May 31, 2012

Reclaiming History: In Defense of Hank Pym

Welcome to a new installment of Reclaiming History, an ongoing series where the Comics Cube! tries to balance out what the history books say and what actually happened! Click here for the archive!

 So with the success of Avengers, Kevin Feige's Ant-Man movie is a go. Ant-Man is the first of many superhero identities of Henry "Hank" Pym, a founding Avenger (in the comics) and scientist who developed "Pym Particles," which help him shrink to the size of an ant and communicate with ants (hence the name). He also has the ability to grow in size, in which case he adopts the sobriquets of "Goliath" and "Giant-Man," and sometimes he has the power to shrink and fly and throw sting blasts like a yellow jacket, hence the name (wait for it)  Yellowjacket. Just look at this picture.

Pym's multiple identities
Top row: Ant-Man and Goliath
Bottom row: Giant-man and Yellowjacket

Now, the one we're interested in is that last one, Yellowjacket. You see, Hank Pym has a reputation If you ask a comic book fan who's not all that familiar with the character to define him with one word, most of the time you'd get the same answer: "wifebeater." This is because, back in 1981, Yellowjacket hit his wife Janet Van Dyne, the superheroine (and fellow founding Avenger) the Wasp, and somehow has been defined by that moment since.

But it's a load of bunk. It doesn't hold up, and it especially doesn't hold up in superhero comics. It's taken out of context, oversimplifies the situation, trivializes actual domestic violence, disregards mental illness, and is unfair to the character and to Marvel Comics in general. Let's work through the sequence of events, shall we?

May 30, 2012

Batman's Pick-Up Line

It's going to take a lot for me to rate Dark Knight Rises anywhere near as highly as I do Avengers, mainly because I didn't like Batman Begins and only really liked Dark Knight for the Joker sequences, but if this happens in the movie, it'll go a long way into helping me rate it more highly.

I have no idea which comic this is from or even who did it. This came from my friend's blog, which I will not link to because he has some, er, questionable material on it. But here's Batman showing his tender side to Catwoman.

Because, you know, nothing turns a girl on more than being blindfolded, taken into a dark cave, and being shown a stalagmite formation that sometimes reminds you of her.

Geez, Batman, your idea of wooing a woman is vastly different from everyone else's. Watch a movie or something. You've got issues.

May 28, 2012

Back Issue Ben: AVENGERS ANNUAL 10

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

A Brawl Disguised as a Comic

 by Ben Smith

(Duy here. Ben's ROM: SPACEKNIGHT retrospectives will be back next week.)

For the five of you that read my Rom retrospectives, you’ll remember that I mentioned that Avengers Annual #10 was one of the greatest comics of all time. The astute reader among you might have wondered, "Well, why are you reading Rom comics instead of reading that?" To them I would say, because I like to waste my free time, clearly. And also, because Duy is pure evil. That really doesn’t have any bearing on any of this, but we can’t all go on pretending that we don’t notice. Something must be done!

Ahem, back on topic. Rereading this landmark issue, I have to amend my previous statement just the slightest bit. This comic was one of the greatest *fight* comics of all time. I’m not even entirely sure I understand the motivations for any of the fights in this comic, beyond Chris Claremont wanting to pound the stuffing out of the Avengers for personal reasons (more on that later), but it was supremely entertaining nonetheless.

Like I mentioned, it was written by Chris Claremont, arguably the biggest writer in superhero comics at the time. It was pencilled by (here’s that name again) Michael Golden, turning out yet another classic action issue. Without further ado, let’s jump into it.

May 25, 2012

Shazam!: Why Grant Morrison Should Write Captain Marvel

So those of you who are regular Cubers know I'm a huge fan of Captain Marvel, he who says "Shazam!"

Art by the incomparable Maestro of Comics,
Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

And it may not surprise you guys to realize that I'm not a big fan of the current direction by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  I won't get into the (many) reasons why, since that wouldn't really be any fun, so I'll just mention a couple of things. First, they're taking a superhero who was famous for being a fantasy-driven whimsical plot device (Captain Marvel was never the protagonist of his stories; Billy Batson was, and Cap was a device to get him out of trouble) and making him dark, plus the fact that they're gonna be pigeonholing him into the "magic" enforcer of the DC Universe.

The Gary Frank art is really, really good
for what it's supposed to convey.
Unfortunately, I don't like what it's supposed to convey.

I've said before that I think one of the problems DC has with Captain Marvel is the whole insistence to push him into the DC Universe. Look, now they're trying too hard to find a slot for him in the DC Universe (mainly because "Superstrong Alpha Male Who Saves the Day" is taken by the guy with the Big Red S), so they're pigeonholing him as the "Magic Guy." Look, we're talking about a guy whose two big bads are a cackling evil mad scientist and an alien worm with glasses. This is not "Magic Guy."

But it seems that's what they want to do with him, and I don't get why they're having such a hard time figuring it out, because there is a guy in the DC offices who can write Captain Marvel within DC continuity. And that man is Grant Morrison.

Let's look at the reasons why.

First of all, I think that one of the reasons DC has always had a hard time figuring out Captain Marvel is the simple fact that Captain Marvel disappeared.  While characters such as Batman and Superman evolved to keep up with the times, and characters such as Spider-Man organically grew and matured, Captain Marvel just disappeared, so there is no established path for him to follow in order to click with today's audience. Writers and creators have to guess and extrapolate.

(The case against this: Marvel's revival of Captain America and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Marvel brought back those characters after a decade of inactivity and really just found the right steps to take with them. Accompanying Captain Marvel would be Plastic Man, whom DC just can't figure out after multiple revivals.)

So if writers and creators have to guess and extrapolate, let's figure this out. Which character is most like Golden Age Captain Marvel? Which character is full of zany, wacky ideas that just play it straight, that take you to other worlds of imagination and wonder? (And bonus points if this guy was written best by Otto Binder?)

Why yes, you're right! The answer is Silver Age Superman!

See, the thing is, Silver Age Superman, with his wacky ideas such as the Bottled City of Kandor and the Superpets, disappeared too! In 1986, they rebooted Superman and did away with all his wacky ideas (okay, fine, they were slowly doing away with it before then, but this one was the big spring cleaning). And in 2006, they brought him back in ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, perfectly reimagining those zany and wacky concepts for today's audience. And it was a hit. And the guy who wrote that? Grant Morrison.

Grant was able to take those ideas and project them into today's zeitgeist, and I have no doubt he'd be able to do the same thing with Captain Marvel, since, again, the whole atmosphere of the two characters, though markedly different, are very similar.

Can you imagine ALL-STAR SHAZAM by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely?

The other important thing is, Morrison's already done it. Where everyone has struggled to write Captain Marvel for a contemporary audience, dating itself instantly in the process — from Jerry Ordway having Billy say "I've lived on the streets!" to "Dark Mary Marvel" that was prominent in the late 2000s — Morrison has done it twice. The first instance was in his JLA run, in the event "Crisis Times Five," in which he has to get to the Fifth Dimension and knocks out Superman to do it.

Notice here that Morrison establishes two things: Captain Marvel's power and humility. And there's nothing ironic about it — most modern writers would feel the need to crack a joke at someone's expense at this point, but Captain Marvel's dialogue is just earnest. "Holy moley, I feel low, but if something goes wrong in the Fifth Dimension, the Earth's going to need Superman more than it needs me."

This is pure superheroism in practice.

In that same story, Captain Marvel figures out how to save the day. Note that Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's reaction is not one of bewilderment or of surprise; it's a statement affirming how cool it is to do some serious skywriting in order to save the world.

Very few writers can write dialogue like this and make people believe it. Grant Morrison is near the top of that list — and looking at DC's list of writers, Grant Morrison is at the top of their list.

