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.
Everyone's been asking me, 'Where's Phonzie?'. From Jim Rugg to Steve. He's been busy being in a band called Hugs N' Kisses. I think they've been together for two years so far. They were at Comfest actually. I missed them in the lineup otherwise I would have checked them out too. I snagged this from donewaiting.com.
Another oddly compelling set was watching my friend Kyle and his band the Kyle Sowashes play. Both the drummer and the tamborine guy deserve some kind of an award. Like a vicodin. Someone has a clip of it up on youtube...
You can't make it out but the drummer has one arm in a full cast. Sean was being a total spaz with the crutch and I love him for it.
I just saw the news that comic book artist Michael Turner passed away on Saturday at the age of 37, after a lengthy battle with cancer. It's no secret that I was not a fan of Turner's artwork, but the snark was always directed at his art and not at the artist himself, who by all accounts was a friendly, genuinely nice guy. It's a shame for someone so young to lose their life to cancer. As a soon-to-be 37 year old myself, it's a sobering thought too.
For the 4th year, Ferret Press and the writers and artists of the PANEL collective will have a booth at this fantastic outdoor festival. You can check out our comics, graphic novels, original art, and more.
What's Comfest? It's the country's largest all-volunteer run community festival, featuring over 200 bands on 6 stages for 3 days! Social and political activism, music, food, beer, art, dance, and tons of great people watching.
Oh, and did I mention it's FREE? Check out some of the sights from previous years:
Another interesting thing that happened while the niece and nephew were visiting today:
I went down to The Jungle Room (my basement comic book lair) to dig up some of my own books they hadn’t seen before. They followed me down and I was surprised to actually see these kids-- a boy and girl, around the ages of 10-14-- get excited to see the many boxes of comics lying around.
I periodically go through my collection and weed out books that I’ll never read again (that’s not a statement regarding the quality of the books themselves, just a feeling that I wouldn’t revisit them) and put together a box to give away. I happened to have one of those in the corner and told them they could help themselves to anything there that struck their fancy.
(for the record, the younger boy got really excited when he saw the #1 issue of the 1999 Moon Knight series.)
I was surprised to see the girl assemble a pretty healthy pile of books; given that her age and gender didn’t exactly make her the target market for comic publishers, I had expected her to be indifferent to the offer, but instead she found a bunch of stuff that caught her eye. After they finished digging through the box, I looked through what they had each picked out (checking to make sure I wasn’t giving a Garth Ennis book to one of my brother’s kids) and saw what she in particular had been attracted to: without having any frame of reference for publishers, artists, characters and their assorted backstories… she had picked out a big stack of nothing but CrossGen books.
Damn. I still believe what’s killing our favorite entertainment medium is an unwillingness to make a serious effort to broaden readership on the part of the larger publishers. I’m sure there were a number of factors that led to the demise of CrossGen, but maybe if these books had been out in a public setting where people like my niece could have found them-- rather than hidden away in comic stores where no casual readers could stumble across them-- the story might have been a little different.
I took advantage of a visiting niece and nephew to take them to see The Incredible Hulk today, since it’s a movie I wasn’t going to have much luck talking the missus into going to see. Given the train wreck that was the previous entry in the series I walked into the theatre with lowered expectations and was very pleasantly surprised to find it is one of my favorites among the crop of comicbook-themed movies. I don’t intend to write a review of everything I liked about it, but one element of the resolution pleased me so much I wanted to point it out here.
Small spoilers ahead if you’re not sure who wins the Hulk/Abomination fight at the climax of the show.
All the way back to Tim Burton’s Batman, movie makers have had to cater the adaptations of our favorite characters to a movie audience with different expectations of how the characters and stories should unfold. Movie audiences in particular seem more than a little bloodthirsty; it seems to be mandated that a villain in any action movie has to die in order for the viewers to get their cathartic/voyeuristic release. The worst adherence to this rule I’ve seen in a comic movie was Michael Keaton’s Batman blowing up a factory full of the Joker’s henchmen; most often, though, the rule takes the form of the “unlikely accident” at the end which eliminates the villain without sullying the hero’s semi-purity. I find these inevitable endings silly, annoying, and contrived, whether it’s the Joker falling from a bell tower, Doc Ock drowning, or whatever the hell happened to Eddie Brock/Venom. (My least favorite example is the preposterous exchange from Batman Begins: “You can’t kill me!” “Oh yeah? Well, I don’t have to save you, either!” Having your cake and eating it, too, is what that’s called.)
