit in any of his roles.  In fact, although I love his work on GAME OF THRONES, I enjoyed his work as Campbell in BRAVEHEART even more.  He is such a violent, cantankerous old bastard in that movie!  I really wish someone would make a movie out of one of Garth Ennis’s war comics and put Cosmo in it as a bastard of a commanding officer.

He didn’t have much of a line waiting for him, so I was able to directly approach the table and shake his hand.  Holy shit, he’s got a giant hand, and a hell of a grip!  It’s not as big as Peter Mayhew’s, which is the biggest hand I’ve ever come in contact with, but it’s one of the biggest.  Top three, definitely.

For all of the intimidating roles he’s ever played, he is incredibly easygoing in real life.  You can usually tell when a celebrity is just trying to be nice, but Cosmo is actually nice.  In fact, he seemed thrilled to meet me, like it was the highlight of his day, and it was completely genuine.

I told him I really enjoyed Jeor Mormont on GAME OF THRONES, but my favorite of his movies was BRAVEHEART.  We talked a bit about Campbell, and he seemed happy to be talking about that role.  He has a hearty laugh and an inviting smile.  He even impressed Fitz, who was with me that day.  Cosmo has an incredible presence, and I hope he comes back next year.

Friday, June 7, 2013


This was one of the stranger panels I went to, and all the credit/blame goes to Brian Azzarello.  Shawn McManus, Andrew Pepoy, and Will Dennis were also present for this flabbergasting clusterfuck.  Azzarello had something scathing to say about everybody and everything.  He was so surly, I wondered if maybe he’d had a few too many before taking to the stage.

No, he hadn’t been drinking, but he is a smart man.  He’s aware that Vertigo is on the very brink of shutting down.  Let’s face it, they got Constantine out of there because they didn’t want to lose him.  The only strong title they have are the FABLES related ones (I don’t count AMERICAN VAMPIRE because it’s on hiatus).  Azzarello earned a name for himself doing things like JONNY DOUBLE and 100 BULLETS, in addition to a bunch of short work for FLINCH and STRANGE ADVENTURES.  So . . . he doesn’t want Vertigo to go away.

Everyone on this panel was being wishy-washy about their own work, but Azzarello tried pumping them up.  In fact, it seemed like he was channeling Bull Murray from SCROOGED.  He wanted you to be deathly afraid of missing any of these issues.

Anyway, on to the announcements.  BROTHER LONO is not necessarily a sequel to 100 BULLETS, but it is a spin-off.  Someone, I forget who, said that this was their Laverne and Shirley.  Apparently, Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso hashed this mini-series out in a taxi in Spain.  It looks like Lono is a religious man now, trying to atone for his life of crime.  Of course, it can’t work out very well for him.  It is an Azzarello book, after all.

Dennis mentioned that Azzarello and he were supposed to go over the final corrections the previous night in the bar, but they’d gotten drunk instead.  As a result, they started going over the corrections then and there.  Like, right in front of us.  At the fucking panel.

While they did that, the announcements continued.  They showed us the cover to FAIREST #17, but they said the cover of #15 was top secret.  They mentioned that they were starting an arc about a new character soon, but that’s all they had to say.  [NOTE:  We now know that the reason they couldn’t show the cover to 15 was because they were bringing Prince Charming back.]

FABLES #131 was next, but they talked more about Pepoy than the book.  Apparently, Pepoy had known writer Bill Willingham since the respective ages of 14 and early 20’s.  Pepoy brought his own table and set up next to Willingham at a previous Chicago con, and this led to his first Vertigo work.  Willingham brought him up to the big leagues.  Also, Pepoy has a weird fixation with the band, Men Without Hats.  He took a lot of shit for it.

THE WAKE is a book from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy that will be released sometime in May.  It’s a horror book, but they didn’t say much else. [NOTE:  I have since read the first issue, and I still can’t tell you what it’s about.  I think we’ll finally get let in on the plot in issue 2.]