The other time Grant wrote Captain Marvel was in FINAL CRISIS. Okay, sure, his treatment of Mary Marvel was horrendous (although there was a point to it, unlike all the other writers who tried writing evil Mary), but his use of Captain Marvel was excellent. It acknowledges that he did spring from the same idea as Superman, but it treats him as the best possible iteration of that idea.

He even gets in between Superman and Ultraman (evil Superman)!

I've also been pretty vocal in the past of what I've perceived as Morrison's weaknesses. Mainly, I think his writing could be tighter and more structured, his pacing less frenetic, and his dialogue less stilted.

But you know what? These things sound like strengths for Captain Marvel, just like they were strengths for his JLA run! Look, I'll be honest. I don't go to Morrison for character development. I go to Morrison for ideas that stretch the realm of the imagination, and for highlighting what makes a character great. I go to Morrison for archetypal characterization — emphasizing what makes the characters awesome, and embracing that awesomeness. And in the same vein, I don't go to Captain Marvel for character development either. I go to him for a sense of wonder.  Like the Avengers movie, it's about pure heroism, escapism, and fantasy.

So in closing, I ask you to take a look at this picture.

And tell me you wouldn't buy a comic where Grant Morrison writes about that.

Because I would, and I'd be first in line.

KWENTILLION MAGAZINE: A New Source of Young Adult Entertainment

I got this press release from Budjette Tan in the mail today!

A New Source of Young Adult Entertainment

Summit Media is proud to announce the launch of Kwentillion Magazine, on May 26, 2012, at the Summer Komikon at the Bayanihan Center, Pasig City. The magazine shall be available at the National Book Store booth. An onstage presentation by co-editors Budjette Tan and Paolo Chikiamco shall take place at 3:30 p.m.

Kwentillion will be the country's first publication dedicated to young adult literature and media, featuring young adult - themed comics and fiction by Filipino creators. Eventually intended for release every two months, the black and white magazine --with an eight-page colored spread every issue--will feature comics and fiction that embrace the themes of the YA genre, as well as articles which tackle YA book releases, and issues relevant to the YA fan community.

The first issue of Kwentillion features the first mass market distribution of four well regarded comics: "The Last Datu", a tale of a daughter's vengeance in a fantasy world, by Budjette Tan & Kajo Baldisimo; "Poso Maximo: A Fair Trade", where a veteran plumber battles monstrous sanitation threats, by Robert Magnuson; "High Society", a steampunk tale set in the eighteenth century Philippines, by Paolo Chikiamco and Hannah Buena; and "Skygypsies", by TJ Dimacali and JohnRay Bumanglag, a science fiction story featuring the Sama-Laut.

Kwentillion also features interviews with Manix Abrera (Kikomachine Komix) and Chester Ocampo (who provides the cover art), as well as a column by Tarie Sabido, a prominent YA blogger who has been a judge both for the National Children’s Book Awards and the international Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (CYBILS).

Kwentillion Magazine shall also be available at selected National Book Store outlets at the price of PHP150.00.

For more information please feel free to visit the Kwentillion Facebook page at

May 23, 2012

Summer Komikon 2012 Previews

Summer Komikon is happening this Saturday at the Bayanihan Center, Unilab Compound, Pasig City! (Commuting directions: Get to the Boni MRT Station and then take a cab from Robinsons Pioneer to the Bayanihan Center.)

My friend Danry and I caught up with one of the organizers, John Felix Zamar, the creator of CODENAME: BATHALA and the upcoming SINONG DAKILA, to talk about the history of Komikon, and I've got some previews of the offerings to show you afterwards.

Jon was part of CULTURE CRASH COMICS, which organized C3Con, one of the first comic book, anime, and gaming conventions in the 2000s. He got involved with people like Ariel Atienza of CLASS and Lyndon Gregorio of BEERKADA (as well as John's future wife Sherry), and as a group they got invited to several conventions such as ToyCon and Sci-Fi Con.

"Why don't we hold an event," he recalls thinking, "where the main focus is komiks?"

So they went ahead with that idea and held the first Komikon at the UP Bahay ng Alumni from 2005 to 2008, as well as in 2009 and 2010 for the Summer Komikon.  The attendance got larger over the years, so they moved to StarMall for one event before finding a bigger and more easily ventilated location at the Bayanihan Center. They have remained true to their vision of spotlighting local komiks.

"At C3Con, I saw a lot of new creators. I found out there was this group — they were making comic books but they didn't have an avenue to sell it. Only some of them thought of selling to comic stores. So, from the start, Komikon's goal was to be that avenue for local creators."

Right now, Komikon and local stores seem to be the only way we can enjoy local komiks.

"If they want the industry to be as it was before, there should be more publishers," Jon says. "What we would like ideally is to have other publishers come in and look at all these komiks. Some are really worthy of being published and distributed mainstream. So we need a more viable system to sell this stuff. Komikon can be a launching pad, but it should be going somewhere other than Komikon afterwards."

What advice does Jon have for our local creators? It comes down to accepting criticism. "We should learn to take criticism, and not to be easily offended by it."

But what makes a work Filipino? Is it the language, the subject matter, the protagonists, or the setting?

"As a creator, you write for your chosen target market," Jon says. "If you write something for a Filipino audience, regardless of the language used, it's a Filipino komik."

And why should someone who doesn't really read comic books go to Komikon?

"Let's go back to Philippine history," says Jon. "Philippine komiks has always been a mining field for other creative media. Movies and TV, they're mining old Philippine komiks concepts. Paulit-ulit na lang yung concept nila sa movies and TV. (The concepts they show in movies and TV are repetitive.) Komikon has been a home for creators to think out of the box."

And with that, here are the previews, prices included!

May 21, 2012

Comics Techniques and Tricks: In the Shadow of No Towers

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

So I can talk about IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS now, right? It's safe? People won't take it as a reason to talk about politics nonsensically anymore?

Okay, good. So Art Spiegelman used IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS as a sort of sequential art diary of his reactions to 9/11 and the World Trade Center attacks. They comprised full-page newspaper comics pages, each done at a different point in time. At first he's reacting to the attacks, and by the end of it, he was criticizing the Bush administration.

Here's the first spread.

Taken from this site.

Spiegelman's layout is evocative of a newspaper page, with seemingly six different "strips" going on at once. and yet, they're all interconnected. From the theme of "waiting for the other shoe to drop" in "Etymological Vaudeville" and the circular panel in the bottom center to the two towers falling (realize how there are two towers falling? A reader too used to the convention of sequential art may see them as the same tower), this is one unified page.

But the technique I really want to point out happens on the upper right corner, because this is where Spiegelman's structural mastery shines. So we have the rather clever (and biting) three panels of the family in the wake of September 11 on the top tier of the page there. Their strip ends with them hanging an American flag in their living room, which then leads your eye directly into the next "strip," because the panel tilts and behind it is the American flag. (The message is the same: flag-waving and nationalism came in the wake of 9/11.) The proximity of the two flags makes the reading fluid. You read the family strip, then you read the right tower falling. Then because of its similarity in terms of graphics, you read the left tower falling. What an unorthodox way to read a comic book. But it works, and all it really proves is that your tricks must match your material.

IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS is a structural and technical masterpiece, and it will hold a place in my heart forever for personal reasons. I can't speak for its relevance in this day and age (probably still very relevant), but if you want to learn about techniques and comic book history, it's a good book to have on your shelf, especially since it's got classic newspaper-era comics such as LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND in the back matter as well.

May 20, 2012

Previews: David Hontiveros' DAKILA and URIEL

And now, a word from David Hontiveros.

Greetings, Earthling.

Some of you may recall a couple of years back, when Bathala: Apokalypsis launched at the same con that Jon Zamar's Codename: Bathala did.

Truth is, my erstwhile editor Budjette Tan uncovered Jon's plans for his similarly-titled comic before the con, and our adding Apokalypsis to the title was simply a way to distinguish it from Jon's comic.

