Want to Break Into Comics?

Saturday, May 9th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

onibk_292  If you want to break into the big comic publishers, a bit of internet research, or visiting a local comic-con will reveal the accepted wisdom pretty quickly:

  • If you’re an artist, show your portfolio to editors at a con, or establish an online portfolio and email the editors. There’s lots of advice in different places about breaking in as an artist, and lots of places to learn (the comicsexperience.com podcast seems to me to be a great place to start).
  • If you’re a writer, pair up with an artist, make a comic, sell to the smaller comic presses to show your abilities and then approach bigger publishers, who, of course, offer a bit more money.

There isn’t really an advertised direct route in for writers either way. The submission guidelines at DC are pretty clear that they’re only looking for artists.

Marvel does let on that they’re looking for writers and artists, but mostly through the process laid out above.

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Through the Woods and Other Stories by Emily Carroll

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Through the WoodsAnd now for some utterly uncontroversial awards news: on April 22, the nominees for the 2015 Eisner Awards were announced. You can find the complete list here, representing some very impressive work. I’ve written in the past about Astro City, Sandman: Overture, and Saga; I want to take a moment now to write a bit about one of the other nominees. Emily Carroll’s up for two Eisners, ‘Best Graphic Album — Reprint’ for her anthology Through The Woods, and ‘Best Short Story’ for her online piece “When the Darkness Presses.” They’re both excellent.

I first stumbled across Carroll’s comics shortly before the Eisner nominations were made public. I found a copy of Through The Woods at my local library, after which I read through the short stories on Carroll’s web site. I thought both the print and online works were brilliant comics. Mostly horror or dark fantasy with a strong mythic edge, they experiment with form in order to get at the heart of their narratives. Panel designs and lettering and storytelling are all unobtrusively intelligent and quietly inventive, finding new ways to bring out the emotional textures of the tales.

Carroll changes her style and approach with each story, but maintains a distinctive voice. She moves easily from web to print, working with the possibilities of page design in both mediums in a way that feels not just accomplished but effortless. Reading through her work you’re struck by the range of approaches but also by the sense of an overall unity — the unity that emerges from a major artist exploring the themes that hold meaning for her.

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Spot the Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoiler on the Cover of the 1967 Paperback The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker-small The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker-back-small

I took my kids to see Avengers: Battle of Ultron on Friday, and we heartily enjoyed it. It’s a remarkable funny and ridiculously fast-paced two hours and 20 minutes of superpowered mayhem, and it’s obvious that writer/director Joss Whedon and his cohorts have a genuine love for the source material, as it’s packed with asides and sly references for those who remember the Marvel comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Yesterday I was doing what I do every Saturday — sorting piles of old paperbacks — when I stumbled on the 1967 Bantam paperback The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker by Otto Binder. It came from a collection of 52 vintage paperbacks I bought on eBay for fifteen bucks last year (which also included The Unknown, Nine Horrors and a Dream by Joseph Payne Brennan, and Robert Bloch’s Nightmares.) Earth-Wrecker is one of only two Bantam Marvel tie-ins I’m aware of; the other is Captain America: The Great Gold Steal, by Ted White (1968).

The fascinating thing about The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker, though, is that, despite being released nearly 50 years ago, it has a mild spoiler for the Avengers: Age of Ultron right on the cover. If you want to avoid spoilers, just scroll on to the next article. Otherwise, read on.

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Watch Stan Lee Give Tips on How to Give a Great Cameo Performance, in the Stan Lee Cameo School

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I was watching movies on YouTube last night when an Audi ad popped up featuring Stan Lee. [I'd like to take a minute to point out that sentence would have been completely nonsensical 15 years ago. Ah, what a world we live in.]

It turned it to be well worth watching. Directed by Kevin Smith, “The Stan Lee Cameo School” is a hilarious two-minute short featuring featuring Lou Ferrigno, Tara Reid, Michael Rooker, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I won’t ruin any more for you — check it out.

Audi has a long tradition of appealing to science fiction fans — check out their Star Trek ads. (And Volkswagen reunited William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for an ad late last year.) All this talk of Audis does make me miss mine, however… tragically, it was destroyed in a head-on collision in 2011.

