Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com Your source for comic book commentary Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:56:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.7 We Are Robin #11http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/29/we-are-robin-11/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/29/we-are-robin-11/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:56:08 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48161 We Are Robin #11

We Are Robin was one of the most interesting ideas to come out of the DC You rebranding. It had such promise. But the road was rocky. There were stops and starts, many of them false, and a major crossover that, strangely, seemed designed to tear the title down. The writing and art were highly varied, nailing parts of the story while falling down on others. It’s been a weird book to read month to month. But, with this penultimate issue, something has clicked.

The issue begins with the discovery of a sudden and very serious situation. It would have been very easy for this issue to just be one long action scene, a mindless unclimactic climax at worst and an entertaining Die Hard knock off at best, but Lee Bermejo aims a lot higher this month.

As the Jokers’ months of organizing culminate in a takeover of Middletown High, it falls to the scattered Robins to not only stop them and save the day, but make the decision about who they are and what role they’ll play in Gotham’s future.

To be honest, the core Robin group play better as a loose network of independent Samaritans than they ever did as a team. This degree of disorganization creates a complexity and tension as the teens converge, unable to fully communicate and ever on the verge of stepping on each other's toes. They all feel older, more weary, and that makes their dedication to doing something simple and heroic all the more inspiring. And best of all, while that’s all true, these still feel like kids, and they’re both fun and funny to read.

As for their antagonists, Smiley and his proto-Jokerz are simplistic but rich. Bermejo crafts a villain that really is charming in his loathsomeness, without pardoning or even hyping him. Smiley’s charisma is undeniable and his jokes are actually pretty good, but ultimately, the details that enthrall you do nothing to mask how sad and pathetic he is. Back before he had to be a force as fearsome and undeniable as Lex Luthor or Ra’s al Ghul, I might have even said that Smiley’s characterization could have worked as a rather enjoyable take on Mr. J himself. Of course, now it’s oddly unthinkable to present the Clown Prince of Crime as so fundamentally repulsive, but that really works for these wanna-be pretenders to his throne. I mean, they literally say LOL. Like, constantly, phonetically, and without irony. It’s kind of fantastic.

Despite this delicate and beautiful balance of character that Bermejo instills the Jokers with, there’s no denying that their role in the story is limited, hardly unique, and relying fairly heavily on the sad fact that the idea of nihilistic white boys shooting up a school doesn’t need much specificity to conjure a very vivid picture these days. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think that it’s in any way in poor taste, but I also can’t necessarily say that it's the writing itself that gives this element its power.

The other element that really benefits from the modern landscape is a surprisingly powerful meditation on what a gun means in Gotham that runs throughout the issue. Though repeat readers may know that its written in Duke’s colors, Bermejo makes a seemingly conscious choice to dissociate the speech from any one Robin and from any one character. It applies to Duke, it therefore also applies to Riko, it connects to Dax, it sounds like Dre, it’s not coming from any one of them. It’s We are Robin, after all.

A spattering of unconvincing talking points that the Bat books have leaned on over the years are called upon rather effectively alongside thoughts of legitimate depth but the decisiveness of the writing and the careful weaving of it into the plot(s) make it something really special, especially for this series that’s often felt neutered of its promised revolutionary power.

I’m certain there will be those, from the ridiculous to the reasonable, who will be put off by the anti-gun message, but it works both practically and symbolically for the issue. And, besides, if you’re looking for a pro-gun superhero, you probably shouldn’t be reading the Bat books anyway.

Rob Haynes and Jorge Corona’s art is energetic and easy to read. Despite the limitations of the story, they keeps things moving quickly and clearly. It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t primarily mean that in the obvious surface level way, there are actually a couple of minor places where it's not true in that regard. However, the fundamental ability to just read and not have to process seems particularly strong this month.

The angular, heavily inked, style remains a satisfying look for Gotham, like a young, hip inheritor to the legacy of Scott McDaniel. That said, in many places the art is looking even more stylized than usual. At times that’s kind of fun. The madness of the Jokers and the tight corridors of the school can make that work. Just the same, there are more than a few places where a sharper, grittier look is employed and just doesn’t work. Dax, often looks off, though it might be a coloring problem. And, most notably, this experience has clearly aged Duke, because he looks like a completely different person. It’s like looking at those before and after pictures of Obama’s presidency, and not just because there are definitely increased elements of resemblance between the two.

A Thought:

I am not feeling able to fully explore it right now, but, man, there is a lot to unpack in the Nest’s role in this story. Being a (marginal) adult means that I actually kind of agree that this kind of vigilantism could have been disastrous, but that kind of goes against everything that Robin and Alfred stand for, like, even within the context of this particular series.

The post We Are Robin #11 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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We Are Robin #11

We Are Robin was one of the most interesting ideas to come out of the DC You rebranding. It had such promise. But the road was rocky. There were stops and starts, many of them false, and a major crossover that, strangely, seemed designed to tear the title down. The writing and art were highly varied, nailing parts of the story while falling down on others. It’s been a weird book to read month to month. But, with this penultimate issue, something has clicked.

The issue begins with the discovery of a sudden and very serious situation. It would have been very easy for this issue to just be one long action scene, a mindless unclimactic climax at worst and an entertaining Die Hard knock off at best, but Lee Bermejo aims a lot higher this month.

As the Jokers’ months of organizing culminate in a takeover of Middletown High, it falls to the scattered Robins to not only stop them and save the day, but make the decision about who they are and what role they’ll play in Gotham’s future.

To be honest, the core Robin group play better as a loose network of independent Samaritans than they ever did as a team. This degree of disorganization creates a complexity and tension as the teens converge, unable to fully communicate and ever on the verge of stepping on each other's toes. They all feel older, more weary, and that makes their dedication to doing something simple and heroic all the more inspiring. And best of all, while that’s all true, these still feel like kids, and they’re both fun and funny to read.

As for their antagonists, Smiley and his proto-Jokerz are simplistic but rich. Bermejo crafts a villain that really is charming in his loathsomeness, without pardoning or even hyping him. Smiley’s charisma is undeniable and his jokes are actually pretty good, but ultimately, the details that enthrall you do nothing to mask how sad and pathetic he is. Back before he had to be a force as fearsome and undeniable as Lex Luthor or Ra’s al Ghul, I might have even said that Smiley’s characterization could have worked as a rather enjoyable take on Mr. J himself. Of course, now it’s oddly unthinkable to present the Clown Prince of Crime as so fundamentally repulsive, but that really works for these wanna-be pretenders to his throne. I mean, they literally say LOL. Like, constantly, phonetically, and without irony. It’s kind of fantastic.