Well, it appears that Jon and I have been hanging about the same sections of the collective unconscious, as we've again got similarly-titled comics, though I think Jon is launching his at this coming summer Komikon, while my comic is still being worked on as I compose this blog post.

So, yeah, just as Jon and I had our Bathalas, now, we've got our Dakilas.

But, thankfully, as I told Jon over email, I'm so glad and so relieved that though his comic will also be titled Dakila, none of his characters will be called that.

I'm not sure what the history of Jon's comic is, but the Dakila I'm writing came about as a spin-off to another title I started working on in early 2010, so I've basically been sitting on it for over two years now, and it was during our Artist Search late last year (hosted right here) that Dakila become one of the titles that finally got moving out of its stasis.

As with URIEL and AGYU, DAKILA is a comic I'm psyched to see come together and finally get out there. All three titles are set in the same universe, a world I first introduced in my 2005 Visprint Penumbra novella, Parman, so if you happened to have read that book, then much of my upcoming comic book work may be of interest to you.

Below is the inner front title page for DAKILA, bereft of its masthead and visuals, as well as a double page spread from URIEL, to give you an idea of how that's coming along as well.

As work currently continues on DAKILA, and URIEL, and AGYU, it's a tad too early to tell when their launch dates will be, but, as always, we'll keep you posted here on the Cube.

In the meantime, spread some good karma into the cosmos to help us out.

As always, keep an eye on the Cube for further previews and announcements.

you can't drink just six,


May 17, 2012

She Is Screaming in the Shower: Damaged: A Review

She Is Screaming in the Shower is a column written by Robert Leichsenring for The Comics Cube! Click here for the archives!

Damaged: A Review
By Robert Leichsenring

I'm back with another review for you, folks. This time I have a new book for you called DAMAGED. It is written by David Lapham and produced by — dun dun duuunnn — Sam Worthington, the actor we know from Avatar or the recent Wrath of the Titans. It is published by Radical Publishing. Let's jump right in, okay?

The book opens like a typical Punisher book: one lone man killing a group of rapists in a shady bar, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Our man is a hard-looking, scarred hardass, who, just like the Punisher, kills the scum that never sees prosecution. We meet him in the middle of his work, no origin, no name, only a star shaped scar on his chest.

But he is not the protagonist of the book, far from it, actually. He is the driving force of nature. The protagonists are two cops: the young hotshot Lt. Jack Cassidy and the old dog Capt. Frank Lincoln. Lincoln runs the task force on organized crime, and Cassidy has been trying for years to get into the TF. But Cassidy has to learn that the mayor and the commissioner of the police want to replace Lincoln, who has become soft and unfocused, with Cassidy, who is a rising star in the department and a man with fresh ideas.

There is a scandal brewing inside the police force as one of Lincoln's men, Officer Lordsman, has been arrested after he watched two mobsters burn to death following a car chase. All this happened in front of dozens of bystanders. Now Lincoln is in the focus of the critics as he is weeks away from his pension.

This is the set up for a, I hate to call it this, Punisheresque game of cat and mouse, forcing Cassidy and Lincoln to deal not only with an unknown vigilante, killing criminals all over the States and moving into their city, but also with a open trial of a man who believes that burning mobsters just get what they deserved.

I tell you right now that this is not just a Punisher clone. Not by a long shot. The connection to the vigilante might not be comic's biggest mystery, but how it is played out shows again that Lapham knows his characters and their motivations.

Lincoln is an old and beaten man when we meet him. The years in the force have left their wounds and scars all over him. He is tired and you can feel it, his eyes and his face tell you everything. But he is still one of the best when it comes to policework. He knows his field and he knows how to work his men. He's a passionate man who is lost in a world full of hate and violence, a man who just wants to leave it behind but can't.

Cassidy is a typical up-and-comer: young, good-looking, full of energy and ideas; a real copper, a man of deeds, not of words, trying to move up in the force and eager to learn, worshipping Lincoln and his work, up to the point when they finally meet. And Cassidy has to confront the ugly truth about organized crime, their victims and how easy it is for them to escape prosecution.

The book moves at a fast pace over the first four issues, giving us a lot to take in. The characters are definitely the focus of Lapham's writing, bringing the story alive with detailed and believable characterizations of every player on the field. He not only tells us how they are, but lets us experience what makes them tick, what drives them. If you've read some of Lapham's work, you might already know that he is not one to talk around something but to draw clear images of what he wants us to see. It's refreshing and sometimes disturbing.

For me, he is on top of his game, giving us — again, it's the only comparison that fits — a Punisheresque book that moves away from the cliché of the Marvel character and brings different viewpoints to our attention, mixing elements from PUNISHER MAX and the new Greg Rucka PUNISHER to create a new breed of avenging "angel."

The art, man, yeah, the art is perfect for the book. Leonardo Manco, I've never heard of him, but he's forming a realistic world with his art, detailed and rich in little nuances. Emotions and faces are great and let you feel the characters up to a point that you feel like you participate in the story as an invisible watcher. He manages to balance his character work and the action scenes so that you never feel bored. He and Lapham are a natural fit. Manco really wins with the deep characterizations Lapham is throwing at him and the action, that is very contained and has a real feeling of direction. You don't get lost in the scenes and everything moves forward in a way I can only compare to a good action movie.

Lapham on the other hand gains a lot of momentum with the pencils and they bring out his strong writing. The coloring is something I would like to emphasize as well. We can easily forget about the colors sometimes and what important part they bring to the story. In this case the colors are amazingly perfect. Muted, yes, but it fits. And how it fits. Every issue has this real look, helping you believe what you are being shown. Kudos to Kinsun Loh, Jerry Choo, and Sansan Saw. They are the secret stars of the book.

I know I'm not giving you much on the story, but believe me, if you like the Punisher, or the new one by Rucka, you are going to love this book. It has all of the qualities I like from the Punisher, without an overloaded continuity, superheroes, or restrictions from a major company. It's a fresh take on an idea that has been beaten to death, but in this case it's more like a resurrection — not into a mindless zombie but more like Lazarus.

It really helps that Lapham is focusing on the cops and their struggle to contain an nearly uncontainable situation, finding a man who can't be found and who is out for blood.

I can really just recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime comics, so Brubaker fans, make a mental note to get this one.

I'm looking forward to issue 5 and 6 that are going to end the story and hope some of you give the book a chance.

If you need more love for comic books, join us at the International Comics Society on Facebook or complain about my bad taste on my profile.

Signing out.

Robert "Nemo" Leichsenring

May 16, 2012

Fully Booked Celebrates Free Comic Book Day: A Conversation with Jaime Daez

Last week, I broke the news that Comic Odyssey was opening up a new branch this coming Saturday in Fully Booked, High Street.

Thanks to Fully Booked for this image.

What you guys may not know is that I'd been sitting on that news for a month, and had been dying to tell you all. I had an interview (which turned into a conversation, really) with Fully Booked proprietor Jaime Daez, because my intention had been to do retailer profiles that week preceding Free Comic Book Day, but since Fully Booked's Free Comic Book Day had been moved from the original date of May 5 to May 19 in order to coincide with Comic Odyssey's in-store opening, it only made sense to postpone the publication of this particular article.

(Keep in mind, this conversation took place back in April, when Fully Booked was still planning to hold FCBD on the 5th and Avengers hadn't come out yet.)

The seventh of eight children, Jaime's love of books had come from his older brother Manny, but the same couldn't be said of his love of reading.  "My brother Manny was the champion book reader at school," explains Jaime. "What that simply meant was that you were the person who borrowed the most books for the whole school year. The funny thing was that he wouldn't actually read those books. He would just borrow these books to be able to win that award. So when I finally got into Ateneo, I copied him."

One particular book series sparked his interest. "I would always see Hardy Boys books. At the time, there were 64 books, and I read them all. I guess that's where my obsessive-compulsive nature kicked in."