Around this point, someone mentioned a book that was on the New York Times bestseller list, and Azzarello lost his shit yet again.  “Listen, everyone is on the fucking New York Times bestseller list.  It’s overrated.  Do you people actually care about the New York Times bestseller list?”  He has a point.  Just because something is a bestseller doesn’t mean it’s good.

Anyway, speaking of Scott Snyder, AMERICAN VAMPIRE is a long way off from resuming.  In the meantime, he has a mini-series about Travis, the vampire hunter with the wooden fangs, called THE LONG ROAD TO HELL.  Fuck yeah!  He’s one of my favorite characters, aside from Skinner Sweet, of course.

Jeff Lemire has TRILLIUM coming soon.  It’s touted as the Last Love Story Ever Told.  It takes place in two different eras with two people, one from each, who fall in love with each other.  They called it THE NOTEBOOK with ray guns.  That sounds pretty cool.  Azzarello, tired of the wishy-washy marketing job done by the others, broke in yet again with, “Has Lemire written anything that sucks?  No?  Then it’s going to be a great book!”

The last announcement was COLLIDER, a new book from Simon Oliver, who did THE EXTERMINATORS (which I might feature on Forgotten Comic Books someday, even though it wasn’t that long ago).

They opened up for questions, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick around or not, because I wanted to make the John Scalzi signing.  Eh, fuck it.  What the hell?  I got in line to ask a question.

You all probably have an idea of what I asked.  It’s the question I always ask when I have Vertigo people around.  Or when I have Garth Ennis around.  I’d ask if Steve Dillon were around, but I’ve never met the guy.  But while I was waiting in line, someone in front of me asked what work the panelists were really enjoying these days.  Pepoy said that he liked a lot of stuff coming out of Artists Alley, and he mentioned Kevin Bandt in particular.  Holy shit!  I know Kevin Bandt!  When I got home, I couldn’t rush to Facebook fast enough to tell him about Pepoy’s shout-out.

Then, it was my turn.  Yes, I asked about the final, unpublished PREACHER story, the one about the Sex Investigators.  Vertigo refused to do it because of the content.  I demanded answers.  Dennis said that it probably wasn’t going to happen, but then Azzarello blasted my balls off.  “NO!  The book’s not going to happen!  Why would you ask that stupid question?”

Dennis said that he was trying to let me down easy.  I slinked off, notifying everyone that I was going to weep myself to sleep that night.  I guess I will never get a better response to that question, so I’m going to have to retire it.  When Azzarello, who looks—coincidentally, I’m sure—a lot like the God of War in WONDER WOMAN, says something like that, I’m pretty sure it’s the truth.

So there you have it.  The biggest scoop I will ever get at one of these panels.  The last PREACHER story is never going to happen.  What a grim and sad ending to a strange and savage panel.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


[DEPT. OF FULL DISCLOSURE:  I know several people whose work is in this book, and I consider them friends.  That said, I do not give out favorable reviews due to bias.  Luckily, I’ve never had to trash a friend yet.  I think that’s because I’m really good at meeting and befriending talented people.]

There has been a surprising lack of anthology books in Artists Alley this year.  They’re usually plentiful, but this time around, there were only two.  MOONLIGHT MACABRE, as you can probably tell, is a horror anthology put out by CME.  The trouble with anthologies is that they’re a mixed bag.  The blessing with anthologies is that they’re a mixed bag.  Very few kick ass the entire way through.  How does this one fare?

It starts with “Bad Habit,” written by Donovan K. and illustrated by K. Anthony.  It is the story of a guy who loves oranges a bit too much, yet is very uncomfortable with others judging his unnatural love.  There isn’t much that can be said about this one.  There isn’t a lot of story here, just a vignette of a guy masturbating with an orange in the produce aisle before attacking someone for implying that this is a no smoking grocery.  Is it offensive?  Yes, wonderfully so.  It’s fun, but it exists simply to exist.  The artwork is on one hand kind of childish, yet on the other hand incredibly grotesque, especially when the protagonist eats some of the orange before rubbing it all over his body.  Not a bad start to the book.