Despite this delicate and beautiful balance of character that Bermejo instills the Jokers with, there’s no denying that their role in the story is limited, hardly unique, and relying fairly heavily on the sad fact that the idea of nihilistic white boys shooting up a school doesn’t need much specificity to conjure a very vivid picture these days. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think that it’s in any way in poor taste, but I also can’t necessarily say that it's the writing itself that gives this element its power.

The other element that really benefits from the modern landscape is a surprisingly powerful meditation on what a gun means in Gotham that runs throughout the issue. Though repeat readers may know that its written in Duke’s colors, Bermejo makes a seemingly conscious choice to dissociate the speech from any one Robin and from any one character. It applies to Duke, it therefore also applies to Riko, it connects to Dax, it sounds like Dre, it’s not coming from any one of them. It’s We are Robin, after all.

A spattering of unconvincing talking points that the Bat books have leaned on over the years are called upon rather effectively alongside thoughts of legitimate depth but the decisiveness of the writing and the careful weaving of it into the plot(s) make it something really special, especially for this series that’s often felt neutered of its promised revolutionary power.

I’m certain there will be those, from the ridiculous to the reasonable, who will be put off by the anti-gun message, but it works both practically and symbolically for the issue. And, besides, if you’re looking for a pro-gun superhero, you probably shouldn’t be reading the Bat books anyway.

Rob Haynes and Jorge Corona’s art is energetic and easy to read. Despite the limitations of the story, they keeps things moving quickly and clearly. It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t primarily mean that in the obvious surface level way, there are actually a couple of minor places where it's not true in that regard. However, the fundamental ability to just read and not have to process seems particularly strong this month.

The angular, heavily inked, style remains a satisfying look for Gotham, like a young, hip inheritor to the legacy of Scott McDaniel. That said, in many places the art is looking even more stylized than usual. At times that’s kind of fun. The madness of the Jokers and the tight corridors of the school can make that work. Just the same, there are more than a few places where a sharper, grittier look is employed and just doesn’t work. Dax, often looks off, though it might be a coloring problem. And, most notably, this experience has clearly aged Duke, because he looks like a completely different person. It’s like looking at those before and after pictures of Obama’s presidency, and not just because there are definitely increased elements of resemblance between the two.

A Thought:

I am not feeling able to fully explore it right now, but, man, there is a lot to unpack in the Nest’s role in this story. Being a (marginal) adult means that I actually kind of agree that this kind of vigilantism could have been disastrous, but that kind of goes against everything that Robin and Alfred stand for, like, even within the context of this particular series.

The post We Are Robin #11 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Action Comics #51http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/28/action-comics-51/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/28/action-comics-51/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:13:37 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48147 Action Comics #51

Many are the citizens of the DC Universe with a grudge against Flashpoint.  The Batman Family entered the New 52 bruised and diminished but still the strongest power center in the rebooted world.  The Green Lanterns likewise managed the transition to a new universe with relatively well.  The children of Krypton, however, have been a study in tragedy.  Superman is dying. Superboy has been a symphony of sour notes from the character's first appearance in the New 52 to his last.  And Supergirl -- well, one can only surmise that DC Entertainment was caught off guard by the success of the CBS series.  Which, to be honest, does not speak particularly well for the foresight and self-confidence of the Superman Office.

Nevertheless, DC is making a valiant attempt to make up ground.  Superboy awaits Rebirth and the advent of Jonathan Samuel White, but with Action Comics #51 many themes and elements of the popular Supergirl series finally enter the world of comics.

As the book opens, Superman arrives in National City, determined to save his cousin from the Department of Extranormal Operations.  Given his recent experiences, it is understandable that Clark assumes Kara is being held against her will.  However, it turns out that she is cooperating voluntarily with the DEO in an attempt to deal with the backwash of Vandal Savage's schemes which have affected her powers as well as Clark's.

Peter Tomasi shows a deft touch in dealing with the interaction between Clark and Kara and exploring the affects on her of having Clark's identity exposed.  Tomasi is one of the masters of continuity at DC Comics, second only to Geoff Johns, and although his plotting and characterization can be heavy-handed, when allowed freedom of maneuver (a luxury he does not always seem to have) he can exhibit impressive understanding in terms of the needs of the shared universe and its master narrative.

While looking back to the TRUTH arc, Tomasi also lays the foundation for Rebirth and beyond.  The plot concerning the attack on Superman launched from China continues as the mysterious scientist, now revealed to have the ominous (but not particularly Chinese)  name Doctor Omen gathers a blood sample from the Man of Steel.  Perhaps this will lead to Gene Luen Yang's New Superman.  And in Metropolis a new Clark Kent appears, the glowing criminal entity who now seems to have developed the ability to at least temporarily adopt a normal guise.

The post Action Comics #51 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Action Comics #51

Many are the citizens of the DC Universe with a grudge against Flashpoint.  The Batman Family entered the New 52 bruised and diminished but still the strongest power center in the rebooted world.  The Green Lanterns likewise managed the transition to a new universe with relatively well.  The children of Krypton, however, have been a study in tragedy.  Superman is dying. Superboy has been a symphony of sour notes from the character's first appearance in the New 52 to his last.  And Supergirl -- well, one can only surmise that DC Entertainment was caught off guard by the success of the CBS series.  Which, to be honest, does not speak particularly well for the foresight and self-confidence of the Superman Office.Nevertheless, DC is making a valiant attempt to make up ground.  Superboy awaits Rebirth and the advent of Jonathan Samuel White, but with Action Comics #51 many themes and elements of the popular Supergirl series finally enter the world of comics.As the book opens, Superman arrives in National City, determined to save his cousin from the Department of Extranormal Operations.  Given his recent experiences, it is understandable that Clark assumes Kara is being held against her will.  However, it turns out that she is cooperating voluntarily with the DEO in an attempt to deal with the backwash of Vandal Savage's schemes which have affected her powers as well as Clark's.Peter Tomasi shows a deft touch in dealing with the interaction between Clark and Kara and exploring the affects on her of having Clark's identity exposed.  Tomasi is one of the masters of continuity at DC Comics, second only to Geoff Johns, and although his plotting and characterization can be heavy-handed, when allowed freedom of maneuver (a luxury he does not always seem to have) he can exhibit impressive understanding in terms of the needs of the shared universe and its master narrative.While looking back to the TRUTH arc, Tomasi also lays the foundation for Rebirth and beyond.  The plot concerning the attack on Superman launched from China continues as the mysterious scientist, now revealed to have the ominous (but not particularly Chinese)  name Doctor Omen gathers a blood sample from the Man of Steel.  Perhaps this will lead to Gene Luen Yang's New Superman.  And in Metropolis a new Clark Kent appears, the glowing criminal entity who now seems to have developed the ability to at least temporarily adopt a normal guise.

