Dec 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I was going to go with something else for this day since I'd already put CALVIN AND HOBBES up yesterday. But hell, I'm sorry, this is the best there is. Click to embiggen.


Dec 24, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Calvin and Hobbes

Just a few more hours until midnight and Christmas hits. Here's a wonderful Bill Watterson CALVIN AND HOBBES strip to tide you over, folks.

On window panes, the icy frost
Leaves featherred patterns, crissed & crossed,
But in our house the Christmas tree
Is decorated festively
With tiny dots of colored light
That cozy up this winter night.
Christmas songs, familiar, slow
Play softly on the radio
Pops and hisses from the fire
Whistle with the bells and chor.
My tiger is now fast asleep
On his back and dreaming deep.
When the fire makes him hot,
He turns to warm whatever's not.
Propped against him on the rug,
I give my friend a gentle hug.
Tomorrow's what I'm waiting for
But I can wait a little more.

One more day till Christmas!

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Stocking Stuffing with Santa Marvel

Captain Marvel plays Santa. How many comic book references can you spot?

Art by Jeff Smith.

Also, I have that Sandman statuette. Its base is unstable, so it's kind of annoying.

Two more days till Christmas!

Dec 22, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Walt and Skeezix run into Santa

In this GASOLINE ALLEY Sunday Strip, Walt and Skeezix go on a plane ride. Who do they run into?

Look at that artwork. Frank King knocks it out of the park again.

Thanks to the Professor for this image!

Three more days till Christmas!

What to Watch Out For in 2011

Well, it's the start of the year, and while I could give a "Best of 2010" list like everyone is probably doing right now, I'll freely admit that I haven't read as much in 2010 as I'd like to have read. See, not only am I in a third-world country in tough times, in a hobby that is not inexpensive, but I've also been saving up for quite a lot, since, in August, I made like Wally West, and my Linda Park said "yes." And sorry, Cubers, there's one thing I would give up my comics for, and that's a happy life with my girl.

So, instead, I'll give off a list of things you guys should watch out for in 2011 - in other words, stuff I myself will be watching out for, because I'm very interested in how these things turn out.

Publisher to Watch Out For: Archie Comics. Archie was really strong in 2010. Fresh off the heels of THE ARCHIE WEDDING, Archie Comics hit the ground running with LIFE WITH ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE, featuring two ongoing stories, each in an a different reality: one where Archie married Betty, and one where Archie married Veronica.

The stories have been legitimately compelling and well-told, and the sales have been good - so good, in fact, that they're using the magazine to debut JINX, the adventures of a grown-up Li'l Jinx, and they're also releasing another magazine format called VERONICA AND BETTY. For the first time, it seems that Archie Comics has realized that showing their characters developing - in this case, showing different takes on their characters developing - is the way to go.

Franchise to Watch Out For: Spider-Man. Brand New Day is over, and BIG TIME is here. With Dan Slott now as the sole Spider-Man writer, I think we are in for a run that can only be called a classic in the making. I think Slott has the writing capacity to match Roger Stern's classic run, and he's aided by artists that are just a perfect fit for Spider-Man in Stefano Caselli, Humberto Ramos, and my personal favorite, Marcos Martin. One More Day is done, Brand New Day is done, One Moment in Time is done. It's been three years since the infamous Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson breakup, and the new status quo has retained AMAZING SPIDER-MAN's place on the charts despite it, meaning that (1) although there were people who disliked the new status quo and how it was reached, some people were attracted to it and it gained (or in my case, regained) readers as well, balancing out the net effect of reader gain/loss, (2) the people who complained about it for three years actually spent $322.92 to read a title they knew they wouldn't like just to complain about it, or most likely, (3) a little bit of both. It's been three years, I think the fans who didn't like it and went away are now ready to give the new status quo a chance, and Dan Slott really gets Spider-Man (as evidenced by this and this), so I think the decision to make Spider-Man single again can be fully judged by how well Big Time does. I, for one, can't wait to see it.