This led to an interest in comics, so he would end up going to old stores like Alemar's and Gibson's and buy comics for 20 pesos a pop (Ah, the days...), and then he'd actually go and sell them to classmates at a small profit.

"I guess my whole bookselling career kinda started at that early age," he says.

In 1984, the Daez family moved to the States because of the political instability (Ninoy Aquino was shot). From 1984 to 1987, Jaime "really got into comics."

I couldn't help but comment on how that was the best time to get into comic books, to which he said, "I was right there when Alan Moore was doing SWAMP THING, Frank Miller was doing BORN AGAIN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, Art Spiegelman was doing MAUS — that was also the time TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was big, and it would have all these spinoffs, like FISH POLICE."

As he refined his taste in comics, he found himself drawn more and more to comics because of the art, specifically painted art. "One of my favorite comics is WOLVERINE: MELTDOWN, with art by Kent Williams and Jon J. Muth," he says. This has led to a love of collecting original art. We'll get to that later on.

I got curious as to what Jaime thought about what I've called the insular nature of comics — the whole idea that comics companies only target the already-existing audience — and was wondering what he thought of the New 52.

"I think what DC did with the New 52 is a pretty good way of attracting a new audience. Obviously you're starting from scratch, and now there's a new starting point for anyone who's always wanted to try it but was intimidated by the whole history. But on a historical level, I don't know. I wonder if DC's really going to shut the doors on all the past issues of Superman and Batman and never go back to it."

He also speaks out against my preconception that the fan base is actually shrinking.

"For one thing, let's face it, all the big box office movies right now — most come from comic book material. So obviously the fan base is getting bigger and bigger. Sales of back issues are getting bigger and bigger. So the demand is obviously there. I just don't know how the digital aspect is going to affect comics. I'm sure there are already people downloading stuff and not buying that much because they're downloading it for free or from Comixology."

But does piracy really hurt comics as much as it does music and movies?

"I don't think it hurts it as much," he says, "because if there's anything great about people who collect comic books, they really like collecting. They keep these things in pristine condition. They bag and board it, they even put it in mylars. These people are not just going to stop. And if you really like it, you're probably going to buy the physical copy."

The conversation turned into how movies affect sales of graphic novels.

"It really depends on how good the movie is," he asserts. "Definitely, I can say, after the first Iron Man, sales on IRON MAN picked up. After the Daredevil movie, nothing. There are definitely more people reading IRON MAN now than before the movie. It helped THOR as well."

I think we can expect AVENGERS sales to go up. We'll see how many people flock to the AVENGERS offering on Free Comic Book Day, which will be one of the main titles they'll stock on the 19th.

"We mainly go for the big DC and Marvel titles. We don't really bother so much with the small publishers, because we give away a lot — thousands and thousands — and most people want Spider-Man and Superman. I know that there are a lot of other titles out there, but we don't really bother so much."

Jaime then showed me the DC Comics FCBD offering with an exclusive cover designed just for Fully Booked. It's the one on their flyer.

Since then, we've released the information that Comic Odyssey is opening a branch on the same date as FCBD, and they'll have the following artists on hand to do sketches for the family of Tony DeZuniga. (Thanks to Norby Ela for the list.)

  • Tepai Pascual (Maktan 1521)
  • Julius Villanueva (Life in Progress)
  • Amos Villar (No Parking Anthology)
  • Andrew Villar (Ambush Comics)
  • Carlo Villanueva (Boy Bakal)
  • Norby Ela (Wonder Years, Weather-Weather Lang)
  • Jon Zamar (Codename Bathala)
  • Freely Abrigo (Kulas, Kapitan Tog)
  • Aaron Felizmenio (Gwapoman 2000
  • Wan Mananita (Ang Morion, Unos Mundo)
  • Josel Nicolas (Windmills)
  • Chapel (Silent Sanctum Manga)
  • Ruben Nacion (Bennac Cartoons)
  • Gener Pedrina (Sanduguan)
  • Rommel 'Omeng’ Estanislao (Bruho Barbero, Lipad)
  • Mel Casipit (Baboy)
  • Lyndon Gregorio (Beerkada)
  • Ronald Tan (Midknight, Weng-weng)
  • RH Quilantang (Manila Man)
  • Allen Geneta
  • Ariel Atienza (West Side Comics)

(I couldn't let the conversation end  without trying to lobby for Jaime to bring in my favorite artist, who is George Perez, but he wasn't sure of what the turnout would be to such an event. Keep in mind that there's not much in the way of profitability in bringing people in; Fully Booked does it to give something back to the fans. So if you want George Perez or anyone else to come here, let Fully Booked know!)

Jaime took me to see some of his original art, which was a treat. I really liked this Bill Sienkewicz–drawn Jimi Hendrix:

Seriously guys, go buy a copy of VOODOO CHILD.
And go see the rest of Jaime's gallery here.

By this point, Jaime and I had spoken for three hours (and not all about comics) and my recorder died, so I thanked him for his time and took my leave.

I'll see you guys on the 19th! It'll be fun! And I'll definitely be interested to see just how fast the AVENGERS FCBD comic is gonna go.

(Did I mention there's a 20% discount on all graphic novels? I didn't? Well, I'm mentioning it now. But don't remember it until after I get there, because I don't want you buying what I'm gonna buy.)

May 14, 2012

Back Issue Ben: ROM: A Retrospective, Part 4

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

ROM: SPACEKNIGHT: A Retrospective
Part Four: The Quest for Peace

 by Ben Smith

Click here for part 1.
Click here for part 2. 
Click here for part 3.  

There comes a time in every man's life when he feels like he has to accomplish something of substance, of worth. To do something for which he will be remembered in the annals of time. For me, I've decided to read a comic book series from the 1980s that stars a failed toy robot (aim low, that's my motto!). Yet again, for those that came in late (and where have you been so far?), I am attempting to read and review every single issue of the classic 1980s Marvel comic series, ROM: SPACEKNIGHT. As we learned in the first three parts, Rom is the hero of the alien planet Galador, charged with ridding the universe of evil alien shape-shifters the Dire Wraiths. Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema keep on keeping on, as they write and draw this series into the hearts and minds of fans that surely approach a number almost in the triple digits. Last time, Rom had gained an ally, lost a world, and witnessed the death of a triangle-headed comrade. Obscure Hulk villains were proliferate. Let's continue on, shall we?

May 12, 2012

Fact or Fiction: Kirby's Captain America Redesign

The Marvel Age of Comics Tumblr (which I think is run by Tom Brevoort, but I'm not sure) has a post that showcases this old Jack Kirby drawing.

The Tumblr post states that it was "A proposed redesign of Captain America by Jack Kirby done during the period in the 1960s when Joe Simon was waging a court battle to regain rights to the character."

I'm not so sure. It's certainly a possibility, but the thing is, I remember when this drawing first got published. It was in CAPTAIN AMERICA COLLECTORS' PREVIEW, back in 1995.

That's John Byrne on pencils and Joe Simon on inks.

It was right in a little inset called "History Mystery" by Greg Theakston. Apparently, the drawing had become something of an urban legend, and it finally saw print back in 1995.

Scan comes from here.

Let's look at those words again. "Jack may have created an alternate costume for Captain America." "Why it was created is strictly a matter of speculation. Stan has no memory of it. Kirby couldn't recall why he'd done it either."

Keep in mind that Captain America isn't the only patriotic superhero that Jack Kirby co-created with Joe Simon. In 1954, they created the Fighting American, who started out as deadly serious but quickly became really satirical in light of the Cold War. The Fighting American's been through a lot, but is co-owned by the Kirby and Simon estates.

In 1959, they created a successor to Archie Comics' superhero, the Shield. The second Shield was named Lancelot Strong, who was actually one of the first superheroes I ever encountered.

