Welcome to the weblog of the writers and artists of Ferret Press (a publisher of fine comix) and PANEL (a Columbus, Ohio comic creators collaborative.) Here you will find our musings on comics, art, the creative process, politics, the web, and life.
Our own Andy Bennett and friend of Ferret: Sean McKeever will be signing at Alley Cat Games & Comics tommorow. Part of their Grand Opening celebration in Dublin (Ohio). Things kick off at 12noon. As crazy as the layout is on Sawmill, it'll be interesting to see how the shop fares in an area where two comic shops have faded.
I breezed thru the Other Paper and ran across an interview with Denny Griffith. Still the head of CCAD and buying up property like there was no tommorow. An insane amount of property to better the school's footprint on downtown. Which is pretty much what the board wanted it seems. While the school's Illustration program has blossomed, the program that Canzani had created has stagnated. By all accounts anyway. The board wanted a cheerleader, the student's got a watered down education. Keeping students in by fudging crits and milking them to feed the machine. CCAD used to have a rep as being hard as all get out. I remember people walking out crying during some crits. It was a badge of honor to survive the program. Even freshman year.
I don't know why I really care about this but I do. I'd like to see a leaner smaller student body. Smaller classes and an art school that doesn't take up five city blocks for the sake of image. If you want to fix the rep of 'CCAD grads doing dry wall and painting in the evenings' that's your real solution.
Sunday Comix Collective is having a one day show at the Surly Girl this weekend. The Alive blurb , Surly Girl site, and the S.S. website mention nothing of what day the show is. Sunday maybe?? Headed by Max Ink, Micheal Neno and others. The show plans on a live comics jam and sports art on the walls by the collective.
The Engine winds down tonight. Say what you will about Ellis but it was one hell of a forum. I hope the new Panel and Pixel forum keeps up the dialogue. The real magic of the Engine was the Creator's Conference thread. It was exclusive to working pros only. There was alot of knowledge spewed forth about the ins and outs of this industry. It was the first time I saw pros open up about their experiences. Stuff I wish would come out in interviews sometimes. It had a nice balance between the pretentious Journal board and well most other comics forums. The knixing of cape chat was refreshing.
There is the ning site which is an interesting format in and of itself isn't nearly as hopping. I've been on it for a couple of weeks and it appears as though the traffic came and went. It seems once Rantz's forum was announced, the ning forum slowed down. Evolving into it's own thing I suppose.
My brother, who happens to work at Battelle, e-mailed me with a heads up that tonight's episode of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. As part of their "Superhero Hour" theme, they will feature Battelle's Jim LaBine talking about his invention, something called the TAIL System (I have no idea what it is.) Here's the show's description from the Mythbuster website:
"MythBusters - Superhero Hour
You're not seeing things. As uncomfortable as it is, it's true. The Mythbusters are wearing their underpants on the outside. And why? Because this episode is the Superhero Hour --- the Marvel comic maestros are put under the MythBusters microscope."
The much ballyhooed CCI Comics lit panel, now in mp3 form. Courtesy of the Comics Journal (thru September so get to clicking). Featuring panelists Cecil Castelluci, Douglas Wolk, Sara Ryan and many more. I'd go to more panels if Douglas Wolk booked them or maybe a couple per con. To balance out the kharma of the sad Babylon 5 reunion panel.
My wife saw a commercial for a Travel Channel show called "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain. Sounds like the show goes to different cities and samples the food and locales. This week (Monday 10 PM), Bourdain travels to Cleveland and meets up with Michael Ruhlman and Harvey Pekar to get a tour of the city.
The producers must have been fans of the American Splendor movies because there will be comic illustrations featured in the show, and Pekar has comic strips on the Web site about the show.
"I was not going to pitch it to DC, simply because it wouldn't fit in their whole superhero universe. I didn't think it was a really good Vertigo book, since all of their books kind of had a universal look at the time, of pouty teenagers with lots of face shrapnel and tattoos, railing against The Man. It really wasn't that kind of book, so I just assumed they wouldn't be interested in it."