Next up is “1849,” written and illustrated by Lee Eberhart.  A meteor crashes down in the Old West near a mining camp.  One of the workers then comes face to face with the monster who lived in the meteor, and they must do battle with each other in order to survive.  And that’s about it.  It has a bit more story than the first one, but it’s kind of lackluster.  The artwork is pretty good, if a bit goofy at times.

“The Last Laugh,” written and illustrated by Michael McGourty, is probably the best of the bunch.  Humanity is wiped out, and the survivors die slowly while trying to live by breathing through gas masks.  The last guy on earth is a clown, searching for anyone with whom he can share the end . . . or is that the reason?  It’s really beautifully done with an absolute minimum of words.  The artwork is phantasmagoric, and the final panel is both sad and funny at the same time.  Great stuff.

Then we have “Gomez Santana, P.I.”  Santana is an unusual kind of detective.  When he was younger, he was possessed by a demon.  After it was exorcised, Santana was left with the ability to “[see] beings for what they really are.”  This has driven him to hard drink and even harder narcotics to numb himself.  Whenever the cops have a weird case, they call him in.  Now, he finds himself going up against a mad scientist (Dr. Francis—er, Frank—Victor) and a monster.  Writer Audel Oceguera, Jr., has come up with an awesome character (fuck psychic detectives; this is a much cooler idea), but where he falls short is with the story.  How many times has the Frankenstein monster been used in such a fashion?  The police work is also a bit too convenient.  As soon as Detective Jones mentions the hospital, magically Santana knows who the culprit is.  It’s an all right explanation, but in the flow of a story, it doesn’t work.  There needs to be foreshadowing for something like that.  However, artist Leo Perez certainly makes the tale look awesome.  His depiction of the grimy alcoholic Santana is spot-on, shadows and all.  Also, the scene where Santana is being exorcized is amazing.  Oh yeah, and that priest looks like a badass!

The next story is “Happenstance,” written and illustrated by Rik DesChain.  It’s pretty much a group of soldiers facing off against a sniper.  The most interesting part of this tale is the philosophy of thoughts being able to influence the future.  As a result, the protagonist tries to always think happy thoughts.  It doesn’t always work out, though, as this story proves.  The artwork is very well done, especially that final panel.  The only annoying thing about this one is DesChain’s habit of using quotation marks in speech bubbles.

The last story is untitled and uncredited.  It’s the story of one guy versus three zombies when he originally thought there was only one.  This is probably the weakest of the stories as it’s been done about a thousand times, and it brings nothing new to the table.

Wedged between the stories are pinups that range from incredibly, offensively funny (Jon Lennon’s about the demon who discovers that “JESUS STO’ MY HO!!!”) to the super creepy vampire from K. Anthony.

All in all, this is a good collection.  It has its weaknesses, but overall, it’s worth picking up.

Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by CME
34 pages


Wednesday, June 5, 2013


It’s not every day that one meets a comics legend.  In fact, he’s the only comics legend I’ve ever met.  I once saw Stan Lee from a distance, but that’s not the same thing.  Len Wein created Swamp Thing, for Christ’s sake.

It was shocking how short his line was.  There were only two people in front of me, which surprised the hell out of me.  This is the guy who edited the WATCHMEN when Alan Moore was writing it, and this was how much people cared to meet him?  Every year I see Brian Azzarello doing a signing, it always surprises me that very few people line up to meet him, and he’s the best American writer in the industry right now.  (Ed Brubaker is a very close second.)  And now I see Len Wein in a similar situation?

When I got up to meet him, there seemed to be something off about him.  It took me a moment to realize that he was actually sick, and he was doing his best to put on a good show for his fans.  His hands shook a lot, and every smile he wore seemed strained and painful, but he was trying to tough it out for his fans.