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Joyride #1http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/28/joyride-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/28/joyride-1/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:49:21 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48144 JOYRIDE #1

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a series about being a teenager, Joyride obviously has big dreams. Though it is/was a four-issue mini-series (was because it was announced on release day that the series would continue as an ongoing), the opening installment of Joyride is focused entirely on introducing you to the crew of the Starship Awesomesauce and their mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, to go where no human has gone before and to do it boldly AF.

It’s kind of odd to bury the lede this way unless its essential that we connect with the cast. The totalitarian earth and galaxy of possibilities beyond the Safesky (which I consistently read as a surname, despite knowing better), are enticing plot hooks, but, with little movement on those fronts, this easily could have been a disappointing opening. Thankfully, Kelly, Lanzing, and To bring an essential humanity, the good and the bad, to their cast, and that keeps things moving smoothly.

Our teenage protagonists are neither written off nor entrusted with the survival of the galaxy. Sure, Uma and Dewydd’s plan is ambitious, but they’re not the chosen ones, they’re a pair of kids, seemingly on their own, doing what it takes to escape their shitty situation. The relationships and the context are left intentionally vague, but the character work is crucially specific. The unnoticed desperation in Dewydd’s voice or the hints of a history nerd beneath Uma’s rebellious bluster do a huge amount to set this series apart.

Lanzing and Kelly do a fantastic job of satisfying curiosity while opening more questions. From an alien syntax to the holes in our understanding of history, every page strives to offer something to the reader while quietly drawing them in for more. The slang, while perhaps a bit too similar to our own for realistic sci-fi, is believable and particular, not to mention really fun.

And, honestly that’s the biggest draw of Joyride, right there in the name. It’s fun, there is joy. The biggest flaw? Well, on the writing side, there kind of isn’t one. If I were pressed, I’d say the sluggish start to the series, but, as I said, the story benefits from the careful approach and the sting of one-fourth of the series being relegated to set up is more than soothed by the announcement of an ongoing. So, really, the biggest problem is merely that it doesn’t blow you away. Joyride doesn’t necessarily grab you the way that a Triple A title, a Saga or a The Wake, might, but it’s solid and enjoyable and throughout.

Add to that Marcus To’s artistic skill and mind-melding understanding of his writers and you’ve got quite a winner. Joyride’s writing process was designed to let the writers be writers and the artist be an artist, this issue proves that this team is entirely capable of combining those without losing a sense of cohesion. It’s clear that we’re benefitting from the arrangement, as Marcus To constantly throws intriguing and skillful layouts at the reader at a rapid clip.

The quality of the artwork is high as well, bringing that perfect mix of simple and complex that fans of To’s work know well by now. The characters not only speak with specificity, but react with it. The acting in To’s art is a huge part of this issue’s success. The frustrations and power dynamics of the characters are always completely clear, but it never feels like the art is just telling you what you’re supposed to know. You probably have friend who act like this.

The one weakness in this regard is the issue’s lone alien, who doesn’t quite click. His over the top design helps evoke the disrespect for his authority that the book runs on, but it feels out of place. To also downplays the importance of backgrounds to a degree that I’m not sure helps the series.

But, while some panels are perhaps a little obvious in their intention to get us from ‘A’ to ‘B’, plenty of panels that normally would fit that description are quick and tastefully unmentioned moments of greatness. It really feels like it was the little things, the way you read a page, the timing of a smirk or a quiet look, etc. that were at the forefront of To’s mind while crafting this and, while he delivers the consistent quality of work that he’s provided in the past, it's these details that elevate the book. The book, not just the art, for, as I mentioned, the creators are working together fabulously and in ways that are both clever and not necessarily apparent.

The post Joyride #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
JOYRIDE #1

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a series about being a teenager, Joyride obviously has big dreams. Though it is/was a four-issue mini-series (was because it was announced on release day that the series would continue as an ongoing), the opening installment of Joyride is focused entirely on introducing you to the crew of the Starship Awesomesauce and their mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, to go where no human has gone before and to do it boldly AF.

It’s kind of odd to bury the lede this way unless its essential that we connect with the cast. The totalitarian earth and galaxy of possibilities beyond the Safesky (which I consistently read as a surname, despite knowing better), are enticing plot hooks, but, with little movement on those fronts, this easily could have been a disappointing opening. Thankfully, Kelly, Lanzing, and To bring an essential humanity, the good and the bad, to their cast, and that keeps things moving smoothly.

Our teenage protagonists are neither written off nor entrusted with the survival of the galaxy. Sure, Uma and Dewydd’s plan is ambitious, but they’re not the chosen ones, they’re a pair of kids, seemingly on their own, doing what it takes to escape their shitty situation. The relationships and the context are left intentionally vague, but the character work is crucially specific. The unnoticed desperation in Dewydd’s voice or the hints of a history nerd beneath Uma’s rebellious bluster do a huge amount to set this series apart.

Lanzing and Kelly do a fantastic job of satisfying curiosity while opening more questions. From an alien syntax to the holes in our understanding of history, every page strives to offer something to the reader while quietly drawing them in for more. The slang, while perhaps a bit too similar to our own for realistic sci-fi, is believable and particular, not to mention really fun.

And, honestly that’s the biggest draw of Joyride, right there in the name. It’s fun, there is joy. The biggest flaw? Well, on the writing side, there kind of isn’t one. If I were pressed, I’d say the sluggish start to the series, but, as I said, the story benefits from the careful approach and the sting of one-fourth of the series being relegated to set up is more than soothed by the announcement of an ongoing. So, really, the biggest problem is merely that it doesn’t blow you away. Joyride doesn’t necessarily grab you the way that a Triple A title, a Saga or a The Wake, might, but it’s solid and enjoyable and throughout.

Add to that Marcus To’s artistic skill and mind-melding understanding of his writers and you’ve got quite a winner. Joyride’s writing process was designed to let the writers be writers and the artist be an artist, this issue proves that this team is entirely capable of combining those without losing a sense of cohesion. It’s clear that we’re benefitting from the arrangement, as Marcus To constantly throws intriguing and skillful layouts at the reader at a rapid clip.

The quality of the artwork is high as well, bringing that perfect mix of simple and complex that fans of To’s work know well by now. The characters not only speak with specificity, but react with it. The acting in To’s art is a huge part of this issue’s success. The frustrations and power dynamics of the characters are always completely clear, but it never feels like the art is just telling you what you’re supposed to know. You probably have friend who act like this.