In addition, we've got a CARNAGE series and an OSBORN series, and, my personal favorite of the lot even if I haven't read it yet, a new SPIDER-GIRL by Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry. She's a Hispanic teenager in an overcrowded market - a really hard sell in today's day and age, which is all the more reason she needs the support.

Up and Coming Writer to Watch Out For: JH Williams III. Anyone who knows JH Williams III by now should know that he puts in so much thought into drawing and coloring and designing even just a panel of any page of any comic he's working on. As the new regular writer of BATWOMAN, launching in February, I can't wait to see what JH comes up with for the rotating art team of himself and Amy Reeder Hadley. If he puts in half as much thought and effort into the writing as he does to the drawing, and if he's even half as good, we are in for a gigantic treat.

Up and Coming Artist to Watch Out For: Nicola Scott. Nicola Scott is a clean, expressive artist whose style is still grounded in realism. With her crisp figurework, excellent storytelling, and dynamic layouts, I'm actually bummed that I don't have any more room in my budget for her TEEN TITANS.

Ongoing Series to Watch Out For: BATWOMAN. Take it from me - this is going to be the absolute best-looking book on the market. And it also doesn't hurt that Kate Kane is a legitimately engrossing character.

Original Graphic Novel to Watch Out For: HABIBI. Craig Thompson has finished HABIBI, and I know absolutely nothing about it other than the fact that it's a story that has more action and adventure in it than he's known for (which is none at all) and that it takes place in the Middle East. While I don't think it's going to be as emotionally gutwrenching as GOOD-BYE CHUNKY RICE, I also don't think it'll be as self-indulgent as BLANKETS (see here), and if Craig puts in as much effort into HABIBI as he did with the other two books, I think we're in for a real treat.

What You Should Try to Keep Track Of, Since I Have No Idea When It's Going to Get Done: Over at the Graphic Novel and Comic Book Creators in New York City, Art Spiegelman revealed that he is researching what could well be his next comix project.

Art’s next potential research project is into the cartoonists of lurid ‘40s and ‘50s crime comics: Charlie Biro and Bob Wood. Biro was the publisher, and Wood was his editor—guilty of killing a girlfriend with an iron in a drunken rage.

“I found the Bob Wood murder confession when he killed his girlfriend: it’s a twelve-day drunk barely coherent version of what happened. I got it right before it was turned to the landfill. It was literally in a box of documents that were about to become landfill in Staten Island.”
And I'm going to keep track of it, because it sounds like something I'm gonna want to read.

Filipino Komik that You Should Be Reading Next Year: BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS. This story, by Dave Hontiveros and Ace Enriquez, about a Superman-like figure who has to fight the Apocalypse as depicted in the book of Revelations has been engrossing and enthralling so far. You can read my review of issue 1 here and issue 2 here. And you can read the entire series so far here.

Filipino Big Komik that You Should Be Reading Next Year: Supposedly, TRESE BOOK 4 is coming out next year. This series about a demon hunter in Manila dealing with demons of the local variety has been on par with anything ever released anywhere, and I cannot wait to read the next book.

Graphic Novel You Should Buy if You Haven't Yet: ELMER. No matter where you are in the world, you should read ELMER. This comic by Gerry Alanguilan about a world in which chickens gain intelligence is heartwrenching and thought-provoking, and drawn with all the technical precision of a classicist artist.

Dec 21, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Santa Superman and Santa Batman

From "Yes, Tyrone, There Is a Santa Claus," by Kelley Puckett and Pete Woods in THE INFINITE HOLIDAY SPECIAL (2007), here's Santa Kal-El!

Later on in the same story, here's Santa Batman!

Yeah, I also like it when Batman's fun.

Four more days till Christmas!

Dec 20, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Starman Helps Out Santa

In STARMAN #27, James Robinson and Steve Yeowell have pretty much the entire supporting cast waiting for Jack Knight, the then-current Starman, for a Christmas party. However, he's held up because he just runs into Santa Claus.