In fact, when Alan Moore and Rick Veitch did their tribute to Jack Kirby in SUPREME: THE RETURN, this was one of the panels.

Let's also not forget the story from a couple of years back when the people at Ruby-Spears found a gigantic stack of previously unused, unseen Kirby concept art. Apparently, they didn't give him enough to do, so he just kept drawing and drawing and drawing.

The point is, Kirby just drew a lot. Legend is almost undoubtedly going to perpetuate the initial drawing above as a redesign for Captain America that Jack did, but I'm not convinced. Could it have been such a thing? Yes. But it could have been a redesign for the Fighting American, a redesign for Lancelot Strong, a doodle he did, or a new character he was working on altogether.

I see nothing that would tip the scales towards one likelihood and away from any of the others.

Gateway Comics: AVENGERS

So, you've just seen Avengers. For the second time. (Hey, I've seen it twice. Everything I said about the first time still stands.) And you want more. You want more Avengers! You want more stories! Your kids want more Avengers! Your girlfriend wants more Avengers! So you go into a shop, go to the "Avengers" section, and you see....

...a lot of books. Where to start? What to do? What to get?

Well, fear not, loyal Cubers! The Cube is here, and I've got suggestions for you, targeted to various demographics! Click away; the recommendations are after the jump!

May 11, 2012

RIP Tony DeZuniga

I found out about Tony DeZuniga's passing 12 hours ago. It was the first thing I read when I got in to work.

Mang Tony, best known for creating Jonah Hex and the Black Orchid, was the first Filipino artist to work for DC and Marvel, and it was through him that Filipino artists in the 70s found their way into the Big Two. Think about it: without Tony DeZuniga, the world would have never seen the works of Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino, and that whole host of artists, as well as the ones that followed.

I met Mang Tony at Summer Komikon last year (almost exactly a year ago today), and I got all tongue-tied, as I often do when legitimately starstruck. He was a gracious man, who happily signed the three prints I bought from him (with one of them being signed with "Best of luck!").

He suffered a stroke last month and died at 1:30AM this morning.

Norby Ela has said that the wake will be held at the Heritage Park at Taguig starting 10:00AM tomorrow, Saturday, May 12, 2012 until Tuesday, May 15, 2012. He will be cremated.

Comics Cube reader Mike Yap drew this Jonah Hex piece as a tribute.

Rest in peace, Mang Tony.

May 10, 2012

Comic Odyssey Opens a Branch in Fully Booked High Street, May 19

May 19 is Free Comic Book Day at Fully Booked, so those of you who missed it this past May 5 will have a chance to get some free stuff next Saturday, along with a 20% discount on any graphic novels you may buy.

But May 19 is also a big day for Fully Booked High Street, the biggest provider of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Currently, they have a basement full of the stuff. Remember this?

Now, remember Comic Odyssey, the country's number one provider of comic books and single issues and comics-related merchandise?

Now imagine them both ... in the same place.

That's right! Comic Odyssey will be opening up a branch in Fully Booked at Fort Bonifacio High Street, on the fourth floor. Fully Booked will also be moving all trade paperbacks and graphic novels to the fourth floor.

"The adjacent space to Forum, we're going to make that into a room and it'll be for Comic Odyssey," says Jaime Daez, owner of Fully Booked. "We are basically entering into a partnership where I will provide all of the graphic novels, and (Sandy Sansolis, owner of Comic Odyssey) will provide all the comics and all of the other merchandise related to comics. So this will be absolutely the most complete comic book experience one-stop shop."

"I respect Sandy a lot," Jaime says. "Obviously, you can tell I love comics. He loves comics. I breathe comics, he breathe comics. And I just thought, you know what? I've always wanted to sell comic books, but it's just too difficult. You just have to bag and board and keep back issues and whatnot, and because of the kind of business I've set up, it's just too different from everything else. So why not partner with the guy who is the best in the country for comics, and he can partner with me, who has the most complete selection of graphic novels, and that way, you can just come here and do everything."

"And if this works well," Jaime continues, "who knows? It may not be the last of its kind."

Sandy thinks they will complement each other perfectly. "I get to tap a larger audience," he says. "This audience happens to be already interested in reading, so I think Fully Booked and Comic Odyssey are a perfect fit. Jaime has always featured comics in his shops by offering large selections of graphic novels, trade paperbacks, and manga. With me coming in, it will just give his selection a wider range to choose from with the singles and comics related merchandise."

Comic Odyssey's opening in Fully Booked High Street is on May 19, the same time as Fully Booked's Free Comic Book Day!

Sandy continues, "You'd probably never want to leave."

He's probably right. I'll see you there on May 19, guys!

Read Fully Booked's official press release here.

Comic Book Glossary: Polyptych

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!.

Today's word, dear Cubers, is POLYPTYCH.  In the "regular" art world, a polyptych is one picture broken up into multiple sections. So it is with comics as well. Here's an easy example, from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' WATCHMEN.

That came from this site, which has been calling
the technique "multi-panel pans."

Easy enough, yes? Dividing the singular background into multiple panels creates the feeling of time passing by, and it gives the letterers an easier way to orient the speech balloons (this is easy enough to read with the gutters; think about reading it without) and the artists a way to convey the entire background without having to draw it multiple times.

Here's an example from an Archie comic. Note that it's not limited to a horizontal direction, and that the artist didn't have to make these panels connected, but it just flows better that way. This way, he draws one set of stairs and Archie and Jughead can still show their journey from the second floor to the ground floor.

The polyptych is not restricted to backgrounds. You can use it on characters as well. Here's an example from Craig Thompson's GOOD-BYE CHUNKY RICE.

I particularly love this page because the polyptych's panels
aren't completely aligned. I actually covered this here.

And here's another application of it: in this sequence from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #561, Marcos Martin actually doesn't align the polyptych's panels and places the rest of the background behind the panels, so there's no empty space, but the placing of the panels still guides your eye toward the action and illustrates the passage of time.

Check out how the first panel is just an interior
view of the corresponding spot on the continuous
background. It's still part of the polyptych. And once
again, I cover this here. Can you tell I love this technique?

You can view some more effects and applications of polyptychs in some installments of Comics Techniques and Tricks!

May 9, 2012

Two Cube Years: Acknowledgments, Thanks, and a Mission Statement

Around two years ago, my then-girlfriend Peachy said to me, "Hey, how about you start a comic book website?" (Translation: "I'm sick of hearing you talk about comics. Put it out on the Internet so you can talk to people who actually want to hear it!" [Just kidding, Peach! Kinda.])

Well, she had to twist my arm a bit, but I figured, what the hey, I already had a personal blog, and I was already using it to talk about comics a bit, so I figured, why not just shut that down, import over all the old comics posts, and then create The Comics Cube? So that's what I did. Imagine, back then, this was my logo:


It's been a very fun two years, and I kinda wanna take the Cube out to celebrate its birthday, but I obviously can't do that, because it's, you know, not real. What I can do, however, is thank a bunch of people who have helped the Cube grow and talk about what you can expect from the Cube in the future.