And here's a snippet on a topic I'm interested in: creator-owned work vs. work-for-hire:
"You hear sometimes that people who create their own stuff save all their good ideas for their own properties, and don't spend them on the company-owned projects. I disagree with that. My personal theory is that we've all got this bucket full of good ideas, and if you just hold onto them, your bucket never gets fuller. There's only so many you can hold at a time, but as fast as you use them up, it fills up again with more good ideas. My notion is to spend everything you've got coming through your head as fast as you can, and you're guaranteed to get more good stuff."
Continuing the tour of my favorite comics from the worst era to be a collector, the mid-80's to mid-90's. Here’s a book that should have been better: Marvel’s twice-monthly anthology series, Marvel Comics Presents. A book saddled with a permanent Wolverine lead feature in the early 90’s should have had the freedom to be more experimental with it’s backup features, but except for the occasional gem featuring an obscure character they generally ran pretty ordinary material with some rather low-rent contributors. Every now and then, however, they struck gold, as is the case with this issue.
Marvel Comics Presents # 81
I’m not old enough to have collected the Barry Smith issues of Conan, but a friend of mine who quit collecting in the mid-80’s is a big fan. I broke out my MCP issues with Smith’s Weapon X series to lend him, but decided to give the comics a read first myself. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this gem of an issue in the middle of the run. Taking a closer look:
Smith’s Weapon X was billed as an origin of Wolverine, but it basically just shows everything happening to the character that readers already knew: a bunch of scientists kidnap the mutant and surgically give him a metal skeleton. The mystery of who they are or who they represent is maintained as we’re treated to thirteen issues of Logan being put through utter agony before breaking loose and butchering everybody. The only new insight we are given to the character’s backstory is in the form of the project’s leader, a bald guy who answers to the title “Professor.” This might explain Wolverine’s issues with specific authority figures later down the road. In any event, the series represents thirteen episodes of beautiful Barry Smith artwork, such as the splash page from this particular issue:
That’s the main feature; now on to the backup stories provided by unknown artists with unexceptional talents. Immediately following the Wolverine story is… Holy crap, a Steve Ditko Captain America?!!? Eight wonderful pages, the concluding chapter of a two-part story by one of the great masters, also (like Roy Thomas from the previous post) entering his fourth (or fifth?) decade of making the coolest comics around. Ditko’s work is always a joy to behold, and he’s in top form with this story of Cap trying to unravel the mystery of the villain Wargod’s secret identity. This makes me want to dig out some of my old issues of Speedball…
The third story is an Ant Man episode drawn by James Frye, whose work looks kind of like Phil Hester’s here—but only kind of, and this was years before Hester. I’m sure to this day he treasures this comic, the issue he drew with two old school legends; him and the other kid who drew the last story in the anthology, a one-part Daredevil feature… Wait a minute, the credit box says Marshall Rogers!
Okay, so it’s Marshall Rogers as he’s heading into the “Fat Elvis” era of his career (“Dark Detective,” anybody?) but let’s give the guy the helluva lot of respect he deserves. Kudos also to the editor who managed to get these guys all together between the covers of a single comic book; I’m surprised there isn’t a banner on the front screaming the creators’ names in huge letters, though not having it there made for one hell of a pleasant surprise as I was giving these issues a browse before sending them off.
My favorite comedy show, The State, is coming out on DVD. Tied up because of music clearances and the general inanity of MTV, I've been reduced to watching a best of tape (that really isn't the best of) that was the only official video release and a very rough bootleg tape I bought on eBay a few years ago that is like watching the Zapruder film. I could not be more excited by this news.
We'd like to announce auditions for Dream Thirteen, a feature film told in a series of twelve sequential short horror films.
Open auditions will be held on:- Saturday, 9/1, from 9:30am - 4:30pm at the Upper Arlington Public Library; Saturday, 9/8, from 9:30am - 4:30pm at the Grandview Heights Public Library.
We'll be casting for seven (7) roles: - Four (4) male roles, ages 25-45 - Two (2) female roles, ages 25-45 - One (1) child role, age 6-13
Regarding the audition process: - Please bring two photos (headshots okay, 3/4 shots preferred) - Please bring two prepared monologues (60-90 seconds per) - A cold scene read will be provided at the audition
The production window for these short films will be from October 2007 to March 2008, based on cast & crew availability. TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ONE OF THESE ROLES, ACTORS WILL NEED TO BE ABLE TO COMMIT TO THIS SCHEDULE.
