Ody-C Issue #2: In Which I Try to Not Use the Word “Weird” at All

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady


Author’s Note: I had wondered how I would handle spoilers as I review my way through the first handful of issues of Ody-C, the new genderqueer retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. At first I thought this wouldn’t be necessary: how many spoilers will there be in the retelling of a three thousand year old myth? As of now, with the second issue released, I can safely say “At least a few”. So while I will avoid any plot-altering spoilers to the fullest extent possible, if you don’t want to be spoiled on world building or character development, read no further.

At the conclusion of the first issue of Ody-C, I wasn’t certain of how I felt about the series. I had opinions, certainly, and I had impressions and ideas, but it was hard to compile those into a solid opinion. After reading the second issue, which was released last week, I feel far more comfortable saying that I think I am going to love this.

As a single issue goes, Ody-C #2 is slender in terms of both page length and events. But it is incredibly dense in terms of world-building. While the bones of this story were familiar in issue 1, the setting and surroundings were so strange as to leave this reader at least feeling a bit adrift. Issue 2 leads us deeper into the world, and while it is in some ways more surreal it is also leaves us far more grounded in what the world Matt Fraction and Christian Ward are creating looks like.

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A Most-Enjoyable Crisis

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

dc_comics_crisis_3d_600x600_0If you’ve read DC comics for any length of time since the mid-1960′s, the term “crisis” probably triggers memories of monumental, universe-shattering storylines. It began as the name for several of the major DC cross-over events, ultimately culminating in the classic 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline, which was one of the most effective efforts to fix continuity errors in comics with a comprehensive universal reboot. (It has since been followed up by DC universal reboots of varying degrees in their crossovers Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, and Flashpoint.)

So the title of this game-changing expansion to the DC Deck-Building Game (Amazon) should be no surprise. The Crisis expansion (Amazon) introduces significant new elements of gameplay. I’ve played a number of games and expansions, but it’s been a while since I saw an expansion which gave an existing game such a phenomenal revamp as this one.

I first reviewed the DC Deck-Building Game a year ago, in a face-off against the Marvel: Legendary deck-building game. At the time, my 9-year-old son considered the DC game as his favorite, though I came down in favor of the Marvel game, mostly for the following reasons:

  • Marvel: Legendary felt more like narratively being inside a comic book, in comparison to the DC game. Marvel is built around a Scheme Card implemented by specific Mastermind supervillains, meaning that each game has a unique storyline and game objectives. The DC game, on the other hand, involves beating up a pile of villain cards to win.
  • Marvel: Legendary was at least partially cooperative, while the DC game was entirely competitive. Since I mostly play with my son, I prefer cooperative games. Also, from a storytelling standpoint, I felt like a game where I’m supposed to be Batgirl and my son is supposed to be Nightwing should be more cooperative.

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Future Treasures: Courtney Crumrin Volume 7: Tales of a Warlock by Ted Naifeh

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Courtney Crumrin Volume 7 Tales of a Warlock-smallNearly three years ago, I reviewed the first volume of the new hardcover editions of Courtney Crumrin, concluding that “Courtney Crumrin is one of the finest comics produced in the 21st Century.”

In his Black Gate blog post on Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, renamed Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things in its expanded hardcover edition, Michael Penkas did a far better job than I of describing the appeal of this brilliant comic:

Be honest. If you had magical powers when you were a teenager, what would you have done? How long would you have walked the path of righteousness before cursing the school bullies? Before casting a spell to make yourself popular? Before just flat-out killing bad people? Would you have made friends with elves… or goblins?

Ted Naifeh’s series of fantasy comics… introduces us to Courtney Crumrin on the day her vapid parents move in with her grand-uncle, Aloysius… Going through his collection of grimoires, she begins her own self-guided education in the magical arts. In the first volume, she traps a child-eating goblin, enchants herself to become the most popular girl in school, travels to the faerie kingdom to swap out a changeling for a human infant, and gets replaced by a doppelganger who turns out to be nicer than her.

Like Michael, I was thrilled to find the early black & white issues of Courtney Crumrin gradually being collected in handsome and affordable hardcover editions — and in color! I was purchasing them steadily, until I kinda lost track of them. (Cut me some slack… I collect a lot of stuff.) Shortly after Christmas, when I noticed that it was now 2015, I did a quick check to see how many volumes were out. I was startled to see that no less than six had already been released, and a seventh, Tales of a Warlock, was on its way.

