Feb 23, 2011

RIP Dwayne McDuffie

This is unexpected, and unbelievably sad. Comic Book Resources has reported that Dwayne McDuffie has passed away.

Dwayne McDuffie is one of the most important people in the history of comic books, and is known for his works that push against the stereotypical depictions of race. But he's also done some other things, including DAMAGE CONTROL, a series about what happens after a big superhero/supervillain fight and how the government cleans up the mess.

In 1992, McDuffie launched Milestone Comics, a company that focused on superheroes and villains of different races.

One of those superheroes was Virgil Hawkins, also known as STATIC.

When Milestone went defunct later, Static lived on in television screens all around the world as STATIC SHOCK.

McDuffie also did a lot of work on the JUSTICE LEAGUE/JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED animated series, including writing the three-part STARCROSSED, which I always thought was just a beautiful series of episodes.

In McDuffie's work on the show, you can see a clear push for John Stewart, the African-American Green Lantern.

Most recently, McDuffie wrote the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's ALL-STAR SUPERMAN.

He died the day after it premiered due to surgical complications the night before, and had just celebrated his 39th birthday 2 days earlier.

39 is too young.

Rest in peace, Dwayne McDuffie.

Feb 21, 2011

Comics Techniques and Tricks: Tony Harris and Talking Heads

Welcome to another edition of Comics Techniques and Tricks, in which we showcase techniques that only comics can do! Click here for the archive!

One of the biggest challenges for any comic book artist is when a writer or a scene calls for a lot of talking, known affectionately in the business as "talking heads," because, uh, you know, you have to show the heads to show them talking. It's understandably hard in a visual medium like comics to keep such a scene dynamic, but there are ways around it. Wally Wood, for example, had a catalog of 22 panels that would always work.

In James Robinson and Tony Harris' STARMAN, though, which is my favorite longform mainstream comic book series ever, Harris has a way to circumvent the problem. Instead of showing multiple talking heads in succession, he draws the two people talking in one gigantic picture, almost a splash page, and then separates them with gutters.

Never underestimate the power of a gutter, folks. The simple addition of gutters to an otherwise static picture creates the feeling of time and movement.

In addition, it facilitates easier placement of the word balloons, because the reader retains the sense of up-to-down and left-to-right reading orientation. Without the gutters, figuring out the order of the word balloons may be hard, like below.

It also doesn't hurt that Tony Harris has an incredible design sense and it makes the pages look great!

Feb 17, 2011

Easter Eggs in Comics: Top 10 49ERS!

Welcome to another installment of Easter Eggs in Comics! Click here for the archive!

 In Alan Moore and Gene Ha's TOP 10: THE 49ERS, we see the genesis of the city of Neopolis, a place now inhabited purely by superpowered beings! What could Neopolis have been like before the superheroes came in in 1949? Why, full of references to pre-1949 comics, of course! Let's take a look at just one panel. Click it to see it in full!

The people on the lower right, by the mailbox, are Robin Hood and the Golden Age Sandman!

Looking at the store names, there's Infantino cigars, a clear reference to Carmine Infantino, co-creator of, among other things, the Silver Age Flash and Batgirl!

There's also Pegleg Pete's Seafood, presumably run by Steamboat Willie's/Mickey Mouse's arch-enemy, Pegleg Pete!

The hotel in the background is called Hotel Nodell. Martin Nodell was, along with Bill Finger, the creator of the Golden Age Green Lantern! Note the signs around the Hotel Nodell also being lanterns, the type of which are on Alan Scott's emblem.

And, finally, you've got the two big buildings in the shapes of an S and a P, with a "The" even sticking out of the S! That's right, folks, it's a reference to Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT, which often used what Eisner called architexture — the incorporating of the logo into the background!

All that, by the way, is just in one panel! Go check out the book, folks!

Feb 15, 2011

RIP Joanne Siegel

Heidi McDonald reported yesterday that Joanne Siegel, wife of Superman's writing co-creator, Jerry Siegel, and one of the original models for Superman's artistic co-creator, Joe Shuster, has passed away. By all accounts, Mrs. Siegel's personality was the inspiration for the original Lois Lane, which would have made her a strong and independent woman, well ahead of her time, who valued honesty and integrity above much else. In fact, right up to the time of her death, Mrs. Siegel was involved in the long, legal battle for the rights to Superman - a fight, I feel, that she is and has always been on the right side of, and you should too, because if you were Jerry Siegel, you know where you'd want what should have been your money to go.

Photo from Dean Trippe

Rest in peace, Lois Lane.

Feb 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. If you have someone to spend it with, make sure to make this day special. If you don't, I'm sure you're off at a singles "I hate Valentine's Day" party somewhere.

To celebrate, here's my favorite couple in superhero comics, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's SPIDER-MAN: BLUE!

Feb 12, 2011

Mark Evanier on Alfredo Alcala

On Facebook, I am a fan of The Fertility of Cross-Hatching: ALFREDO ALCALA. Alfredo Alcala may be my favorite artist of the Filipino Invasion (with the only real competition being Jess Jodloman), and a member of this group, Corn Stone, sent the group this anecdote from Mark Evanier on Mr. Alcala. I present it to you now.

Alcala’s transition to drawing for the American market began in the early seventies when an intermediary arranged for a group of artists in the Philippines to sell work to DC Comics. Alfredo often told the tale of going to a hotel in Manila to show his samples to Joe Orlando, one of DC’s senior editors.

Orlando was naturally impressed with the quality of the work he was shown. He told Alfredo that DC would hire him and asked how many pages per week he could produce.