The one weakness in this regard is the issue’s lone alien, who doesn’t quite click. His over the top design helps evoke the disrespect for his authority that the book runs on, but it feels out of place. To also downplays the importance of backgrounds to a degree that I’m not sure helps the series.

But, while some panels are perhaps a little obvious in their intention to get us from ‘A’ to ‘B’, plenty of panels that normally would fit that description are quick and tastefully unmentioned moments of greatness. It really feels like it was the little things, the way you read a page, the timing of a smirk or a quiet look, etc. that were at the forefront of To’s mind while crafting this and, while he delivers the consistent quality of work that he’s provided in the past, it's these details that elevate the book. The book, not just the art, for, as I mentioned, the creators are working together fabulously and in ways that are both clever and not necessarily apparent.

The post Joyride #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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Enemies into Allies: An Interview with Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kellyhttp://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/22/enemies-allies-interview-jackson-lanzing-collin-kelly/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/22/enemies-allies-interview-jackson-lanzing-collin-kelly/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:46:57 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48133 Joyride #1

Noah Sharma: Thanks for talking with us, guys!

Jackson Lanzing: Of course.

So, diving right into it, with Hacktivist, especially with Volume 2, you’re kind of dealing in the worlds of corporate ethics, hacker culture, and government transparency. Especially in the world today, is it ever kind of scary going down those rabbit holes.

Jackson: 100%. Yes. But if we let fear get in the way of us telling stories, we’d never tell stories. So, I mean, the short answer is absolutely. And every once in a while we look at each other when we have to do a google search that like, ‘is gonna put us on a list’.

Collin Kelly: Oh, yeah!

Jackson: And we’re like, aaahhh. Alright, ready? Here we go! And you press the button and you’re like, alright, well now someone knows.

Collin: It’s like I had to know this information, so, y’know, this has to get searched. The scary thing was when the book first started launching and then we started getting splashback from Twitter of not like your normal Tumblr fans but people who had like really strange Eastern European handles and they’re saying like really cryptic weird, scary shit. And you’re like, “Oh, man, if you don’t like this book, you could just dox the hell out of me. Like you could just ruin me. But at the same time, you can’t be afraid of that kind of fan engagement. It’s like you want to come at me, that’s gonna be your right. And, as creators, we’re gonna have to stand for it.

Jackson: When Hacktivist, Vol. 1, Issue #1 came out we actually had a contingent of the - and then the Anonymous community is a massive amorphous entity. As we talk about in Vol. 2, it is not an organization the way people like to think of it as.

Right. It’s anonymous.

It is anonymous and that’s very much the point of it.

That’s the good and the bad.

Jackson: Yeah, exactly.

So we had some guys come at us on Twitter pretty aggressively in a way that I’d never seen, with lot of personal insults, a lot of that stuff, really tearing apart certain elements of the way the hacking was done in the first issue. And actually they were mistakes that we made on purpose, that we paid off later. It all has to do with operational security or OPSEC. It’s a long story and I won’t get into it, but essentially that day we engaged. We didn’t run from it, we were like, “Okay, what do you mean by that? What are you trying to like- Okay, awesome. What is it that you’re- Let’s talk about- And we got through this whole really great conversation with them that by the end of it we had an ally. We had a guy who was very influential in the community who now knew that we, if we didn’t know what we were talking about, we certainly wanted to know what we were talking about and were interested in engaging. And he ended up being one of our main consultants on the second volume when we turned towards things like Anonymous. So that was a fun-

Collin: Making enemies into allies: the Collin/Jackson story.

Jackson: That’s true! That’s how we started. We’re enemies turned allies, so it only makes sense.

Turning to DC, we talked a little yesterday and you guys told me that Azrael was not necessarily in the original pitch for Batman and Robin Eternal.

Jackson: Yeah. He was on the table but wasn’t built into the outline.

So, what was it about that character that you were like, “This is our guy. This is what we want to do.” ’Cause you guys were pretty- You did other stuff, but you were pretty laser-targeted on that thread

Jackson: It’s true.

Collin: So, going way back, I’m a massive Azrael fan. Like I own all the issues and, really, I think it just comes down to that the red and gold is rad. Like I think at the time that’s all I understood. But I also really connected to this idea of, y’know, a guy who just really wanted to be kind of a quiet nerd but kept being forced to be a hero. And that really resonated with me. So Azrael as a character was someone I personally really loved and then Jackson-

Jackson: I absolutely hated him.

Of course you did.

Jackson: I grew up on “Knightfall”, and in fact I wasn’t allowed to read a lot of comics as a kid because of like violence and things. My parents had like really specific rules about what violence I was allowed to take in, but I read “Knightfall” as a novelization. That’s how I read it. And so I didn’t understand any of the iconography, right? All I knew was what I’d read as a character and the character I thought was just insufferable. I thought he was just an ass and he was really weird and he was really confused. And like, I’d never really gotten it, but for years we had this argument about whether Azrael is dope or lame. Like constantly.

C:Yep.

Jackson: And so I think what it was was the challenge- ‘Cause a lot of our work comes out of arguments between us, something where I feel one- Cause I’m an optimist, Collin’s a pessimist.

So we argue about this stuff a lot until we have something that we’e like, “Oh! Shit! We both agree! That’s got to be good.” And that’s what happened with Azrael.

We were in the room and they mentioned, “Oh, Azrael’s something we’re interested in bringing to the story, but only if it doesn’t,”--to their credit--“only if it doesn’t overcomplicate the story. Only if it doesn’t mess with stuff.” And we knew that Tim and Jason were gonna go off on a mission and they needed a plot line. They needed something that they were gonna chase down, people to encounter, all that. And we also knew, having read the first Eternal, that sometimes you have to like, as a writer, target over to these threads. You have to have a thread you own.

So the main story - which James and Scott were architecting and which I thought Genevieve Valentine like really lasered in on - like the main story stuff, there were writers who were handling that, and were gonna handle that awesome. We were brand new to DC Comics. We don’t want to shove ourselves into the middle of the A story and be like, “We’re gonna own this” cause we can’t. What we can do is figure out a take on Azrael that we both like, and if we can do that there’s got to be people out there who’ve never been into Azrael before who will get it

Collin: Yeah, and then, y’know, I was able to bring in the core fanbase. Like if you love Azrael, like you’ll dig some of what we do. And Jackson really represented the new face of Azrael fans. We were able to create this kind of amalgam character that represented what we both loved, infuse it into essentially the B plot of Batman and Robin: Eternal, but do it in a way that was really vibrant and really cool-

Jackson: And was supported by all these great writers. I don’t want to take full credit-

Collin: Oh- oh god no.