The Three Phases of Marvel’s Adam Warlock: Last Half of Part Two – The Thanos Arc

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Warlock_Vol_1_12Adam Warlock was one of those brooding, tragic, lonely heroes I gravitated to as a thirteen-year old, along with Dr. Strange and Son-of-Satan and the oddball Defenders. I’ve broken up Warlock’s chronology into the three phases. I covered the first, the pre-Jim Starlin era, in my first post. I covered the first half of Jim Starlin’s 1975-1977 run, the Magus saga, in my second post.

Today, I’ll discuss the last half of Starlin’s run in the 1970s, where Thanos plays the big heavy. As always, this post is nothing but spoilers, so read it with your eyes closed if you still haven’t read Warlock. If you’d prefer to read the comics first, they’re all available at comixology.com; today’s Adam story covers Warlock 12-15, Marvel Team-Up 55, Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2.

So, although Thanos helped Adam Warlock killed his future evil self in Warlock 11, he doesn’t come back immediately. Thanos is the Titan with a plan, and so Starlin takes a couple of episodic detours.

First, Pip the Troll, the moral degenerate who is Adam’s only friend, avoids arrest by trying to spring a prostitute from her pimp. Hilarity and tongue-in-cheek ensue. I’ve never been a Pip fan, but I get how Adam’s unique and tragic fate means he gets to have one friend in life (one and a half if you count Gamorra).

Then Adam fights the Star-Thief, another original and surreal creation of Starlin’s. A man born on Earth, with a functioning brain but bereft of the five senses, the Star-Thief is completely trapped in his mind. With nothing else, he explores the inner parts of his brain, gaining tremendous power and a grudge against humanity that makes him want to extinguish the stars.

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Future Treasures: Rat Queens Volume 2 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Rat Queens Volume II-smallRat Queens, Volume 1 was nominated for a 2015 Hugo — and all on its own, too, without having to rely on a slate or anything. (I wonder if we’ll have to put that qualifier on all future Hugo nominees.)

The Rat Queens is a darkly comedic “sass-and-sorcery” graphic novel, featuring a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit. It follow the adventures of four Dungeons and Dragons archetypes, Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief, as they hack their way through dungeons and strangers things, in this modern spin on an old school genre.

A brand-new, booze-soaked tale of the Rat Queens reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far. Collects issues #6-10 of the smash-hit series, plus extras.

Volume 1, Sass & Sorcery, was released on April 8, 2014, and is still available — at the low introductory price of $9.99. It’s definitely the best starting place if you’re not familiar with the series. I bought it last year, and it was quickly snatched up by all the comic-reading bipeds in my house.

Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth was written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic. It will be published by Image Comics on May 19, 2015. It is 136 pages in full color, priced at $14.99. There is no digital edition.

Pretty Deadly: The Song of Death-Faced Ginny

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Pretty Deadly 1-smallI still remember the first time I read Sandman. I didn’t read comics back then: I thought of them as longer versions of the strips in the Sunday paper and didn’t give them much other thought. Then one day, I was sitting in the metal working classroom in High School, and Morley, a red-haired skinny punk rocker I still wish I had gotten to know better, handed me a comic book and said, “You should read this. It’s awesome.”

I knew from the cover, a strange collage that was both enticing and off-putting, it wouldn’t be what I expected. But I had no idea what I was in for. I didn’t like the art, and some of the references confused me, but otherwise, I was completely blown away. It was one of those life altering experiences: not only did I discover Neil Gaiman, I discovered comic books. That first volume completely changed the way I thought of storytelling and visual design, the way that myth and story could dance together, and the way the mythic and mundane could crash together.

Twenty years later, I had that experience again. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’ Pretty Deadly is a lush, gorgeous and lyrical graphic novel, a mythopoeic western that plays with the conventional gunslinger tropes while bringing in elements of horror and folklore. And what ties it all together is the song of Death-faced Ginny.

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The Three Phases of Marvel’s Adam Warlock, Part Two: The Magus Saga

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Warlock Madness MonsterRead The Three Phases of Marvel’s Adam Warlock, Part One here.