If you'd like to be considered for one of these roles, but you absolutely cannot make either open audition date, you're welcome to submit a demo reel to: Tempered Zealot Productions 2324 Glencroft Drive Hilliard, Ohio 43026
Reels must be received by 9/8 to be considered for this project. If your demo reel is online, please send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our goal is to make our selections by 9/15. Please note that these roles are deferred pay, non-union.
Mid Ohio Con has rolled out their guest & exhibitor list for this November. Bummed but not suprized that Top Shelf is missing from the roster. A guy can hope. Moonstone will be there. I'd love to see Cartoon Books have a booth there this year. The list is still an early one. Maybe it'll be a better show for everyone involved. Last year's was plagued by unusually nice weather and a new location. It made one nostalgic for the Easton location.
Over the summer I've read books 1 thru 9 of Y:The Last Man. I had never touched the series since it started. The book reads like a really good HBO series. The first book was a rough patch but by book two things started to rock along. All the elements of Vaughn's writing have toned down and refined themselves from Runaways. The constant pop culture reference speak doesn't start to irritate me till book 8. Which is an achievement. I do enjoy the transitionals between flashbacks and the present. By the end of book 9, I'm hoping for it to wrap up in the next collection. 9 books of 'yeah men suck' is a bit much and the balance of that theme flops around. There is an optimism that things will change. Book 9 reads like an ending. If Yorrick spent a chapter/issue finally finding Beth in 9 it would be perfect. Like the HBO shows, the successful ones do flounder towards the end. Six Feet Under went on for one season too many. I think the same could be said for Y. When I finished reading 9, son of a bitch, the Beth thread wasn't resolved. Which feels a bit stretched out for no good reason except to hit the number 60. By the end of book 9 we're only at issue 53. There's seven more issues of this friggin' thing.
I have an ending in my mind. Whether this book hits it or not is up in the air. It's obvious that Yorrick's engagement is falling apart at the seams. It would feel right if he finally ran into her and then walked away. That would be the rock star ending. Roll credits. It's the supposed heart of the book though I find the supporting characters more interesting. Hell I would have been happy if Yorrick died at the end of book 9. Dr. Mann or 355 would find Beth or Beth would see the picture of Yorick. Track him down then find Dr. Mann (or 355) trying to find her. Whatever.
Some new Marvel Zombies crap.. or not. I think this was one of those 6 pack deals (hence the lack of UPC on the front maybe). I just like the Sal Buscema cover. The mask treatment on this panel is pretty cool without being too much like Venom or Carnage. Did I mention how much I hate Venom and Carnage?
DC gets in on the cover action too. Though the interiors disappoint once you view the inside. It's a downright Crisis! This issue seems like an exercise in how many heroes one can cram in an issue. It's one giant fight scene in this one. I could never keep up with the plot threads going thruout the Superman titles. The lack of a reliable outlet. Now I don't have the tolerance for these crossover plotlines. Maybe I never did.
Former Marverl editor and frequent writer C.B. Cebulski is heading up some sort of global talent search to find 12 new artists for Marvel. I haven't read all the details, but apparently you can't have been published by Marvel in the past, and the deadline to send in your submission is January 1, 2008.
"We're looking for people who are able to take a script and illustrate it. If you ink yourself, great. If you color yourself, fine. We are open to all forms of artistic interpretation, as long as you're creating the artwork from scratch...we will be looking for a few cover artists as well. So illustrators, game designers, painters and people just looking for just cover work also can submit, but please state that clearly when you send in your work."
ChesterQuest Planetarium Station P.O. Box 732 New York, NY 10024
One tough thing about selecting books from the late 80’s/early 90’s for this series of posts: Several of my favorites from that time were graced by Jackson Guice, so I had to narrow down which of those to bring out. I first saw his work during his brief but excellent tenure on Flash, before he hopped over to Marvel to work on Nick Fury and Doctor Strange. Since Mike Baron’s writing on the speedster was a bit choppy (though still enjoyable) and I’ve already done the Steranko book, we’ll go with the sorcerer supreme instead:
Dr. Strange # 16
“The Vampiric Verses” part 3 of 5; entering his fourth decade as a comic book writer, Roy Thomas drew on his bottomless well of knowledge of comic lore to give us a story steeped in the supernatural side of Marvel history. Newcomers needn’t fear, since each issue had a “Book of the Vishanti” back-up feature that provided all the backstory one needed to get on board.