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Goth Chick News: From Comics to Film, Bad Kids Go (Back) To Hell

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Bad_Kids_Go_To_Hell-smallBack in 2010 at the Chicago Comic Con, we had a chance meeting with the creators of what was then a new comic series entitled Bad Kids Go to Hell. This was mainly due to their booth being manned by several young ladies in skimpy Catholic school uniforms, which Black Gate photographer Chris Z seemed to find immensely camera-worthy.

However, after speaking with creators Matthew Spradlin and Barry (Bazz) Wernick, who came up with this idea during the 2007 Hollywood writer’s strike, I had to admit they were onto something. Four years on, I was clearly not the only one who thought the Bad Kids Go To Hell graphic novel was disturbing and hysterical in equal measure.

What was created during the pair’s relentless promotional tour of comic-fan conventions and in-store signings during the next year, was nothing short of a juggernaut cult following. The touring allowed Spradlin and Wernick to improve their pitch and ultimately gave them their shot at turning the comic into a movie.

Which is precisely what they did in 2012.

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Future Treasures: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Scott McCloud The Sculptor-smallScott McCloud is one of my all-time favorite comic creators.

I’ve been reading comics for 45 years, so it’s not easy to pick favorites. When pressed, I say Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Spider-man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez… and Scott McCloud’s masterpiece, Zot!

Zot! is a pretty simple story. It’s about a boy with a rocket pack and a blaster, living in a futuristic version of the 1960s, who accidentally stumbles into our dark, gritty, and sometimes bleak world. It’s a kid’s comic, for sure, and a superb one, filled with a lot of action, great characters, fabulous villains, and laugh-out-loud humor. I’ve read thousands of comics since I set down the last issue of Zot! in 1990, many of them excellent, but I can’t recall a single one with the same joyous sense of fun and madcap love of the medium. Just ask everyone who sent in letters (pre-Internet!) to vote on which character should get a pie in the face in issue #27.

McCloud had substantial success with his groundbreaking books on the comic medium, Understanding Comics (1994) and Reinventing Comics (2000). But his fans have been waiting over a decade for him to return to comics as a storyteller, and the long wait is finally over. His first work of adult fiction, The Sculptor is a complete, self-contained graphic novel of love, loss… and a deal with Death.

David Smith is giving his life for his art — literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!

The Sculptor will be published by First Second on February 3, 2015. It is 490 pages, priced at $29.99 in hardcover. No digital edition has been announced.

My City’s Heroes (Part 2 of 2)

Friday, December 26th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Jam: Urban Adventure #1Not long ago, a friend of mine went on patrol with a super-hero.

Real-life super-heroes have become a kind of small-scale trend, and not long ago Montréal got one of its own. Lightstep is a decidedly 21st-century hero, according to reports a vegan “queer radical feminist” who “prefers to be referred to using the pronoun ‘they.’” Lightstep also maintains a Tumblr where they discuss subjects like non-violence and Derrida. My friend Sophie, a webcomics artist and blogger, spent a night accompanying Lightstep on their rounds. She writes about her experience here.

Like a lot of ‘RLSH,’ Lightstep’s approach (so far as I can see) is less about adventure than about simply helping people. Lending a hand when needed. Doing things for their chosen community. As I write this, the first post on Lightstep’s tumblr talks about non-violence as theatre, which seems appropriate. Sometimes heroism comes from keeping a positive attitude, and inspiring that attitude in others. Sometimes the helping hand makes a difference out of all proportion. Which seems to relate well to Montréal’s most famous fictional super-hero.

The Jammer was the creation of cartoonist Bernie Mireault (a regular artist for the print version of Black Gate; John O’Neill profiled Mireault here). Clad in a modified Sears thermal jogging suit (his sister added a hood), Gordon Kirby wanders around Montréal helping people at random. He gets involved with domestic disputes, private eyes, and a sect of would-be assassins. And Satan decides to take him down because he’s just too darned happy all the time. Originating in the 80s as occasional short stories, in 1992 Tundra published the first issue of The Jam: Urban Adventure as an ongoing comic. After five full-colour issues, the book shifted to Dark Horse and reverted to black-and-white. With issue nine it moved to Caliber, and took on more of the feel of an anthology, as Kirby’s adventures increasingly became frames for various short stories — a Jam in a completely different sense. The final issue, number 14, came out in 1997.