Okay, not actually Santa Claus, but one of those department store Santas, whose locket, which contains the only picture of his deceased family, has been stolen. Jack of course helps him to get it back, at which point they go their separate ways.

At the end of the day, though, Jack decides he simply can't let Santa Claus spend Christmas on his own.

A truly touching story, even if hampered by the art.

Five more days till Christmas!

Dec 19, 2010

I am all for a LOIS LANE series

It's come to my attention (via Newsarama) that there's been a fan campaign, started on the LoisLaneVerse Twitter account, to start up a new LOIS LANE series. I am all for this idea.

From SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN #3, art by Gary Frank

There's a gigantic dearth in mainstream comics and its treatment of women. There's no shortage of strong, independent women in comics, but girls are a tough, tough sell, mainly because the industry still carries with it the stigma of being for guys. And while girls will read stories that revolve around guys, it's a sad truism that guys will most likely not read anything that revolves around girls (unless said revolution occurs around T&A). And this leaves female readers, especially the younger ones, with very few characters to look up to or admire.

A LOIS LANE is a particularly good idea because, well, quite frankly, she's Lois Lane! There's a likely formula that would get sales in comics, which would incorporate character recognition in addition to the name power of the creator and marketing. This is particularly why BATWOMAN is successful:

She's got a "Bat-" in her name, she was written and drawn by fan favorites, and DC was very heavily behind it in terms of marketing. So even if she's a new character, she makes more sense to push than, say, the Huntress.

Let's also not forget Marvel's first SPIDER-GIRL, which, while defunct now, lasted for over a decade! Taking place in an alternate reality, Mayday Parker is the daughter of Peter (Spider-Man) and Mary Jane Parker.

Sales on the SPIDER-GIRL series weren't particularly strong, but always enough to keep it afloat, as it had a very, very loyal base of fans. But business is business, and they just rebooted Spider-Girl with a completely different character, Anya Corazon. This time, it takes place in the Marvel Universe, since, apparently, being "in canon," whatever the hell that's supposed to really mean, is also a factor in terms of sales.

I haven't read Anya's book, but it's heavily marketed, looks really good, and also supposedly (judging from the reviews) just a really solid piece of writing. And she has a "Spider-" in her name, so I think (and hope) she'll be a moderate sales success.

LOIS LANE has all the ingredients of a successful comic. First of all, she's LOIS LANE, Superman's wife. A random person on the street would probably be able to tell you who she is without much hinting. Next to Wonder Woman, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Catwoman, and feminized versions of male characters, such as Supergirl and Batgirl, Lois Lane is, bar none, the most recognizable female character in comics — and undoubtedly the most recognizable female supporting character. She is so loved that when the fan campaign started, creators such as Gail Simone and Paul Tobin all of a sudden came out saying how much they would LOVE to write her.

Lois Lane started off as an incredibly independent female character — a true landmark for 1938.

From ACTION COMICS #1, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Unfortunately, with the establishment of the Comics Code Authority, Lois Lane got changed to a possessive jealous woman who always schemed to get Superman to marry her. It is also, tellingly, at this time when she got her own series, which was so successful that it lasted for 20 years. I know middle-aged moms who have fond memories of this series.

Obviously, gender roles have changed, and such a series would no longer fly. As much as I'm not a fan of John Byrne's 1986 Superman reboot called MAN OF STEEL, one thing he did get right was Lois Lane.

Lois is an investigative reporter, and as such, she has a strong enough personality to carry her own series. It's also a great hook, because it means she can go anywhere and do anything. And in the DC Universe, there's a LOT of places to see: Atlantis, Gotham City, outer space... anywhere.

With the proper marketing and the proper execution, LOIS LANE could be an awfully successful comic. The only question would be who would do it. Well, there's no shortage of candidates, but tops on my list would be Gail Simone and Nicola Scott. I think a strong independent female needs strong independent females writing her, and Gail's as good as it gets when it comes to crafting a story, while Nicola has great storytelling skills and the ability to make any character — especially women — simultaneously attractive and classy.