So, first of all, I'd like to thank the following people (If I don't mention you by name, it's because Google is likely to pick this up and you may not want this site to show up when people like, say, potential employers Google you. But you'll know who you are.):

  • My family, who plugged this site to everyone they felt was interested, and even to some who didn't. Thanks go to them also for giving me a Comics Cube satchel and a Comics Cube shirt. And of course, thanks go to the Cube's Resident Kids, who offer the young perspective on various titles.
  • My friends who supported the site from the very beginning, ensuring that I had 35 hits a day to start with, plugging it to people, and basically just helping me out. I could have never gotten it that big without you guys. You guys know who you are.
  • An old college professor of mine who wishes to be called only "The Professor," who really gave me some good encouragement and tips when the site was starting out, and is still my main encyclopedia for comics history.
  • Ty Templeton and Keiren Smith, the first comics pros to plug me and get me more exposure, and more, to actually talk to me. It means a lot.
  • On that note, Budjette Tan, the first local creator to plug me, and also the most encouraging creator in the local scene. Thanks, Budj.
  • Other creators, a little too many to name (but just to kick it off, David Hontiveros, Ace Enriquez...). Thanks to everyone who actually see me as a legitimate comic site that you'd actually plug me when I talk about you, and ask me to plug your stuff. 
  • Sandy Sansolis of Comic Odyssey, Eric Baga of Planet X, and the staff of Fully Booked High Street. Thanks for being awesome sources to buy comics from.
  • The people who have influenced the way I write, the most obvious probably being Stan Lee ("Howdy, Cubers!"). The late Don Markstein of Toonopedia. My old high school English teacher, Mr. McTernan, who taught me everything I ever needed to know about setting down an argument and backing it up. And — and this is probably a surprise for some of you — Bill Simmons, the sports analyst, whose writing style has been a big influence on me in the last few months.
  • The active members of the International Comics Society — in which occurs discussion that keeps my comics brain running even if I'm not writing something for the site. You guys know who you are, and I'm not gonna start naming names for fear I'll forget someone. (But I will name five of you because each one has something to plug.)
  • Paul Cornish, writer of The Last of the Famous International Fanboys, my favorite comics-related blog. Paul promotes positivity in his blog, and I regularly read it to remind me the comics should be fun. (This is leading to something, I promise.)
  • Daniel Best, aka 20th Century Danny Boy, whose legal digging has led me to understand that the backstage dealings of the comic book industry are not as black and white as I originally thought. (Again, leading to something.)
  • Matt of Matt's Mentionables, who has helped give the site some awesome content over the years.
  • Robert Leichsenring of She Is Screaming in the Shower, who offers a unique perspective to comics-related issues.
  • Ben Smith, aka Back Issue Ben, whose columns continually remind people that comics are fun, that there's a wealth of material out there, and whose enjoyment and passion for comics of his youth make people want to read more of them.
  • Comic book creators, of course. Without them, I'd have nothing to talk about. But I'd like to thank two of my favorites — Alan Moore, my favorite writer; George Perez, my favorite artist — the latter of whom got me interested in comics in the first place and the former of whom kept me that way.
  • Of course, to all my readers — the followers on my Twitter and on my Facebook, and those of you readers who aren't on there! Thank you for taking the time to read the site. This site, obviously, would be pointless without you.

And now, for a bit of a refocus and a mission statement.


In the last several months, I've been having a hard time writing articles for the Cube. I could blame that on a variety of factors — getting married, changing priorities, too much work — but after much reflection, what it really comes down to is that I lost focus. There's a direct correlation between how "good"  the articles end up being and how much fun I actually have writing it, and my best articles — the stuff I built the site on — have always been the analytical ones, the historical ones, and the technical ones. In recent months, I made the mistake of trying to be a news site. As a result, the Cube has been less fun for me to write, and probably also less fun for you to read.

Given that, I've set aside a few rules for myself going forward.
  1. I'm done pretending the site is a news site. As someone recently told me, "The Cube is fine as a news site, but it's much better as an opinion site." There simply is no time for me to be both. Follow my Facebook page for news, since over there I can just link you firsthand to the source.... unless the source is me, in which case...

  2. I will still cover events that interest me. Of course I will — if I go. You can still expect a preview of Fully Booked's Free Comic Book Day next week, as well as previews of some offerings at Summer Komikon, and almost definitely Summer Komikon coverage. After this, we'll see. It's a matter of time and money management. But I will definitely still go to events I want to go to (Free Comic Book Day was awesome), and I will most likely be covering those. And of course, you can still expect me to cover David Hontiveros' many projects here on the Cube. And in fact, you can expect an announcement in the next couple of days. in the

  3. I will not talk about creators' rights. A while back, I wrote a rather inflammatory post about creators' rights. I have since deleted it, but not before it sparked its share of hits. Going to Daniel Best's site and actually reading the legal documents and all the nuances of the situations really made me realize how things were not that simple. It's easy to paint one side as overly wrong and one side as overly right. Nope, it doesn't work that way. I strongly suggest you all go over to Daniel's site where he actually gets a hold of the legal documents, and come to your own conclusions. Read the facts, not the op/ed pieces, and decide for yourself. In the end, these things speak to your morals.

    And that's another thing. I've realized that talking creators' rights is the comic book equivalent of talking politics or religion. You'll actually have a handful of people discussing it objectively, and then a multitude of people getting on their high horses. I'm sorry. No. There is no place for that on The Comics Cube. I will always apportion credit to the people I feel properly deserve the credit (meaning still no Bob Kane... sorry, guys, I tried. Batman's a Finger, no matter which way I look at it), but when it comes down to compensation and the actual legal dealings, that's done. You won't see that on The Cube.

    There will always be extremists who will use strawman arguments on either side. Learn to ignore them, as you would ignore anyone who judges your morals. They will not be budged.

  4. I will be going back to basics. The stuff that the Cube was built on were analytical articles about comics as a whole (e.g., The Self-Perpetuating Problem of Mainstream Comics) or specific comics (e.g., Why Nightwing Never Worked), historical articles such as those in my Reclaiming History series, technical articles such as the Comics Techniques and Tricks series, fun stuff about comics like the Easter Eggs, and those that just celebrate certain comics like the ABC Retrospective. These are the kinds of articles I had the most fun writing, so expect to see more of those in the future.

  5. Comics should be fun. As Paul Cornish's site always reminds me, this is a hobby for enjoyment. This site was initially meant to give newer readers a place to go to online, without feeling the overwhelming weight of longtime fandom as well as the negativity that pervades the Internet. I am proud of the fact that most Cubers I meet locally have only been reading comics for five years at most, and I will continue to aim at that demographic. But I also hope that you longtime fans who enjoy the Cube are still enjoying it.

There you go, folks. A new mission statement. The site's going back to basics, and it's going to be fun. Because comics should be fun.

Thanks again to everyone! Here's to at least two more years!

May 7, 2012

Back Issue Ben: ROM: A Retrospective, Part 3

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

ROM: SPACEKNIGHT: A Retrospective
Part Three:Dream Warriors
 by Ben Smith

Click here for part 1.
Click here for part 2.

When times get tough, Ben keeps reading, and Rom keeps banishing Dire Wraiths to limbo. For those that came in late, I am attempting to read and review every single issue of the classic 1980s Marvel comic series, ROM: SPACEKNIGHT. As we learned in the first two parts, Rom is the hero of the alien planet Galador, charged with ridding the universe of evil alien shape-shifters the Dire Wraiths. Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema keep on rocking the writing and art duties, as they have from the very beginning. When we left off last time, Rom had finally gained the trust and acceptance of the people of Clairton, but his worries about his home planet continue to intensify.

May 3, 2012

International Comic Shops for Free Comic Book Day!

One of the perks of running The Comics Cube! is getting to interact with a multitude of comics-loving people all over the world! I of course am from the Philippines, and I hope you guys all read my piece on my two favorite local comics stores a few days ago.

Now I'm here to share with you guys some more comic shops around the world, in which some of the people I've gotten the pleasure of being introduced to via The Cube work. Enjoy!

Pól Rua 
Store: Ace Comics & Games
Address: Level 2, 121 Queen Street, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4000 / Shop 18, Annerley Arcade, 478 Ipswich Rd., Annerley, Australia

Can you remember when you fell in love with comics?

I have been in love with comics for as long as I can remember. Even before I could read, I was entranced by TV shows like the 60's Batman, 50's Superman, Thunderbirds, Speed Racer and Super Friends.

How and when did you realize you wanted to sell comics for a living?

I did the usual thing, regular customer thinks "Wouldn't this be a great place to work?" We get three or four a week... but no, I didn't even consider it until a friend of mine who was working in a comic shop told me he was thinking of leaving. I'd just left teaching, so I thought, what the hell, applied.