Jackson: It’s an awesome room full of people who contributed amazing ideas. But, yeah, our main contribution to that book is conceptualizing this new Azrael in a lot of ways.

Collin: Plus he uses a sword super awesomely and it is actually completely in line with the new historical European martial art, HEMA Longsword, which I practice. So...

Jackson: That was actually the conversation in the room. They were like do you really wanna leave the guy who, like- you can’t leave Azrael on the table for people who aren’t the guy that is a swordfighter. Like you gotta do this.

Collin: They wanted to give him the arm blades. And then I was told later that Chris and Mark - Chris Conroy and Mark Doyle - were having this conversation and Mark was like, “Look, the arm blades are way cooler.” And Chris was like, “Look! If we give him arm blades and not the sword, I think Collin might quit. I think Collin might just give up right there.”

Why is this a choice?

Collin: Right. Well and now-

Jackson: And now you’ll see, in BRE he fights with Dick and the sword gets broken and he deploys the arm blades, so, like-

Yeah. And that’s a great moment.

Jackson: Exactly.

Collin: It is! It’s great.

Jackson: Yeah, it really worked out. So I think the big change - and that’s the thing I go back to -  the only way that we really reconceptualized him- ’Cause he’s still the same guy. He’s still Jean-Paul Valley. Still works for the Order of St. Dumas. He’s still got the same sort of armor and coloring. And he’s still faithful. That’s the part that I always thought was interesting was the idea of a religious superhero, right? Collin, in the middle of the meeting, one of the writers room meetings on BRE, we were all talking about Azrael and then we needed to move on. And one of the last things that was said was how it’s gonna be really tricky to write a Catholic character and a Catholic organization and be portraying them so fundamentally corrupt and so fundamentally evil. Like maybe this is just a little too attacky and a little too real world for this. And Collin goes, “He could be Gnostic...”

And we all sort of like, “Huh.” And he goes and he just writes it down, on sharpie, he’s like, “Gnost,” on like a big piece of paper. And then we just keep going. And the whole time I’m just looking at that thing. And it stuck in our brain.

And then we’re on a train the next day to San Diego Comic Con. We literally broke the story and then headed to Comic Con. And we were all writing our outlines on the way to Comic Con on this train. And we’re heading there and Collin and I sat there and basically just read. We read every source we could on Gnostic Christianity to try to understand. Like we already knew a bit about this and we’re both research junkies, so as soon as we get on something we’re like, “Alright. Let’s understand every facet of this.” So, over the course of a few hours, we just took in as much as we could.

Collin: And we wrote it all down. So we wound up writing like a ten page essay on Gnosticism and-

Jackson: And we turned it in to DC! We were like, “This is what the Order of St. Dumas is now.” It’s real different than the Catholic-

Collin: Like we know- we know we just showed up-

Jackson: I know! Yeah!

Collin: -And like you guys have no idea who we are, but here’s an essay of what we’d like to do. Ha ha!

Jackson: And to their credit, Chris sent us an e-mail back being like, “This actually sounds really cool. I think we can totally do this.” And they let us commit to it. And, you know, James was incredibly supportive, Scott was incredibly supportive, and then now the character I think has sort of fed back into the DCU in a cool way that we’re really happy to have been a part of.

Collin: Yeah.

Awesome. In Batman and Robin: Eternal, Jean-Paul kind of had his life torn down. Like Jason escaped him, Tim tore down his beliefs, Dick kind of even stole his revenge out from under him. Where does he go next and how does he deal with that?

Jackson: We’re- we’re actually going to be exploring that directly in the Grayson annual. In Grayson Annual #3 we are gonna find Azrael in his own story, we’re going to find him on his own quest, and I will leave it to you to discover what that is in that issue. But ultimately what we want to do is make sure that this guy has his own mission and his own appeal. At least for the time being. I think he’s also going to be involved in Tynion’s Detective Comics. So, in a lot of ways, James is going to be the next phase of what happens with Azrael and what he means. We’re gonna have our last statement on it I think in Grayson [Annual] #3.

Awesome. Well, so then coming to Grayson, you guys have worked in film for a long time and screenplay. Especially coming from that world where theoretically you have an actor who’s going to put their spin on something down the line, was it hard to nail down a voice like Dick Grayson’s that has been there forever and seen so many writers?

Collin: It was a thrilling challenge. Let’s put it like that. The interesting thing about Dick--and it took us a while to break this because he is such a fascinating character with so much history and we have so much respect not only for him but for the fans of Dick Grayson, which are just this really vibrant culture of people who really engage with this, what we’ve discovered is, basically the most perfect dude. Like he’s smart, he’s charming, he’s empathic, he’s emotional, he’s learned at the foot of the darkest detective but hasn’t let that darkness shadow his own bright attitude. What we learned is that he has very few actual flaws, which makes him an insanely difficult character to write.

Jackson: And it’s funny because we’ve even been warned about that from like Kyle Higgins and from Tom and Tim for years. Like I knew Kyle through his whole Nightwing run. And he used to say that, he’s like, and he still does, where he’s like, “Yeah, writing Dick is really hard ’cause he doesn’t have any problems and he doesn’t have any flaws.” You have to give him things around him to challenge that. Grayson, to me, is such a good book and such a great premise because it forces Dick into a situation where he is flawed. Because he’s not a good spy. He’s a really good superhero, but he cares too much, he feels too much, he has too much of a sense of right and wrong, he has too much of a sense of justice. All of that Batman training and all of that good-natured good person of him all, it really messes up his ability to be a good spy. That’s why I love the Old Gun story where he encounters Tiger for the first time and thinks that he can talk his way out of this and talk everybody into putting down their guns. Until he goes, “No, they’re all spies, we’re all gonna shoot each other, Dick!” Like that’s what-

Collin: Yeah, murdering is part of the job description. License to kill. Not license to make friends.

Jackson: Yeah. And so that flaw, that’s the thing that we found that’s interesting to write about Dick. And then in terms of the voice, I actually found that we took to it pretty quickly and pretty easily. I mean, fans can tell us if we’re right or wrong about that, but I found that I- We both really like wisecrackin’, positive, I mean, if you read Joyride it’s like full of wisecracking, positive, fun, adventurous kids. So thinking about Dick as just like the most mature version of that- Uh, yeah, you just always gotta make sure he’s not being mean. I think the big thing- the big temptation you always gotta get around with Dick Grayson is like he’s just never gonna be- he’s not gonna be a dick.

Collin: Yeah.

Jackson: So you gotta always, you gotta live by the Will Wheaton rule, like, don’t be a dick (with Dick Grayson).

We now know that Agent 37 is gonna go back to Tim Seeley and be Nightwing again.