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Marvel Casts Luke Cage

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Luke Cage NetflixI’ve been following the news surrounding Marvel Entertainment’s upcoming Netflix shows with a great deal of interest. Originally announced last November, the plan is for Netflix to launch four live-action dramas focused on Marvel’s street-level heroes, leading to “a mini-series programming event” that will rival the blockbuster Avengers. Quoting from the press release:

Led by a series focused on Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to a minimum of four, thirteen episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s The Defenders mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.

Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been very intrigued by the possibilities of a gritty, realistic TV series focused on some of the most popular characters in the Marvel canon. A big reason for all the excitement is the collaboration of Marvel and Netflix; the latter has a stellar rep based on the ground-breaking House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. Daredevil is already underway, with episodes set to premiere in May 2015. It will be followed by Jessica Jones, which stars Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars, Breaking Bad) as a retired superhero with post-traumatic stress disorder working as a private detective in New York. Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos for the excellent (and underrated) comic Alias (2001-2004), the flagship title in Marvel’s adult MAX imprint.

A recurring character in Alias was Jones’s boyfriend — none other than Luke Cage, one of the most famous superheroes of the 70s and 80s. Cage first appeared in Marvel’s Hero For Hire #1 in June 1972, and it’s believed he’ll guest-star first in Jessica Jones before spinning off into his own series. Yesterday Marvel announced that Cage would be played by Mike Colter, who’s currently playing a drug kingpin on The Good Wife.

There’s been lots for superhero fans to talk about in the last few weeks. Our latest Marvel news was the announcement that Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed to play Doctor Strange.

Want to Break into Comics? Check out the Make Comics Podcast!

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Like most writers, I too dream the unreasonable dream of breaking into comics as a writer.

header-img-11Who wouldn’t want to correctly and appropriately use the word “Bam!” as part of their daily writing? Nobody.

So while writing short fiction and novels, I continue to do my research and recently stumbled onto the Make Comics Podcast.  The format is pretty simple. Each episode, Joey Groah posed a comics-making question, sometimes his own, but more often from the mail bag of listeners. Then, Andy Schmidt, former Marvel and IDW editor, answers. Sometimes they switch it up with special guests.

Now, this isn’t 100% altruistic on their part. They’re obviously promoting classes on making comics for the Comics Experience company. That’s cool though. Power to them. If I was just starting my writing career, it’s just the sort of thing I would have loved to have taken. But with that very minor caveat, these guys are giving out amazing stuff, and needless to say, I listened to a bunch on my commute and took notes.

There’s way too much good stuff in there for me to talk about all of it, so I’ll mention a few high points.

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Sing, Muse: Ody-C Provides a Hundred New Twists on an Ancient Tale

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

ODY-C-1-CoverI love Classical literature. I have since the third grade, when I first picked up a copy of D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology. That love drove my choices in schooling until fairly recently, and there was no work I enjoyed more than Homer’s Odyssey.

You may have noticed.

I also love comic books. I’m much more of a dabbler on that front, but I’m always looking for a new book to follow.

So when I heard that Image Comics was putting out Ody-C, a gender-bent Sci-Fi version of the Odyssey, I was excited. Actually, I think I squealed, screamed on Facebook, and immediately made plans to blog about the title here. This past weekend, I finally sat down and read through the premier issue.

And I still don’t know what I think. So while I will tag this a review, call it more a series of impressions and a place for discussion, while I wait for the next issue (which will be available December 24th).

Now, when I say I don’t know what I think, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I think I do. In fact, I think I’m going to love it. But Ody-C is so deeply, intensely strange that it is taking me a long time to wrap my brain around it. Matt Fraction and Christian Ward have come up with a work that is thoroughly alien, shocking, and surreal.

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Future Treasures: Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula-smallSometimes it seems that all my fifteen year-old daughter reads is manga (well, that and fan fiction.)

That’s probably not true — I spot her with paperbacks from time to time. But it is true that manga is still extremely popular, especially among teens. I’m seeing a lot more US comics mirroring the format, too — compact comic volumes that fit nicely in the palm of your hand. The latest is Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, a light-hearted gothic fantasy of an overworked princess of an underworld kingdom populated by ghosts, vampires, and werewolves.  Andi Watson’s deceptively simple artwork is well-suited to the tale. The only negative is that it won’t be available until February — a pity, as it would make a fine Christmas gift.

Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated.

This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well.

Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed.

Andi Watson (Glister, Gum Girl) brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula will be published by First Second on February 24, 2015. It is 176 pages, priced at $19.99.

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