It seems several years before, a story was written in which Strange mystically wiped out every vampire on Earth—or so he thought. Turns out he missed one of his own creation. Thomas does a retcon to give Strange a dead brother whom he had tried to mystically revive early in his career. The neophyte sorcerer succeeded only in unwittingly turning his brother into the undead and protecting his sibling from the later spell.
Voodoo sorceress Marie Laveau had spent centuries enjoying immortality gained by drinking the blood of vampires; Strange’s crusade ended a sweet deal for her, until she discovered his brother and busted him out of the cryogenic freezer he was being kept in. She fashions him into a modern day Baron Blood and skips to Haiti, hiding out in Christphe’s Citadel, a fort built centuries before by an ex-slave trying to forge a black republic to stand against a Napoleonic invasion that never came. She plans to build a new vampire army there at the final resting place of many of that army’s soldiers.
Strange and company follow, having picked up Michael Morbius earlier in the story, and enlist the aid of 1970’s relic Brother Voodoo to assist in the invasion of the fort. Things get hairy when Laveau unleashes the vampires on everybody, until Brother Voodoo plays his trump card: raising Christophe’s army from their graves for a ginormous zombies-vs.-vampires showdown that delivers six comics’ worth of goodness.
The zombie (if only Thomas had used the term zuvembie) army gives the good guys the edge to stomp the vampires, though Laveau escapes with Baron Blood since the story arc still has two issues to go. At the age of 20, I certainly didn’t mind the extended storyline if it meant Jackson Guice having two more issues to draw a villain who looked like this:
Jackson or Butch or whatever he calls himself has always been good at that. Like I said when I covered Buscema's Conan, if the artists producing the soft porn called today's comics were actually inclined to draw natural looking humans instead of fetishistic freaks, I could give them some credit.
Newsarama is reporting that Mike Wieringo passed away on Sunday from an apparent heart attack. 'Ringo was only 44 years old. What a shame. His blog was always entertaining and informative, especially with his daily warm-up sketches.
Woot.com, the "one item, one day" site is branching out into t-shirts with shirt.woot!
In addition to all their own designers, they have a weekly open submission contest with a theme. This week's theme is "superheroes" and I implore the readers of this blog to enter their designs because most of the stuff submitted tends to be utter crap. Check out the entries and submit your own design here.
Sorry for the delay, folks. A nasty case of the flu knocked me on my ass all weekend long, and I'm still lounging around Ferret Manor in my underwear, trying to recover. Anywho, here's this week's page. As always, if you have this comic, you should disqualify yourself from guessing.
One last reminder that the first of three Cory Doctorow short story adaptations that I'm doing for IDW is being solicited in this month's Previews : Diamond order code AUG073755. Please ask your friendly neighborhood comic store owner to order a bunch of copies ASAP.
CORY DOCTOROW'S FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW #1 - ANDA'S GAME
Batman 541. August 1984. For me this was an early tour de force of page layout. The whole issue is drawn by Gene Colan (though he's credited as a writer). With exception to the lame Shawn McManus Green Arrow in the back, This issue explodes right out the gate with a great cover. Batman chases Penguin across an arctic wasteland. Unfortunate for me, this is part two of a story that continued from Detective. Maybe I'll run across it in a 50 cent bin someday.
First time I've read thru the OSU Cartoon library bi-annual event. The event sounds great. I've always wanted to go to it. The problem lies in the cost. $125 for two days during the week. This encompasses two continental breakfasts, two lunches, a catalogue and a tote bag. The tote bag? Uhhhhh. Do I really need a tote bag? I just want to hear the speakers talk. I really genuinely love the concept of the Cartoon Library. They throw some really great programming and shows but here's the thing: lack of space and academic access only. Why don't they have a permanent and or rotating display of comic art in a gallery. It feels like OSU is stuffing the Arc in a bunker, or in the Cartoon Library's case: the basement. Publicly, nobody knows this library is there. Save a few comic scenesters and academics. They aren't active in any local con. Shockingly they're not involved with S.P.A.C.E. at all which is a shame. They're enabling the slow downward spiral (of the medium) because they choose to not participate in it. It's great that they're archiving all this great original work. But's only a fraction of what should be their mission.