Jackson: Yep.

You guys have obviously tried very hard to do justice to the set-up that he and Tom King left for you.

Jackson: It was our 100% priority.

Collin: Because we love that book more- That was the book-

Jackson: It’s my favorite book.

Collin: Yeah, it’s just-

Jackson: -at the Big Two.

Collin: Yeah. It was awesome.

So, now that we know that there is not going to be more Grayson in the foreseeable future, or at least not in that form, is there stuff that you, like if you had had time to just make this your own, is there stuff that you were like, “This would be the funnest thing!”

Jackson: Well we have a whole series, y’know, when we got brought in initially, we wrote a fill-in story for Grayson that now probably won’t go ’cause, y’know, Grayson’s ending. But we pitched out a bunch of stories. We sat down and talked out like, okay, what would we- But none of them were arcs. We never had the delusion of grandeur, “Oh, we’re gonna take over this book.” We never thought that ever. So-

Collin: Yeah, we honestly thought that they were just giving us an inventory issue to be like, “Well, these guys actually know what they’re doing,” and then it turns out that no, no, no, that was a real job.

Jackson: And then they turned it around to, “Hey, y’know, do you guys wanna land this ship?” Um, so I think pretty quickly we put it out of our minds that, “Oh, we’re ever gonna put our particular stamp on this character beyond what we can do within the Tim and Tom context.” So what I would say is by the time you get to issue #20, it’s a Lanzing/Kelly story. Like it really is. Like issue #20 is a very us kind of issue. And it’s got shades of Tim and Tom. And it’s all their set-up and it’s all paying off the stuff they set up. But I think it’s as much a personal statement from us about Dick Grayson as it is an homage to what they did.

Collin: And then after we wrote all that, they were like, “Surprise! You get to write an annual.” And we were like, “Are you kidding? We get to write an annual? Oh!” Like- like that’s the victory lap, right? So we were like, “Well, what can we do?”

Jackson: Huge page count. Lots of different artists.

Collin: Yeah! And they were like, “Yeah, we’re thinking about using a bunch of different artists, so can you find some way to tell a story that mirrors that?” So we landed on this idea of just taking all these little bite size stories that we would love to tell with Dick Grayson and getting them all in there as like kind of like a Black Cases file. Like it’s all these adventures that we’ve never seen. And we have this really interesting way to thread it all together, but we were essentially able to tell five different Dick Grayson stories, Agent 37 stories, in one annual. With different artists and they’re all different tones and it’s like this really interesting way to look at Dick from a bunch of different directions.

Jackson: And then having those perspectives be established DCU characters. So that it’s not like, “Oh, here’s a bunch of  characters from Grayson remembering Grayson.” It’s like, “No.” In the interest of doing what Tom and Tim, I think, have stated often about Grayson being a book that elevates Dick Grayson’s status in the DCU and makes him something more than just an ex-Robin or more than even just Nightwing. And I think you’ll see in Nightwing he’s now more than just Nightwing, right? They’re really trying to step up what he means and who this guy is.

He is going to encounter John Constantine. He’s going to encounter Simon Baz. He’s gonna encounter Azrael. He’s gonna encounter-

Collin: Harley Quinn!              Jackson: Harley Quinn.

Jackson: And each of those are gonna be by different artists, with different tones. And you’re not going to be seeing Harley Quinn through Agent 37’s eyes, you’re going to be seeing Agent 37 through Harley Quinn’s eyes. That Dick Grayson is the passive protagonist of the story, what you’re actually seeing are a whole bunch of people encountering him, and what it means to encounter Agent 37 after the growth that he’s gone through over Grayson. So being able to say, ‘This is a really a character that means a lot in the DCU now as this spy character and here’s all the way that he’s impacted them and taught Azrael a lesson and taught Simon Baz and taught’, well, maybe doesn’t teach Harley Quinn a lesson. Maybe Harley teaches him a lesson, but like there’s something- John Constantine is in love. You just find those things that you get to tell and that was really fun.

Collin: And it was just so fun because we get to tell the story of like Agent 37 in a war zone, Agent 37 at a dance party, Agent 37 in a super sexy situation, right? So we like get to look at all these cool aspects of it and it really was like a victory lap. It was a blast.

Jackson: Another thing we broke - on a plane this time. We were stuck together on a plane just sitting there and we got the e-mail as we were getting on the plane. We’re like, “Alright, let’s just brainstorm: who are the four characters we would love this guy to meet?” And we’re such a fan of what Tynion and Doyle have done on Constantine, such a cool modern reinvention of that character. I’m loving the Harley Quinn books and obviously she’s so, like, in the conversation right now. It felt like, especially given their mutual connection to Batman and their mutual status as sidekicks that it would make a really cool story. You know, and obviously we wanted to be telling Azrael stories ’cause we feel a certain kinship with him now. And then Simon Baz, that was a place where we knew we wanted a Green Lantern story. And it was a matter of which Green Lantern do we use? And we found it was best to use one who really didn’t know what the hell he was doing yet and Simon fits that really perfect.

Alright. Let’s get on to Joyride.

So, Joyride is all about a couple of teenagers who steal a spaceship to escape their shitty totalitarian Earth. They’re off in space as of issue # 1. It’s all set up for some pretty crazy adventures. How much are we gonna be dealing with Earth going forward?

Jackson: It’s a big conversation for us. A lot. But not maybe in the way that you think.

Collin: Yeah. We have very little interest in ever going back to Earth. That’s the entire point, right? Earth sucks. We don’t want to go back. But what we do want to know is, y’know, we’re going to see Earth through the eyes of these characters as they’re continuing their adventures, as they’re going on the joyride. You can’t grow without looking backwards. So they need to address the fundamental issues that happened when they were growing up on Earth. Those formative years taught them how to be who they are and gave them the damage that they have. So, in order to grow past that as they’re going on this journey, they have to reflect back on where they came from. So we are going to be seeing Earth in terms of the context of their feelings and their emotions and their journeys and their memories. But, if we don’t ever actually go back to Earth, we will be two super happy writers.

Jackson: But what I will say, cryptically, is that the first page of issue #2 takes place on Earth. Like after they’ve left. So we are interested in what is happening there without being focused on it. And there is a plot thread that’s going to start at issue #2 that we’re gonna carry through issue #4 and I think you’ll see how we use that to reflect back on Earth, starting issue #2.

And the other thing is that these are kids, they’re teenagers. Like I was like, eleven in 2001. So-

Yeah! Yeah! I was thirteen, fourteen.

So, like, I remember the Bush years and like that feeling of security vs. freedom being both very scary and kind of very facile. Like it just felt so simplistic and unnuanced and, like, “Ugh. Why are adults dumb?”