Wonder Woman by Nicola Scott

I'd be all for a LOIS LANE series. And I can't actually think of any other female character currently without her own series, all things being equal, who could succeed more.

Christmas Countdown: Lucy Writes an Honest Letter

In Charles Schulz's PEANUTS, Lucy Van Pelt writes an honest letter to Santa exactly about what she wants. Click to enlarge.

Feel free to replace the numbers in that last panel with whatever denominations are appropriate in your country!

Six more days till Christmas!

Dec 18, 2010

Christmas Countdown: The Bone crew sets up a Christmas Tree

It's a Christmas tree to the Bone cousins, and a traditional tree that originated from the pagans and was used as a celebratory symbol for the crew of Atheia. Jeff Smith shows that it doesn't really matter what you celebrate, so long as it means peaceful coexistence with your fellow humans. And Bones.

Seven more days till Christmas!

Dec 17, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Santa's Under Arrest

In TOP TEN #6, by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon, a very strong telekinetic thinks he's Santa Claus, and hilarity ensues. Seriously, it's worth it just for the cover.

Eight more days till Christmas!

Comic Book Glossary: Transitions, Part 2

Welcome to a new installment of Comic Book Glossary! One of the aims of the Comics Cube! has always been to help out the newer readers who may be interested in, but aren't all that knowledgeable in comics, and one thing everyone needs to know if they're interested are the terms. Click here for the index!

Last week, we talked about the three most often-used transition types in comics. Now, we'll look at the other three transition types that aren't so widely used.

The moment-to-moment transition is like action-to-action, except that it comprises more moments and shows the action slower. So, for example, where an action-to-action transition may show a guy about to throw a punch in one panel and actually throwing the punch the next, the moment-to-moment transition would show each stage of the punch being thrown. Here's an example from Alex Toth's rare Batman work. From a certain perspective, this may look like action-to-action, but consider that most artists would probably omit the third panel, and it becomes moment-to-moment.

The aspect-to-aspect transition is one where a bunch of panels take place in one given moment. In this one-pager by Art Spiegelman ("Don't Get Around Much Anymore"), he shows a person's apartment and the various things in it. Each panel takes place in the same moment as the one before, and with this technique, he shows us the entire apartment unit. (On a side note, take note of the fact that each caption refers to the previous panel, which causes some disorientation.)

These two transition types are seen rarely in American and European comics, but very often in Japanese comics. A part of the reason is that manga is just typically produced in larger products than American and European comics, but another reason is just cultural. Western culture is very goal-oriented, while Japanese culture very much emphasizes the journey over the destination. Here's an example from Osamu Tezuka's SWALLOWING THE EARTH, which could be either moment-to-moment or aspect-to-aspect, dependingon whether or not time is passing within these panels.

The final transition type is the one least-used, pretty much anywhere and by anyone. This is the non-sequitur, where the panels in sequence don't have any sort of logical connection. This is used mainly usually in experimental comics, and quite honestly, the only comic I can think of that actually uses it to service a longer narrative is the adaptation of PAUL AUSTER'S CITY OF GLASS, by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. In this sequence, Peter Stillman is narrating the backstory of the book. Stillman's not exactly all right in the head, and Karasik (who did layouts) and Mazzucchelli (who actually drew it) expressed this by attributing his speech to various non-sequitur materials.

I'd be hard-pressed to think what else the non-sequitur could be used for.

These definitions are, once again, from Scott McCloud's UNDERSTANDING COMICS!

Dec 16, 2010

Christmas Countdown: Pickles

Last year, Earl and Opal from Brian Crane's PICKLES had to celebrate Christmas alone. This bums Opal out, so Earl tries to cheer her up.

Strip's from, where you can read a bajillion PICKLES strips.

Nine more days till Christmas!

Dec 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown: The Ducks Find Their Christmas Tree

This next panel is from "The Golden Tree" by Carl Barks, which you can read here. I'd say more, but that would give the entire story away.

Ten more days till Christmas!

Gateway Comics: TOP TEN by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon

If you want to buy your friends a comic book for Christmas, there's one comic I can always recommend.