My 10-year old son saw my Warlock comics (the ones showing the clowns and the Madness Monster I’ll discuss in this post) this morning and asked who Warlock was and why his villains were so weird. Then, of course, being ten, he asked if I could get him some Warlock comics. And I explained to him that he might not like them.

Warlock is a very sad hero, I explained. He tries to be good, and tries to make good choices, but all that ever happens is that people around him get hurt or he fails. I think that’s a good way to start this post.

I should also note that this post is constructed entirely of spoilers. 100%, wall-to-wall spoilers of a thirty-year old story. Embrace the spoilers.

In my last segment, I looked at the hero Adam Warlock, from his synthetic birth as “Him” in the 1960s to his rechristening as a messiah figure in 1972 and 1973 and eventual cancellation. This first period was an important start to what I said to my son. Adam Warlock tried to save Counter-Earth and ultimately, he could not expunge the evil in men and he left for the stars.

The second phase of the saga is the Jim Starlin as writer/artist era, which I measure from 1975 until the hero’s death in 1977. Jim Starlin produced two classic stories in this phase, the Magus arc and the Thanos arc. These are big and original for the comics of the time, so I’m going to cover the Starlin period in two posts. Today is the Magus saga.

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New Treasures: Image Firsts Compendium, Volume One

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Image Firsts Compendium-smallThere’s a lot of good work going on in comics. Correction: there’s a lot of great work going on in comics, especially if you’re a fantasy fan.

It’s hard to keep up with it all. However, I’ve developed a simple system over the years. Once a month I visit my local comic shop here in St. Charles (Graham Cracker Comics; and here’s a shout out to Dan W. and Kurt Biallas, who’ve been selling me terrific comics since Kurt was about ten years old), and buy the first few issues of anything that looks interesting.

I take them home and give them to my 19-year-old son Timothy, whom I’ve studiously trained in the art of comics — starting by reading the entire Lee-Ditko run on Amazing Spider-man to him and his younger brother Drew when they were both still in footie jammies. Timothy patiently reads these comics cover-to-cover, and lets me know which ones are worth my time.

Everyone should have a 19 year-old son like Timothy. He’s also handy when the lawn needs to be mowed, or the driveway needs to be shoveled.

Sadly, Timothy made an unfortunate life choice last year (unfortunate for me, anyway). He went off to college in another state. The stack of comics waiting to be read now fills nearly an entire box, and it’s gathering dust in the corner, neglected. Clearly, I need a new system.

Apparently I’m not the only person to have this problem. When I was in the comic shop last month, I found Image Firsts Compendium, Volume One propped up near the cash register. It’s a fat, 320-page full cover graphic novel, containing the first issues of no less than nine new titles from Image Comics. And it’s priced at $5.99 — less than it will cost you for two measly comics.

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Into the Pits: Ody-C Issues 3 and 4

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

ODY-C issue 3-smallOdysseus’ encounter with the Cyclops is (and has consistently been for several thousand years) one of the best known episodes from the Odyssey. It’s exciting, it’s graphic, and it displays Odysseus’ most notable quality: his cunning. So I was eager to see what Ody-C would do with this episode when it reached that point. It did so fairly quickly, and issues 3 and 4 span the telling of this encounter for Odyssia and her crew.

The results were mixed. There are things I loved, and a few I really didn’t. But first, to touch on what Homer did first. Not because it’s the meter by which we should judge Ody-C but because I like some of the ways Matt Fraction is playing with the prototype here.

For those who don’t remember, Odysseus and his crew wash up on the shores of the island of the Cyclopes. They find a large, empty cave, and help themselves to cheese and milk while waiting for the inhabitant to return. When he does, he isn’t a human but the massive Cyclops Polyphemus. Polyphemus proceeds to eat many of the sailors, until Odysseus gets him drunk and gouges out the Cyclops’ eye with a massive pole. The men then tie themselves beneath Polyphemus’ sheep in order to escape the cave when the flocks are let out to graze.

In Ody-C, the fundamentals are all here but the differences are significant. Odyssia and her women arrive on the planet Kylos. They find a massive fortress, and rather than looking for sustenance, Odyssia orders a break of the citadel in the hopes of finding treasure.

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