Yeah. Yeah. Like yeah.

Obviously they’re living in a serious totalitarian world, how much do you think is them having nailed it on the head and how much do you think is- ’Cause we never actually-

Jackson: Oh, absolutely!

Like how much is this Uma being like, “NO! You’re wrong!”

Jackson: Yeah!

Collin: Sure, sure. Yeah!

Jackson: A lot! How much-

Collin: How much is just teenage angsty rebellion and how much is actually on point?

Yeah.

Jackson: I think that’s the conversation about Uma. I think over time that’s the thing we’re interested in getting into, yeah. Because as two kids who came up as teenagers during the Bush years, that was a great time to be a rebel because everything was broken. So you could say, “Fuck the system!” to any aspect of the system and you were right. And it didn’t matter if there were good people in that system, if there were people who were trying to do the right thing, if there were people who were like- And I think you can go back and look at a lot of that and there are good people in that ecosystem who were trying to do the right thing. But they were surrounded by a system that was designed to anchor them towards- And even maybe that system thought it was doing the right thing, right? But when you’re on the ground then you can be a teenager and just be like, “Fuck all that!” then like you can, man. That’s great. Do it.

Collin: And there’s a certain aspect of privilege. Like if you are one of the privileged. If you have that privilege, then the system is in your favor. And it’s not so bad. Right? But the question is what happens if that’s not you. ’Cause if you’re not one of those privileged few and you’re a marginalized part of society, then it hurts every time you look at what you don’t have. Every time you’re told to go, like, “This isn’t your place,” it’s like a slap in the face. So, rebelling against that kind of cruelty only makes sense.

Jackson: Yeah. We’re interested, I think, in looking at what it means to be a teenager and that’s what Joyride is all about. So when you have the slow understanding that you don’t understand, that’s being a teenager. That’s growing into adulthood, y’know?

So, I think we’re very interested in taking them on that journey but no time fast. Like Joyride, from a character perspective - right now we’re at four, but we wanna be ongoing - we would like to be able to tell a much longer tale with these characters so that you can see how they’re gonna grow. Because we know where they end.

At least we know a lot of the points along the way of where they end, so we’re very interested in seeing what becomes of Dewydd and what becomes of Catrin and what becomes of Uma as space changes them and as it evolves their understanding of them.

Collin: But I also wanna point out that “Earth sucks” is not a red herring. Earth does suck.

Jackson: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s not like you’re going to learn, “Oh, my gosh! We were wrong the whole time!”

Yeah, no. There are moon cannons.

Jackson: There’s a gun on the moon that just blew up Toronto. Like, it’s not a good place.

So, finally, you guys are working with Marcus To again on this project.

Jackson: Yeah, we are!

Collin: Absolutely

Jackson: Co-created by Marcus. He’s as much a part of it as we are.

Yeah. And, I mean-

Jackson: If not more.

And the origin story that you told the BOOM! panel was really p amazing. But you also mentioned that you’re really working in like a different style than Hacktivist where you guys a more of a screenplay type thing where you- where Marcus panels everything out. How has that been in comparison to all your other work in comics and film?

Jackson: Uh, it is like jazz. It is the least stressful scripting process I’ve ever experienced.

Collin: Yeah. It’s everything- If we take a screenplay, all the fun that we have in screenplays, we’re able to remove all the formalism and all the stress that you have in paneling a comic script, we remove all of that meticulousness. So we end up just getting to write the freest, most fun action we can tell with the most punchy, delightful dialogue, hand it over to Marcus, and know that he’s going to take all of those disparate elements and tell a visually compelling, emotional story that then we can go back in and kind of lay out the dialogue as it falls.

Jackson: It was Marcus’s idea, but I kind of feel that we like pulled one over on him. It was like, “You get to do all the work.” There’s this really interesting aspect of it where I do feel like we hit a point with this book where it’s just fun to write. That there’s no stress, that there’s no question marks, there’s no like, “Oh, how do we do this?” If you’ve got writer’s block just throw some new weirdness at the wall and see what it does to your characters, like we outlined very meticulously, so it’s never a matter of having a problem between us. We communicate often...very often and we have a-

Collin: And robustly!

Jackson: Yeah. And we have a very solid outline that’s paginated that we know what each person is handling. ’Cause we write separately, or like separate sequences, and then we rewrite each other, that’s how our process goes. We don’t like sit over each other’s shoulders. So, we all know what we’re doing. We all know where it’s going. We all know what we’re trying to give Marcus. And it just becomes a question of how to get there in the most fun way possible, the most delightful way possible.

The post Enemies into Allies: An Interview with Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Joyride #1

Noah Sharma: Thanks for talking with us, guys!

Jackson Lanzing: Of course.

So, diving right into it, with Hacktivist, especially with Volume 2, you’re kind of dealing in the worlds of corporate ethics, hacker culture, and government transparency. Especially in the world today, is it ever kind of scary going down those rabbit holes.

Jackson: 100%. Yes. But if we let fear get in the way of us telling stories, we’d never tell stories. So, I mean, the short answer is absolutely. And every once in a while we look at each other when we have to do a google search that like, ‘is gonna put us on a list’.

Collin Kelly: Oh, yeah!

Jackson: And we’re like, aaahhh. Alright, ready? Here we go! And you press the button and you’re like, alright, well now someone knows.

Collin: It’s like I had to know this information, so, y’know, this has to get searched. The scary thing was when the book first started launching and then we started getting splashback from Twitter of not like your normal Tumblr fans but people who had like really strange Eastern European handles and they’re saying like really cryptic weird, scary shit. And you’re like, “Oh, man, if you don’t like this book, you could just dox the hell out of me. Like you could just ruin me. But at the same time, you can’t be afraid of that kind of fan engagement. It’s like you want to come at me, that’s gonna be your right. And, as creators, we’re gonna have to stand for it.

Jackson: When Hacktivist, Vol. 1, Issue #1 came out we actually had a contingent of the - and then the Anonymous community is a massive amorphous entity. As we talk about in Vol. 2, it is not an organization the way people like to think of it as.

Right. It’s anonymous.

It is anonymous and that’s very much the point of it.

That’s the good and the bad.

Jackson: Yeah, exactly.