Now that I'm in it, I love recommending stuff to people. My favourite part of my job is hooking people up with stuff they may never have even heard of, which goes on to become their favourite comic.

What is your store called and what was your initial vision when you started working in it?

Ace Comics & Games, and when I started, I thought it was going to be pretty much typical retail, albeit somewhere I really enjoyed. Since then, I've come to see how vital product knowledge and enthusiasm for product is. I knew it was important from the outset, but it can sometimes make a huge difference.

What's the key to a successful comic book shop? There are two big ones — customer service, which makes the difference between buying from a brick-and-mortar store and an online deep-discounter, and record keeping. Plotting trends, being aware of what's selling and what isn't, knowing what you have, what you need, placing and filling orders quickly and efficiently. Record-keeping is vital.

In your run, what have been some of your favorite moments?

Meeting comics professionals is a big one, and even more, interacting with them like we're part of the same (or at least a connected) business. That's been very rewarding, and pretty much all the people I've been able to meet have been very pleasant and had lots of fascinating stuff to say.

However, the big one for me is connecting people to stuff they're gonna love. Kids and parents is a big one for me. Helping a kid discover the same love of characters and stories is a great thrill, and helping parents to use comics to encourage kids who aren't interested in reading is fun too, especially as a former teacher.
But it's not all kids. For instance, a long-time customer who bought manga exclusively, recently started getting into other stuff via cartoons, movies, and TV. It's been really fun recommending stuff to her as its opened up a new world for her, and it's great getting her feedback on what she enjoyed and why.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you as a retailer?

It's a chance to meet your customers on a more casual basis, and a chance to recommend stuff to people who wouldn't normally get it. I like seeing the new faces FCBD brings to the store, and it's nice when they come back and follow up on the stuff they got from FCBD, especially parents with kids.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to consumers and collectors?

For many, it's a chance to try something new, or get a sneak peek at upcoming stuff. For some, it's a chance to re-connect — the people who stopped buying comics and are interested in starting again, but aren't sure what's changed... it's got a kind of celebratory atmosphere. There's a real feeling to it, which I really enjoy.

Can you name five comics and graphic novels would you recommend to your readers today?

Five of my favourite go-to recommendations are BONE, ASTERIX, ATOMIC ROBO, GLOBAL FREQUENCY, and KING CITY. However, it's important to ask the customer what they want and what they're interested in. A lot of people come in and ask what I like, but I'm not the one the comics are for.
I like to try and gauge a customer's interests as much as possible before recommending stuff.

What FCBD offerings are you looking forward to?

The Archaia Press (MOUSE GUARD) one looks ridiculous, I'm very much looking forward to checking that out. ATOMIC ROBO's FCBD outings have ALWAYS been good, and I'm sure this one will be no exception. I can never resist the Moomins (and why would you want to?) so I'm super-chuffed to see them in there. ROCKHEAD & ZINC ALLOY is interesting to me because Zinc Alloy is illustrated by one of my favourite Australian Creators, the absolutely sublime Doug Holgate. And Top Shelf's offering is always top-notch stuff.

What do you add to FCBD to make it extra memorable for your customers?

In the past, we've had local comics creators, local game developers and indie game demonstrations, and we'll probably be doing something similar this year, but in general, it's mainly the comics. Our main focus is that everyone who comes in gets to grab something that they're really gonna like.

Ace Comics & Games can be found at Level 2, 121 Queen Street, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4000 or Shop 18, Annerley Arcade, 478 Ipswich Rd., Annerley, Australia. Their Facebook page can be found here. Pol's website can be found here.


Joe Soltas
Store: Heroland Comics
Address: 732 S. 11th. Niles MI, USA 49120

Can you remember when you fell in love with comics?

Sure can! I picked up SHOWCASE #73. First Creeper by Ditko and I was hooked. I found out about fandom by writing to DC editors from that book.

How and when did you realize you wanted to sell comics for a living?

I started amassing back issues in the late 70s via mail order, and when I discovered a comic shop 15 miles from my house I spent so much time there, they made me an employee.

What is your store called and what was your initial vision when you started working in it?

My store is called Heroland Comics, and I always wanted to be able to bring comics and comic-related items to the masses.

What's the key to a successful comic book shop?

Positive attitude about what is sold, solid business practice, know your customer base, love what you do.

In your run, what have been some of your favorite moments?

I loved when CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #1 came out. I was giving copies away to Marvel customers that did not buy DC books, and letting them decide which was the better book, CRISIS or SECRET WARS. I still get thanked from customers that I turned on to that book. The 80s... 83-88 were fantastic time to be a retailer! Fun with a capital F.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you as a retailer?

I love it because it gives people a chance, especially kids to get into reading, and new customers to make happy. I make genre bundles to give away of overstock to really excited newbs.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to consumers and collectors?

Consumers have more of an open mind, as well as collectors. I like when a consumer or collector says, "Got any more of this (fill in free FCBD title here)!"

Can you name five comics and graphic novels would you recommend to your readers today?

I do it a bit differently, letting my best subscribers (top 5) pick a few items and I feature them. Currently: RASL, POPEYE #1, FAIREST, SAGA, and Amalgam Comics TPBs.

What FCBD offerings are you looking forward to?

My pick is the MOUSE GUARD hardcover, but that seems narrow. I wish I had more.

What do you add to FCBD to make it extra memorable for your customers?

Well, besides the "genre bundles" that I give away, I have built a postcard customer base that informs and reminds people of the next FCBD. I see more new faces that way!

Heroland Comics can be found on 732 S. 11th. Niles MI, USA.


Leia Calderon-Rox
Store: Keith's Comics
Address: 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane #120, Dallas, TX, USA

Can you remember when you fell in love with comics?

Absolutely. The first time I picked up a comic was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #300, the first appearance of Venom. Since I grew up in a typically geeky household, I grew up watching science fiction and things of that nature but comics....comics were my dad's arena and it was his copy of Spider-Man that I picked up (which is now mine). Never had I read anything that was so out of this world as that issue for not only was Spider-Man struggling with his identity, it unleashed this nightmarish villain, the likes of which I'd never seen in all the movies we were shown as kids. It was wonderful and to this day I hold an appreciate for McFarlane's run on Amazing Spider-Man. It's been a nonstop journey since that tender age of 12.

How and when did you realize you wanted to sell comics for a living?

Probably about two months into working at the comic shop. I was looking for a part-time gig and I saw the ad for it on my Facebook and I immediately called, went in for an interview and bam, was hired. I was thinking it was going to be a little stocking, a little cashier work, but once I dove into the comic industry, I didn't want to leave and soaked up everything I could learn. I quickly transitioned to being full time and I can't imagine wasting my life at some unfulfilling 9 to 5 doing something I loathe.

What is your store called and what was your initial vision when you started working in it?

It's called Keith's Comics and it was founded by a regular joe who wasn't accepted into corporate America, and when I first started working here — I know it's kind of sexist to say, but it needed a woman's touch. I wanted it to become more than it was and to do that, proper organization, signs were needed so we could be more approachable as a store. While I'm here, I want Keith's Comics to be known as a friendly, marketable chain, with staff that are equally approachable and are able to find things, no matter how obscure.

What's the key to a successful comic book shop?

Definitely a proper balance between back issues, collected editions, and new weeklies as well as a staff that are eager to help and engage their customers.

In your run, what have been some of your favorite moments?

Being able to help an older gent (maybe in his early 70s) remember the title to a comic he read as a kid and helping him find a collection so he could read it to his grandchildren. Stuff like that, that shows a love of comics across generations and makes my heart twinge with happiness. Also, any moment I can turn a comic reader from the path of wickedness (i.e., Liefeld reading) onto the path of righteousness is memorable.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you as a retailer?