In all my years of reading comics, I've tried getting friends and acquaintances alike to at least appreciate the medium I love so much. And there are some comics that just don't work as gateway comics — they're too entrenched in history, they fail to blow the reader away, they don't really show anything special right off the bat, or whatever other reason — but there is one comic I've found has always worked and has always amused people, entertained them, given them a good story, and made them want to read more.

That comic? TOP 10 by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon.

The concept of TOP 10is very simple, and provides the hook right off the bat. TOP 10 focuses on Precinct 10, the police precinct in a city called Neopolis, where everyone has superpowers.

Moore's inspiration for the series was the TV show NYPD Blue, and I think it's particularly inspired to make everyone a superbeing in the city because it prevented the cops of Precinct 10 to function as really just another superteam. This way, it's their personalities that shine, not their powers.

So it's actually structured a lot like a cop TV show, where certain characters exit a scene at the same time others enter. It's episodic, with running subplots but also with full stories in each issue. And there's a wonderful balance of seriousness and humor, as we try to examine what living in this city would really be like. As you can imagine, it leads to a lot of absurdity, and even if it's serious on the page, we the reader can laugh at it.

For example, the racial minority in Neopolis are Ferro-Americans, or robots. The derogatory term for them is "clickers." They have "scrap" music instead of rap music, where their "homes" are "ohms." And when Joe Pi, Ferro-American, has to deal with bigoted Shock-Headed Peter, hilarity ensues.

There really isn't a main character in the book, and it's all about the group dynamics of the characters and the actual short stories they get caught into. And they're doozies.

For example, they have to deal with a murder at the Godz bar. The case? The death of Baldur, setting the mythological tale in a modern cop setting.

They have to deal with their version of a car collision: a teleporter collision. (In addition, this is one of the most touching 22 pages I've ever read.)

Dust Devil's mom has a vermin problem, but of course, in Neopolis, the mice are superpowered. See if you can spot Mighty Mouse and Danger Mouse.

And in terms of the art, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon kill it. I've said that it reads like a TV show, and that's good for fans unaccustomed to the comics medium, but it does utilize exactly one technique that only comics can fully utilize: packing a panel, as Harvey Kurtzman did. And in a city full of superheroes, you can just imagine, there are a lot of inside jokes and Easter eggs. In fact, they were there from the first panel of the first issue

From ads about Wolverine's healing factor to Superman's phone booth changes, the first page of TOP 10 is already visually stunning. Add to that some renditions of some familiar characters, changed to fit the world of TOP 10 (and to avoid copyright infringement problems). From the aforementioned Mighty Mouse:

To Spaceman Spiff, from CALVIN AND HOBBES:

To just about every Roman-themed character you can find, from Asterix to Marvin the Martian:

Hell, even to the Hamburglar:

Well, I'm not going to show you everything! Part of the fun is finding them!

TOP 10 was popular enough even with a minimal amount of advertising that they were able to put out a four spin-off series. The two that were written by Moore are SMAX, illustrated by Zander Cannon:

And THE 49ERS, illustrated by Gene Ha:

SMAX is a more hilarious tale, and Cannon's cartoony style fits it nicely. It involves two of Precinct 10 returning to one of their homeworlds, which is a fantasy adventureland. So instead of getting superheroes in the background, we get things like trolls and white rabbits. Here's two trolls dealing drugs.

THE 49ERS is more serious, and Ha's wash-tone artwork suits it, as it details the origins of Neopolis. Just to sell you, spot Bluto.

I would completely avoid the spin-offs not written by Moore. TOP 10: BEYOND THE FARTHEST PRECINCT by Paul DiFilippo and Jerry Ordway just falls flat and doesn't feel organic, while TOP TEN SEASON TWO, by Zander Cannon and Gene Ha was ridiculously shortchanged by DC in that it seems we will never see it come to an end.

Having said that, I wouldn't give any of these books to a kid under the age of 14, so buy at your own risk. If you ARE over the age of 14, then buy it now, I say!