That’s truly amazing.  Most of these guys get the sniffles, and they cancel their appearances.  Wein is a hell of a guy for doing this.

One of the things I brought with me was a reprint of HOUSE OF SECRETS #92, which was the first appearance of Swamp Thing.  I apologized to him for bringing a mere reprint, but getting the real thing was a bit expensive these days.  He waved a dismissive hand and said, “The story’s the same, no matter the edition.”  And he’s right.  Some truths are eternal.

Sadly, when I got home, I noticed that the autograph on that issue got smudged.  It’s still legible, but it kind of disappointed me.  It happened because after he’d signed my books, I noticed his line had grown a bit when my back was turned.  In my hurry to get out of the next fan’s way, I didn’t wait long enough for the ink to dry.

But here’s the thing:  it doesn’t matter if his signature is on it.  The story is the important thing, whether it has his handwriting on it or not.  Len Wein is a wise man, and I hope you all get the chance to meet him someday.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Look at the title.  Now take in the cover.  It’s very clear that this book is being sold on the merits (or lack thereof) of sexy violence.  That shouldn’t be surprising, considering how it’s written by Jeffrey Kaufman, the guy who gave us TERMINAL ALICE.  Can we expect more of the same from him?

Kind of.  This time, Kaufman fares much better.  While he leans on some of his old crutches, he has a better handle on the content, which is actually a strong presence this time out.  The style is still there, but it’s closer to being balanced this time.

Jacob Mars is a CIA assassin, but the problem with working for the government these days is that the good ol’ US of A is running low on money.  Budget cuts must be made.  The next thing Mars knows is, he’s let go.  What does a contract killer do when he’s out of his cushy job?

For one, he’s really good at his occupation.  So good that the competition wants him in their organization, but even though the US no longer wants him, they make sure that he doesn’t go to work for the opposition.  That leaves freelance work, and Mars will do just about anything to make money (hence the title).  To quote his former handler, Mars is a “selfish, self-indulgent, semi-homicidal narcissist,” and such people have high costs of living.  He doesn’t want to give up his lifestyle, so it’s time to start killing people in the private sector.

Some of the jobs he takes on are downright surreal.  In one job, he protects a Bieber-ish pop star who wants to come out of the closet, but his studio knows that would lose them a lot of money.  There’s the former rival who wants Mars to fuck the rival’s daughter until she’s pregnant, so the guy can raise the kid to one day murder Mars.  (And Mars goes for it, because the money is good!)  There’s the mobster who everyone thinks is a snitch.  There’s the rich couple who wants to ensure that they win a prestigious dog show.  Holy shit, that’s a lot.

That’s the only real flaw of this book.  There is no overarching story.  It’s a series of stories thrown together, where the only two that connect are the first and last.  Maybe that’s good for a series, but for a graphic novel?  Not so much.

But there’s so much good shit here!  One of the best scenes shows Mars playing basketball with Obama as they talk about Mars’s work for the government.  Great stuff.

Artist Marco Turini is no slouch, either.  The art satisfies every need of the story, from sex to violence to humor and everything in between.  You can see the coldness on Mars’s face, even when he’s supposed to be at his most passionate.  The book opens with him arguing over the phone with first a banker and then his handler over why he wasn’t paid as per usual.  The whole time, he’s fucking the shit out of this girl, and you can tell where his interest really lies.

Sadly, Kaufman couldn’t resist the urge to have the girls from TERMINAL ALICE show up to help Mars near the end of the book.  This time out, though, they don’t do so badly.  The only truly annoying thing in this book is Kaufman’s inability to distinguish between “you’re” and “your.”

Despite these flaws, WHORE is an excellent read, and you should pick it up immediately.

Written by Jeffrey Kaufman
Illustrated by Marco Turini
Published by Zenescope
A shit-ton of pages