(I don’t count Doom in the first FF movie an exception, since he was treated as being dead; Sandman doesn’t count because audiences got their thrill from Venom’s death; I fortunately can’t remember much about Daredevil; and Magneto was too entwined with the X-Men concept to suffer the same fate. I haven‘t seen Iron Man yet, but the kids are coming over next weekend, too…)
So there I was sitting in the theatre watching the climax of the Hulk/Abomination battle, and my jaw actually hit the floor when I saw how it played out: the protagonist makes a deliberate decision not to kill the villain, wraps him up in chains, and hands him over to the authorities! How often do you see that in any friggin’ American movie, much less the superhero movies where that sort of thing is supposed to be the norm? I was amazed the audience didn’t boo at that point, having been robbed of their execution. Me, I almost applauded.
So on top of everything else I liked about the flick, I want to give extra special thanks to the makers for getting that significant-- but frequently disregarded-- detail correct.
This is a little piece that Warren Ellis re-posted today, that kind of resonated with me.
I still get asked with appalling regularity “where my ideas come from.”
Here’s the deal. I flood my poor ageing head with information. Any information. Lots of it. And I let it all slosh around in the back of my brain, in the part normal people use for remembering bills, thinking about sex and making appointments to wash the dishes.
Eventually, you get a critical mass of information. Datum 1 plugs into Datum 2 which connects to Datum 3 and Data 4 and 5 stick to it and you’ve got a chain reaction. A bunch of stuff knits together and lights up and you’ve got what’s called “an idea”.
And for that brief moment where it’s all flaring and welding together, you are Holy. You can’t be touched. Something impossible and brilliant has happened and suddenly you understand what it would be like if Einstein’s brain was placed into the body of a young tyrannosaur, stuffed full of amphetamines and suffused with Sex Radiation.
That is what has happened to me tonight. I am beaming Sex Rays across the world and my brain is all lit up with Holy Fire. If I felt like it, I could shag a million nuns and destroy their faith in Christ.
From my chair.
See, this is the good bit about writing. It’s what keeps you going. It’s the wild rush of “shit, did I think of that?” with all kinds of weird chemicals shunting around your brain and ideas and images and moments and storyforms all opening up snapsnapsnap in your mind, a mass of new and unrealised possibilities.
It’s ten past two in the morning, and I’m completely wired, caught up in the new thing, shivering and laughing and glowing in the dark. Just as well it’s the middle of the night. No-one would be safe from me right now. I could read their minds and take over their heartbeats with a glare.
Since quitting my crappy retail job, I’ve been playing assistant for the missus to help with the running of her law practice. I handle all the grunt work that doesn’t actually need an attorney-- input billing, crank out form letters, lots of filing, mapquest directions to home visits, look up attorney contact info, set up client files, and any other odd jobs that happen to come my way-- all while juggling the two little monsters at home and trying to squeeze in time at a drawing desk.
This afternoon I got a call from her; apparently she forgot to include some documentation with a report that needed to be filed and asked that I fax it to the Licking County Prosecutor’s office. I tracked down the necessary papers and hunted around for something to use for a cover sheet; all that was readily available by the printer were the Ditko Spider-Man pages I printed up to scan for my previous post. I flipped one over, wrote “Attn: Sally” on the back, and sent the fax through, waiting by our new printer/scanner/copier/fax machine because it was the first time I had ever used it for this function so I wanted to ensure it worked correctly.
Yeah, you know where this is going. Might as well skip to the next post…
Let me make clear that every other fax machine I have ever used required that I place the document face DOWN on the machine. Not so for our device, the Bizarro 2700 Facsimile Transmitter. It took those pages face up-- and I sent to the Licking County Prosecutor’s office, on behalf of my attorney wife, a couple beautiful pages of Spider-Man battling Doc Ock. I’m told the attorneys waiting on the other end got quite a chuckle out of the pages as they came out of their machine, and feigned understanding when the missus explained that I was a cartoonist myself.