FCBD means three things: a party, an excuse to cosplay, and potential new readers.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to consumers and collectors?

Our regulars see it as a way to score free stuff as a reward for coming to our shop every week for their pulls. Collectors are in it to win it so to speak, so they tend to grab one of everything in the hopes that one of those issues will be valuable in the future.

Can you name five comics and graphic novels would you recommend to your readers today?

Five? I can certainly try. I always always ask what kind of books they like to read and if they want something superhero or nonsuperhero to read. This is most important. Based on that, I zoom right away to Y: THE LAST MAN for nonsuperhero wants and to INCORRUPTIBLE and IRREDEEMABLE for the superhero wants.

Aside from those, WALKING DEAD is one I regularly up-sell since almost everyone has heard of the show, HELLBOY or BPRD are a tie for fourth, and either RUNAWAYS or BATMAN RIP for the person who wants something from the big two.

What FCBD offerings are you looking forward to?

Shhhh, I've read some of them already but I definitely want to take that Archaia hardcover and DC title home!!! Oh! There's also a sneak peak to Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO's graphic novel adaptation that I want as well.

What do you add to FCBD to make it extra memorable for your customers?

Me personally? Just my normal bubbliness and enthusiasm for issues I'm excited about. Building that rapport with people is extremely important for me so that's really all I have to bring to the table.

Keith's Comics can be found at 5400 E. Mockingbird Lane #120, Dallas, TX, USA. Their Facebook page can be found here. Leia's website, IHOGeek, can be found here.

Jon Gorga
Store: Manhattan Comics & More
Address: 10 E 23rd Street, New York, NY, USA

Can you remember when you fell in love with comics?

I remember sitting on my parents' couch, reading SPIDER-MAN #35, the middle piece of the "Maximum Carnage" crossover at some point in the second grade. I was absolutely fascinated with the huge and insanely varied cast of characters and most importantly the feeling that these characters were all coming from somewhere and they were going somewhere too. Couldn't stop reading after that!

How and when did you realize you wanted to sell comics for a living?

Quite honestly, I rather fell into it. I did grow up wanting to write comics professionally and if I couldn't do that, then own a comic-book store. 'Course, I also said I wanted to be a teacher and a rock star and live in New York City. Only one of those came true! Honestly, if I'm not writing comics, editing comics, or reviewing comics there's nothing I'd rather be doing than selling comics. I was dating the right girl at the right time, right out of college. She got me my first job at a comics store and so I moved to Manhattan. Two years later, after a few odd jobs like bookstores, I found a store under new management willing to give me a shot. I've been there ever since.

What is your store called and what was your initial vision when you started working in it?

I work at Manhattan Comics & More, at 10 E 23rd Street across from the gorgeous Madison Square Park in New York City. I guess my initial vision was the creation of a place for myself and for the store. I was new to the store but the store was almost just as new to NYC!

What's the key to a successful comic book shop?

I feel the big key is community. And I think my colleagues at Manhattan Comics would agree with me. Remembering our customer's names, being honest with them, being friendly with kids, being there as they grow up. We strive for that every day.

In your run, what have been some of your favorite moments?

A: Having both Geoff Johns and Jim Lee signing at the same time on the release day of "Justice League" #1 was pretty cool. To have the main team of one of the biggest comics of a given year in person on the day it comes out? Just a rare treat.

But my favorite moments, without a doubt, come directly from our customers. A gent came in once who had just become employed again and told us it was the first time he could afford comics in months. "I feel human again," he said.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you as a retailer?

Well, bluntly? A chance to make new customers! A chance to bring more people to the medium and the way we sell it!

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to consumers and collectors?

Well, I hope the regular comics readers of the world see Free Comic Book Day as I do: a blessed little day once a year when EVERBODY can and often do join us in experiencing this artform we love! And hopefully, a few new readers stick around. That and, you know, a day you can get something cool for free!

Can you name five comics and graphic novels would you recommend to your readers today?

I love to recommend THE LI'L DEPRESSED BOY by S. Steven Struble because it's a simple, fun, human story. It might just be STRANGERS AND PARADISE for the next generation. I'll try to put THE SIXTH GUN, a fun western-supernatural-adventure book in people's hands. The always safe recommendation is Craig Thompson's BLANKETS from 2003. Amazing. I've often suggested MARVELS as a book to get acquainted with the world of the superhero genre. And a recent piece of awesomesauce is Mark Waid's run on DAREDEVIL.

What FCBD offerings are you looking forward to?

The Transformers franchise is getting a third ongoing added to its roster and DC is releasing a preview of their upcoming superhero romp. That's all very cool, but as a fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly there's no doubt I'm most looking forward to the new short SERENITY comic.

What do you add to FCBD to make it extra memorable for your customers?

Humans! Namely our customers, our guests, and ourselves! Just a pile of free comics isn't going to make the day work. We have to find cool guests and be on our retail game big time! The people will come (the sign outside says FREE COMICS after all), but the trick will be giving them a rocking time while they're here. That's my job.

Manhattan Comics & More can be found at 10 E 23rd Street, New York, NY, USA. Their Facebook page is here. Jon is one of the writers of The Long and Shortbox of It!


Kevin A. Boyd
Store: The Comic Book Lounge + Gallery
Address: 587 College St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Can you remember when you fell in love with comics?

Hard to say, I was about 3 years old when I started reading comics, they've always been a part of my life.

How and when did you realize you wanted to sell comics for a living?

I didn't! When I was in my 20s I considered opening a store and thought better of it. I'm now a retailer by chance. There was a void that needed to be filled with the closing of Dragon Lady Comics and I was put in a position where I could fill that void.

What is your store called and what was your initial vision when you started working in it?

It's called the Comic Book Lounge + Gallery, and the philosophy behind it is to create a new type of comic book store, less about back issues and more about being a community space. We're in a unique position in that we share the space with two other businesses — a comic arts school and a printer that specializes in printing small press comics and materials for artists.

What's the key to a successful comic book shop?

I'll let you know when I find out! Heh... no, it's hard work and product knowledge. It's constantly being on top of what is available and knowing what your customers are interested in.

In your run, what have been some of your favorite moments?

We just opened in February, so my favourite moments are centred around our big opening night party and the responses that people have had to the business.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to you as a retailer?

I consider FCBD to be our day to shine to the community. The one day of year where comic retailers are honoured, and in turn, stores invite people in to check out what we have for them and sample a selection of great comics by various publishers, as well as to look around and see what else is available.

What does Free Comic Book Day mean to consumers and collectors?

A chance to taste test the latest from various publishers, and in some cases, interact with artists and writers directly.

Can you name five comics and graphic novels would you recommend to your readers today?

Today? Well, it depends on the customer but within the last few weeks of products I would recommend POPEYE #1, AVENGERS VS. X-MEN issues, the BATMAN: COURT OF OWLS crossover issues, FLEX MENTALLO, and X-O MANOWAR #1 (which is out this week).

What FCBD offerings are you looking forward to?

The Archaia hardcover, the Valiant preview, Simpsons, DC: The New 52, Donald Duck, and the Marvel and DC offerings.

What do you add to FCBD to make it extra memorable for your customers?

We have a lot of guests coming including Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, Ty Templeton, Marco Rudy, Mike Del Mundo, Raff Ienco, Gibson Quarter, and some of the school's alumni. Plus we are offering face painting for younger fans, some cosplayers will be appearing as superheroes like Thor, and we are expecting a visit from Toronto Batman. In the evening, we are launching a talk show event "On the Couch with Ty Templeton" where Ty discusses comics industry topics with various industry pros.

The Comic Book Lounge + Gallery can be found at 587 College St., Toronto, Ontario, Canad. Their Facebook page is here


(Interesting, it seems everyone's recommending the Archaia hardcover...)

Enjoy Free Comic Book Day, folks, wherever you are!