The Bi-annual Festival should be a free event or at the very least what they're charging the seniors or students. Held in the Wexner Center or Mershon. If people want the extra stuff make it optional. Let's really celebrate the medium and air it out.
Anyway... If you are lucky enough to get 'registered' for this even, the line-up is stellar. It really is. Here is who's going to be there..
Allison Bechdel, Guy Delisle, Jules Fieffer, Mike Peters, Frank Stack, Gary Groth (Fantagraphics figurehead), Diana Schultz (Dark Horse editor), Mark Siegel (editor of 1st Second), Mort Walker, Ted Rall, P. Craig Russell, and R.C. Harvey.
The conference runs from October 26th thru the 27th.
Turning the Way back Machine ahead a little this month: a survey of my favorite books from my second least favorite era, the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s (known to us all as “The Dark Times”).
This particular cover is one of my favorites from my entire collection.
Lee & Kirby’s collaboration on Thor was about twenty years in the past when Tom Defalco and Ron Frenz took over the series from Walter Simonson. They apparently decided that readers had gone long enough without a serious dose of cosmic storytelling to sustain them, so they dipped back into the well of concepts left by the character’s creators and for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty-odd issues produced a retro Thor comic that remains one of my favorite runs on any series, ever. Defalco channeled Stan Lee’s hyperbolic, bombastic storytelling while Frenz captured a look evocative of Kirby that didn’t stray too far into Kirby Klone country (though later issues in the run saw him moving into a Buscema brothers vibe, which was also excellent). Each month’s Thor was like an old back issue hitting the stands for a mere 75 cents.
In this issue, the Knights of Wundagore have kidnapped Thor’s mortal friend Eric Masterson in order to lure the thunder god to their mountain fortress. They seek to enlist his aid to search for their missing leader, the High Evolutionary, who was last seen going into space with Hercules at the end of an Avengers annual. Before negotiations can begin, however, a treacherous lieutenant sends some soldiers out to greet Thor with guns blazing, and we’re treated to the beginnings of some Lee-inspired lecturing from Thor about honor and nobility as he spanks his foes.
Thor agrees to help the Wundagorans (?), mainly to find Hercules. Along the way, his supposed allies surreptitiously secure a cell sample from the Asgardian. The search leads to the dread Black Galaxy, also called the Living Bioverse. We’re left on a cliffhanger as it is discovered that Herc and H.E. have become on with the fabric of this living galaxy.
The recurring plotline of the Black Galaxy eventually brings along Rigellian Colonizers, Living Recorders, a race of cloned deities grown from Thor’s stolen cells, and the witnessing of the birth of a Celestial from the womb of the Living Bioverse. Only Lee and Kirby themselves have ever outdone Defalco and Frenz for cosmic-style storytelling.
I can say that yes, I do own a Superman comic drawn by Curt Swan. This lil gem came out in `81, penned by Marv Wolfman. Another lame Superman can't fight magic story. But damn it it looks pretty. Even the Aquaman filler looks great. I'm fuzzy as to whether I bought this one or my cousins gave it to me.
I was googling Phil Hale and came across this crazy site. It's a pretty cool excersise in what one can do in flash. I'm sure Phil Hale's working on new stuff. He's abandoned illustration for the most part, focusing full time to his painting. I read somewhere that he was tapped to do a fully painted Hulk comic but turned it down.
Here are the horrifying last two panels to that 1953 Cap story I found in reprint. I didn't offer this page up to Dara for MMGTA because I thought the woman's face was a giveaway that it was Romita; nevertheless, I had to share this sequence.
j-rug as he's known on da streets... did some art that's going to be used in a documentary called NY77. Which by the synapsis sounds great: documenting one of the key times in pop music and the underground rising. Rolls out on VH1 August 11th. You can see a clip of it on the link.