My intention starting these posts was to bring out comics that I fondly remember from the spinner racks many moons ago which seem to get overlooked in discussion in the present-day; books from back before Marvel went corporate on us, yet after the oft-reprinted and very familiar silver age material. I’ve been enjoying the Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man issues so much while I plow through my set of Marvel DVD-Roms, though, that I thought I’d throw a little love his way.
Like I said, “oft-reprinted”; I’m reading through the discs in chronological order, all together, so I get to have some context for what was on the shelves on a given month in 1964 (I’m about to hit the Hulk’s return to monthly publication in Tales To Astonish). This means that the biggest chunk of what I’m starting with are books that I’ve read a zillion times in reprint; it won’t be until the late 1960’s-early 70’s that I hit a gold mine of stories I’ve never seen before throughout all seven discs (well, 6 actually, having read every Amazing Spider-Man at one point or another). While most of what I’m reading through is familiar at the moment, I‘ve been struck by a particular facet of the coolness of Steve Ditko.
Like Kirby, there’s little I can add to what has been said about Sturdy Steve, so I won‘t talk much before I get to the pretty pictures. Stan Lee did a brilliant job of making the character of Peter Parker and his complex supporting cast real to the previous generation of readers, and it’s good that he did-- because there was only one noteworthy new villain created in the sixty-odd issues after Ditko’s string of bizarre antagonists filled Spidey’s rogues gallery. But what’s grabbed me most about Ditko’s art this time around is this:
Those fight scenes at the end of each issue (great build up for each of these by Stan and Steve, by the way-- I actually still get excited approaching the climax of every comic) are almost always set in the most bizarre surroundings imaginable. Ditko incorporates the setting into the action to such a degree that the background almost becomes a character in the scene in and of itself! I decided to do a Ditko post so I could throw out some of my favorites:
Spidey and Doc Ock crash through a skylight-- into a sculptor's studio!
An abandoned Spanish fort in the Florida Everglades (lots of cool panels in this issue, but I especially like the shot of the Lizard coming through the opening in the ceiling)!
The Vulture flies though the interior of the Daily Bugle building!
Battling Mysterio on a sci-fi movie set! Imagine the boredom of this scene set in the present day-- crashing into a giant blue screen.
Follow Spidey through a boat while he battles Doc Ock again!
Of course, we all know Steve Ditko is brilliant, but as I started reading the series issue-by-issue this particular element of his work really leaped out at me. I’m looking forward to the Hulk series he drew in Tales To Astonish-- a rarely reprinted run I’ve never read before!
(the watermarks you might see on some of the scans are visible when you print a comic from the DVD-Rom; presumably to keep me from passing bootleg copies of ASM #1 at conventions.)
Totally forgot that I entered this thing in some competition. Just checked in and it looks like my piece is doing crappy in the polling. Wizard was really dragging their feet with this thing. Everything was on a two week delay. I gave up on the thing. Anyway, if you feel it, vote for it. You don't have to sign in or whatever. It's about as harmless as voting on a MSN poll. Also about as accurate. You could still, in theory, go from one computer to the next and add another vote. So long as they don't share the same IP address. Not that I'm encouraging this (shuffle, wink) but it seems everyone else is doing it still.Voting ends on the 20th'.
6/18 update: Despite a slight increase, I'm still 250 votes shy of surpassing the Ashley Wood knockoff guy. Silly internets. The voting has increased across the board but as of now feels like it hasn't changed any from yesterday.
OK, so DC is trying to turn Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman into a Trinity, instead of World's Finest. Mark me as in favor.
Consequently, I've read a lot of blog commentary on what Wonder Woman is "about." The concepts behind Batman and Superman have been mined pretty thoroughly, and we've seen all aspects of their relationship. Wonder Woman, however, remains partly undefined.
However -- trying to pin down what Wonder Woman is "about" may be too limiting.
One of the great things about Batman and Superman is that they can be "about" all kinds of different things, depending on who's writing them. They are both icons, but they gain richness from the fact that they "mean" different things to different people.