“Forty,” said Alfredo.

The editor was startled. The least exhaustible DC artist would be hard-pressed to pencil and ink ten pages in a week. Then he realized that Alfredo probably assumed he would only pencil or only ink. “No, no,” Orlando said. “We want you to do all the art…pencil, ink, even lettering.”

“I see,” Alfredo muttered. “I pencil, I ink, I letter?”

“Yes,” Orlando nodded. “Now, how many pages per week do you think you can do?”

“Forty,” said Alfredo.

Again, the editor was startled. Obviously, there was some sort of misunderstanding here. He figured that the artist before him was thinking in terms of very simple pages with only two or three panels on each and no detail. Fortunately, Orlando had brought along with him, several dozen pages of original art from past DC books. He showed Alfredo pages by Neal Adams, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan and others.

“We want work like this…these many panels per page, and this detailed,” Orlando explained.

“Oh,” Alfredo nodded. “You want me to pencil, ink and letter pages like this?”


“Well,” Alfredo explained. “That changes things.”

“I would think so,” Orlando sniffed. “Now then…how many pages a week do you think you can do?”

“Eighty,” said Alfredo.

Skeptical and disbelieving, Orlando put Alfredo down for 40 pages per week. Soon after, when Alcala pages began arriving at DC at that rate, it was assumed by some that “Alfredo P. Alcala” was the joint moniker of perhaps a half-dozen hands. Not so — as anyone who later saw Alfredo sketching at a convention can attest.

The work ethic of those older artists is nothing short of amazing.

Alcala's VOLTAR, from PilipinoKomiks

Feb 10, 2011

Comics' Biggest Boners: Stan Lee in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Welcome to the first edition of Comics' Biggest Boners, in which we showcase some of the biggest goofs and gaffes in comics!Click here for the archive!

And now, your host, 1950s Joker!

I got the idea for this feature from a gift I got over Christmas, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS! We all know about Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man! This is the second panel (the first on the second page) of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, our titular hero's second appearance ever, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko:

However, back in the day, they'd run two stories in one issue. The second story in that one shows Spider-Man trying to join the Fantastic Four. Also done by Lee and Ditko, this story is notorious because of the fact that Stan Lee screws up Peter Parker's name not once:

But twice:

Yes, in two instances on the same page, Stan Lee mistakenly calls Peter Parker "Peter Palmer"! Here are the captions zoomed in.

That's pretty funny, huh?

You can read the story in the reprints below! I know for a fact that the Omnibus preserves the boner, but I'm not sure about the Marvel Masterworks edition. If anyone has it, feel free to tell me what the deal is.

Feb 8, 2011


I don't usually go outside of the comics medium in this site, but this is worth it. I've got a good friend who works at Disney. We'll call her "K." No, I will not send her your resume. Anyway, "K" sends me a video over email, with the following text accompanying it.

My friend Robb at DTS animated and directed this Superman short (he worked for months drawing each individual cell whenever he could find spare time at 3 am) and he hopes to eventually pitch the style to Warner Bros.  He's all about classic Superman and the look and feel is based on the 1940s serials.  If you could help him publicize or post comments on the youtube page, that would be awesome and he'd be extremely grateful!  And cool trivia, he's friends with John Haymes-Newton who played Superboy from the 80s, so he's the one doing the voice!  :)

Help him spread the word since he would love to bring back that old traditional look and develop a new series for WB!

After viewing the video, I gotta say, it's pretty good.  It's nice and refreshing to see Superman being silly again and not have it be a parody. In fact, "K" adds:

I thought his Superman style and vision was quite in line with yours. His biggest nightmare is for them to make Supes all dark and brooding and hip.

And that's always good to me. So without further ado, I present to you SUPERMAN CLASSIC by Robb Pratt. Support it by publicizing it or leaving comments on the YouTube page!

And of course, you've got a whole bunch of Superman cartoons here:

Feb 7, 2011

Asterios Polyp Annotations, Part 5

This is part 5 of ASTERIOS POLYP annotations. Naturally, spoilers follow. Click here for part 1, here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4. Got your copy of the book handy? Good. Let's go.

Feb 3, 2011

The Comics That Killed the Comics Code

Last week, we talked about the death of the Comics Code Authority, with all the publishers that go to it for regulation pulling out by February. But the truth is, the Comics Code has been a toothless dinosaur for a long time. When I started collecting comics in 1990, I definitely noticed the CCA seal, but only because I had a habit of redrawing comic book covers, not unlike Robert Goodin's Covered blog.

Feb 2, 2011

Behind the Scenes of Mitch Schauer's RIP MD

I got an email last week with a video attached to it. This video goes behind the scenes of RIP MD, by Mitch Schauer, an Emmy® Award-winning producer, writer and designer. It’s an interesting interview that discusses the development of RIP MD from pencil to ink to color, and an insight into the reasons why each artist got into the business in the first place. It should fascinate you if you're thinking about getting into the business.

RIP MD is published by Fantagraphics Books in conjunction with Lincoln Butterfield Animation.

From Fantagraphics' website itself:

Rip M.D. is the debut graphic novel from The Angry Beavers creator Mitch Schauer, a creepy, fun-filled all-ages adventure introducing Ripley Plimpt, an eleven-year-old boy whose ordinary life is turned upside-down when he discovers that monsters are not only real, but are also in desperate need of his help to overcome their very real problems.

You can read the rest of the solicitation here, as well as download a free 8-page preview. It looks like good stuff, folks! You should check it out.