"The carpet, adorned with green and cream colours, was made in 18 months from 38 tonnes of wool and cotton by 1,200 weavers in three villages in northeastern Iran...There are 2.2 billion knots in the carpet, which was made with the best wool from the southern Iranian town of Sirjan and from New Zealand in 25 colours using 20 different natural dyes..."
Breaking one of my rules here: I started these posts because in all the comic talk that flies around our gatherings, I got the impression that few people’s memories reach back before the late 1980’s, when the once-glorious Marvel had already begun it’s painful slide into mediocrity. Batman Movie People is the term I apply to a lot of readers, those who only know the Marvel of Liefeld and MacFarlane and whose impressions of Batman were defined (for better or worse) by Miller and Burton. So I decided to dig through my collection and bring out a series of books from back in the day when Marvel wasn’t too far removed from its time as a groundbreaking young upstart company.
Talk at a recent Panel meeting turned to Captain America, a couple heretics suggesting that the character was somewhat mediocre. I was about to argue that, like Iron Man, the character might lack a compelling backstory but has fared a heckuva lot better than his armored colleague in terms of great creative teams to propel the series; Englehart/Buscema, Kirby, Stern/Byrne, somebody/Zeck, even Waid/Garney. But what I had fired at me before I could begin was… Mark Gruenwald. Just like Batman movie people would say, lemme tell you…
Backing up a little: we often speak of the 1990’s as being the worst period our little hobby endured. For me, those dark times started a bit earlier, around the mid-1980’s. Marvel embraced gimmickry by applying cosmetic changes all across their line: Spider-Man got a lame black costume, the Hulk turned grey, Thor got a goofy yellow and blue outfit, Iron Man switched from gold to silver (and with the costume change, looked like he should have renamed himself Steely Dan), the Thing turned into a pineapple… while a couple of these titles had writers capable of producing good work despite these editorially mandated changes, for the most part creative teams started to become mediocre, and the books themselves were printed on a new kind of paper with garishly bright colors that were painful to look at. All this, and Liefeld/MacFarlane/polybagged die-cut hologram variant covers were still several years away on the horizon. This was my second least favorite era for my favorite line of comics (the present being the first).
Captain America endured the Mark Gruenwald years during this time. His editorially-mandated concept change involved a storyline in which the government fired Steve Rogers and gave the role of Cap to some redneck; the old Cap adopted his own black costume and since nobody could think of a decent new name, started going by “The Captain.” He was put through a series of adventures featuring the goofiest cast of oddball villains; Gruenwald was clearly competing with Englehart’s West Coast Avengers in terms of silliness and camp (though not even Gruenwald could top WCA). The nadir came in Captain America 344, when Ronald Reagan turned into a lizard and stripped to his underwear to fight the Captain.
I was surprised to see a couple jaws drop when I mentioned this; could it be no one else remembered this milestone in goofy comic lore? So at Dara’s urging, I’ve set the controls of the way back machine a few years ahead to give you these panels of the father of the new conservative movement battling Steve Rogers in his briefs. Does anyone care about the backstory? A group of anarchists called the Serpent Society have poisoned the DC water supply with a chemical that turns everyone into rampaging snake people blah blah blah… here’s the President in his underwear:
All this leading up to a theme I’ve been considering: while we think of the 90’s as such a low point, I (like most of us) was still going to the comic store every week during that time. What diamonds in the rough was I still finding, even during those terrible years? I hereby proclaim August to be Dark Times Month, wherein I’ll haul out some books that I enjoyed during those terrible days. And I’ll even follow these weeks up with a few books from my personal Second Golden Age, the time I felt comics were as good as any I had ever read—the late 1990’s.
Finally got around to reading issue 7 of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal. Good stuff. I love how all the pages are a dense grid of 8-9 panels. The anti-decompression comic. On a few of the pages, Phillips' style mimicks Eduardo Risso's, or maybe it's just my wild imagination. In any case, Phillips is one of the most underrated artists working in the field today. He is just such a versatile, solid artist with great storytelling skills.
Anyway, check out the review quote they used on the back cover:
"...a thoughtful, unflinching examination of the criminal soul. Aided by Phillips' moody, expressive line work, Brubaker evokes the spirit of 1940s noir novels and late '60s and '70s crime movies..." -- The Columbus Dispatch"