When Wonder Woman has a strong enough mythos to be iconic, yet still open to interpretation, then she'll be part of the trinity. One could argue that she's there already, she just needs strong execution to bring those things out.
Hat tip to Absorbascon for setting these thoughts in motion. There's a guy who thinks conceptually about his comics.
It turns out I was grossly misinformed regarding the nature of the recreational activities available to visitors at The Wilds. I was met only by shocked stares when I inquired about rifle rental, so I feel I should make it clear to anyone planning a visit to the wildlife preserve: YOU ARE NOT PERMITTED TO SHOOT A RHINO AT THE WILDS.
Despite this, it turned out to be a cool place to visit. Because of the threat of inclement weather (namely, tornados), they were not conducting the open bus day tour we had planned on taking, so we settled for the two hour version which turned out to be for the better. Taking the little ones on a brief tour of the grounds that ran through their nap times turned out to be enough of a challenge; a full day would have been ridiculous.
We still got the experience of exotic animals blocking the roadway and moseying up beside the bus. It was all very cool, but I felt they ran the tour backwards. We hit the rhinos and the giraffes first, then it was all horses and wild dogs and deer-- kind of an anticlimax. If the bus had ran the course from the opposite direction, the rhino encounter would have been an exciting note upon which to finish the tour. Still, for a family of four to take the trip cost less than $20 (w/Columbus Zoo membership), so we definitely got more than our money’s worth.
Following this was three nights at Salt Fork State Park, deep in the heart of the Bigfoot Triangle. We booked a cabin several months ago, not knowing how the tykes would handle sleeping in a tent (which, as we learned a couple weeks ago, they handled just fine). The digs turned out to be too plush for my tastes; it can hardly be called camping if you’ve got a microwave oven and cable TV. The first day there we visited the beach and ended up rescuing the biggest friggin’ turtle I’ve seen outside a zoo-- it’s shell was about sixteen inches in diameter, large enough that from about thirty yards away my wife said “is that a turtle?” Judging from the tracks he left, the big guy had been dragging himself across the sand all day unable to find where he left the water. Regrettably, we didn’t bring our camera to the beach, so my animal rescue operation went unrecorded as I carried the radiation-bred giant mutant tortoise to the water. All that stuff you’ve heard about turtles being slow? Forget it. That thing took off like a bullet when it got to the water.
The next day we visited Hosak’s Cave, named for a reclusive mountain man who massacred a lost regiment of Confederate soldiers during the final days of the Civil War.* The path leading to the site was marked by a sobering monument dedicated to a fourteen year old girl who had fallen to her death a few years back because she left the marked trail. When we got there I saw how easily that could have happened; the cliffs were crazy dangerous and the path frequently steep, slick and narrow. It looked pretty, though, and we enjoyed it for all of two minutes before I got my kids the hell out of there.
Of course, the high point of the stay at Salt Fork was the amazing discovery of a Bigfoot track right behind our cabin! As luck would have it, I just happened to have with me a small bucket of plaster of paris. Pictured below is myself and one of the little ones as we made the cast of the giant footprint, recording the discovery for all the appropriate scientific journals.**
** Really happened, and I have photographic evidence.
Niven's kind of a recent fave; I got into his work sometime last year. This may be a case of "The more you learn about a writer as a person, the less you care about him as a writer."
"Instead the writers used their time to pontificate on a variety of tangentially related topics, including their past roles advising the government, predictions in their stories that have come to pass, the demise of the paperback book market, and low-cost launch into space."
The Pulse interview with the Chemistry Set went live today. We chat about the upcoming anthology with Desperado, life, living it. Turned out nice. I don't think they edited anything for length so it's pretty long.
"NRAMA: How do you translate a "playfully irreverent comedy that brings a new twist to the classic monster genre" into the comic book format?
DN: Well, we started with the movie script and a PDF of the main character and set designs. Once I got a feel for the characters, their personality quirks, and motivations, I started outlining what storylines we could or couldn't cover (given that this is a prequel). Chris Ryall was actually instrumental in setting the format of the series when he suggested doing shorter, self-contained tales instead of a 4-issue long story. I loved the idea and ran with it. While there is a good bit of physical comedy in the movie, a lot of the humor is actually character based, which translates well into comic book format. I approached my stories a bit like writing a sequel to a well known movie: you want to give a nod to some of the key sequences and memorable character moments, but not at the risk of being derivative..."
Feeling nostalgiac for the 1990s, I looked up that 6-part Levis commercial from 1997 on Youtube. The style and tone really appeals to me ... interlocking narratives, 1970s kitsch, random weirdness, the interplay between art and commerce. I like that it's fairly non-ironic.
I am a product of my times.
Part 1: Impala Man
Part 2: Car Chase
Part 3: Ice Cream Man
Part 4: Bag Boy’s Fantasy http://youtube.com/watch?v=aFXZLf7vdRA
Part 5: Test Drive Date http://youtube.com/watch?v=lF4wxJOCt7g
Part 6: Car Wash http://youtube.com/watch?v=TueE7yDN1pQ
There’s a pile of bills to be paid, I’ve just undergone a huge upheaval regarding my own employment, I’ve got two kids to raise in these uncertain times, the economy is melting down, our country is waging an illegal war and torturing people in my name, an election is looming which may echo the poor outcome of the previous two, and global warming promises worldwide famine and new disease by the time my grandchildren are coming of age. What I need now more than anything else is the simple escapism of a shallow four-color funnybook! I’ll just reach into my long boxes at random and…
Ah, geez, I pulled out Warlock #11.
Adam Warlock makes the Silver Surfer look like some carefree, happy-go-lucky cosmic swinger. All the angst and overwrought philosophy Stan managed to instill in Norrin Radd would only fill a couple panels in the pages of Jim Starlin’s classic series. Twenty-odd short pages is all it takes to have the bleak meaninglessness of existence delineated for the casual reader before sending them back into the cold, uncaring universe.
An old Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four comic had a story featuring a “hive” of scientists hatching a cosmic superbeing known as “Him” out of an enormous cocoon. Him bounced around a few issues of Hulk and Thor before being renamed Adam Warlock and given his own series as a sullen and brooding galactic wayfarer. Warlock’s world was so perilous that Thanos (Marvel’s answer to Darkseid) only rated supporting character status, taking a back seat to the greatest menace… Warlock’s own inner demons.
Our protagonist had encountered a religious movement enslaving the minds of people across the galaxy; even more troubling was the discovery that the church’s maniacal leader was his own future self! It seems Adam Warlock is destined to one day become corrupted, seize power, change his name to “The Magus”, and sport an afro on his way to universal conquest. Peter David did the same thing with a Hulk storyline, but didn’t give Banner a new hairstyle as cool as this.
Thanos didn’t need the competition in the universal conquest department, so he offered to step in and help Warlock with the most obvious solution: find the critical junction of his life when he is on the path to becoming the power-crazed madman, and killing himself! As Thanos holds the Magus and his army at bay, Warlock is transported to the strange Ditkoscape of his own karmic path to isolate the pivotal moment of his own future.
Of course, the hero always finds a different alternative in the end, some brilliant inspiration to reverse the inevitable and save the day, providing everyone a happy ending, right? Right…?
To add insult to injury, Warlock returns to the present after having killed his future self and discovers that in the newly revised timeline, a completely different church has filled the void left by the Magus' absence. With his own looming murder fresh in his mind, our hero can face his final days knowing his sacrifice didn’t really change anything.
Salvaged from 1996 is more like it. If Rob Liefeld were to attempt to work in the vein of Dave McKean, it would look a lot like the work of Jason Felix. Hack is the first word that comes to mind as I pour through this monograph. All the industrial art cliches are there. Mannequinesque hollow eyed girls photoshoped with stormdrains. Crack and peel texture sampled in. It's all there.
He seems to have made an alright career for himself but for how long?
Remedy: I picked up a copy of Rex Ray:Art+Design which was both retro and refreshing at the same time. When you look at the work, you almost expect it to fail but something holds you there. Really pleasing sense of shape and patterns. I could stare at it all day. Ignore the small flyers/design in the back. Check out his site.