So we had some guys come at us on Twitter pretty aggressively in a way that I’d never seen, with lot of personal insults, a lot of that stuff, really tearing apart certain elements of the way the hacking was done in the first issue. And actually they were mistakes that we made on purpose, that we paid off later. It all has to do with operational security or OPSEC. It’s a long story and I won’t get into it, but essentially that day we engaged. We didn’t run from it, we were like, “Okay, what do you mean by that? What are you trying to like- Okay, awesome. What is it that you’re- Let’s talk about- And we got through this whole really great conversation with them that by the end of it we had an ally. We had a guy who was very influential in the community who now knew that we, if we didn’t know what we were talking about, we certainly wanted to know what we were talking about and were interested in engaging. And he ended up being one of our main consultants on the second volume when we turned towards things like Anonymous. So that was a fun-

Collin: Making enemies into allies: the Collin/Jackson story.

Jackson: That’s true! That’s how we started. We’re enemies turned allies, so it only makes sense.

Turning to DC, we talked a little yesterday and you guys told me that Azrael was not necessarily in the original pitch for Batman and Robin Eternal.

Jackson: Yeah. He was on the table but wasn’t built into the outline.

So, what was it about that character that you were like, “This is our guy. This is what we want to do.” ’Cause you guys were pretty- You did other stuff, but you were pretty laser-targeted on that thread

Jackson: It’s true.

Collin: So, going way back, I’m a massive Azrael fan. Like I own all the issues and, really, I think it just comes down to that the red and gold is rad. Like I think at the time that’s all I understood. But I also really connected to this idea of, y’know, a guy who just really wanted to be kind of a quiet nerd but kept being forced to be a hero. And that really resonated with me. So Azrael as a character was someone I personally really loved and then Jackson-

Jackson: I absolutely hated him.

Of course you did.

Jackson: I grew up on “Knightfall”, and in fact I wasn’t allowed to read a lot of comics as a kid because of like violence and things. My parents had like really specific rules about what violence I was allowed to take in, but I read “Knightfall” as a novelization. That’s how I read it. And so I didn’t understand any of the iconography, right? All I knew was what I’d read as a character and the character I thought was just insufferable. I thought he was just an ass and he was really weird and he was really confused. And like, I’d never really gotten it, but for years we had this argument about whether Azrael is dope or lame. Like constantly.

C:Yep.

Jackson: And so I think what it was was the challenge- ‘Cause a lot of our work comes out of arguments between us, something where I feel one- Cause I’m an optimist, Collin’s a pessimist.

So we argue about this stuff a lot until we have something that we’e like, “Oh! Shit! We both agree! That’s got to be good.” And that’s what happened with Azrael.

We were in the room and they mentioned, “Oh, Azrael’s something we’re interested in bringing to the story, but only if it doesn’t,”--to their credit--“only if it doesn’t overcomplicate the story. Only if it doesn’t mess with stuff.” And we knew that Tim and Jason were gonna go off on a mission and they needed a plot line. They needed something that they were gonna chase down, people to encounter, all that. And we also knew, having read the first Eternal, that sometimes you have to like, as a writer, target over to these threads. You have to have a thread you own.

So the main story - which James and Scott were architecting and which I thought Genevieve Valentine like really lasered in on - like the main story stuff, there were writers who were handling that, and were gonna handle that awesome. We were brand new to DC Comics. We don’t want to shove ourselves into the middle of the A story and be like, “We’re gonna own this” cause we can’t. What we can do is figure out a take on Azrael that we both like, and if we can do that there’s got to be people out there who’ve never been into Azrael before who will get it

Collin: Yeah, and then, y’know, I was able to bring in the core fanbase. Like if you love Azrael, like you’ll dig some of what we do. And Jackson really represented the new face of Azrael fans. We were able to create this kind of amalgam character that represented what we both loved, infuse it into essentially the B plot of Batman and Robin: Eternal, but do it in a way that was really vibrant and really cool-

Jackson: And was supported by all these great writers. I don’t want to take full credit-

Collin: Oh- oh god no.

Jackson: It’s an awesome room full of people who contributed amazing ideas. But, yeah, our main contribution to that book is conceptualizing this new Azrael in a lot of ways.

Collin: Plus he uses a sword super awesomely and it is actually completely in line with the new historical European martial art, HEMA Longsword, which I practice. So...

Jackson: That was actually the conversation in the room. They were like do you really wanna leave the guy who, like- you can’t leave Azrael on the table for people who aren’t the guy that is a swordfighter. Like you gotta do this.

Collin: They wanted to give him the arm blades. And then I was told later that Chris and Mark - Chris Conroy and Mark Doyle - were having this conversation and Mark was like, “Look, the arm blades are way cooler.” And Chris was like, “Look! If we give him arm blades and not the sword, I think Collin might quit. I think Collin might just give up right there.”

Why is this a choice?

Collin: Right. Well and now-

Jackson: And now you’ll see, in BRE he fights with Dick and the sword gets broken and he deploys the arm blades, so, like-

Yeah. And that’s a great moment.

Jackson: Exactly.

Collin: It is! It’s great.

Jackson: Yeah, it really worked out. So I think the big change - and that’s the thing I go back to -  the only way that we really reconceptualized him- ’Cause he’s still the same guy. He’s still Jean-Paul Valley. Still works for the Order of St. Dumas. He’s still got the same sort of armor and coloring. And he’s still faithful. That’s the part that I always thought was interesting was the idea of a religious superhero, right? Collin, in the middle of the meeting, one of the writers room meetings on BRE, we were all talking about Azrael and then we needed to move on. And one of the last things that was said was how it’s gonna be really tricky to write a Catholic character and a Catholic organization and be portraying them so fundamentally corrupt and so fundamentally evil. Like maybe this is just a little too attacky and a little too real world for this. And Collin goes, “He could be Gnostic...”

And we all sort of like, “Huh.” And he goes and he just writes it down, on sharpie, he’s like, “Gnost,” on like a big piece of paper. And then we just keep going. And the whole time I’m just looking at that thing. And it stuck in our brain.

And then we’re on a train the next day to San Diego Comic Con. We literally broke the story and then headed to Comic Con. And we were all writing our outlines on the way to Comic Con on this train. And we’re heading there and Collin and I sat there and basically just read. We read every source we could on Gnostic Christianity to try to understand. Like we already knew a bit about this and we’re both research junkies, so as soon as we get on something we’re like, “Alright. Let’s understand every facet of this.” So, over the course of a few hours, we just took in as much as we could.

Collin: And we wrote it all down. So we wound up writing like a ten page essay on Gnosticism and-

Jackson: And we turned it in to DC! We were like, “This is what the Order of St. Dumas is now.” It’s real different than the Catholic-

Collin: Like we know- we know we just showed up-

Jackson: I know! Yeah!

Collin: -And like you guys have no idea who we are, but here’s an essay of what we’d like to do. Ha ha!

Jackson: And to their credit, Chris sent us an e-mail back being like, “This actually sounds really cool. I think we can totally do this.” And they let us commit to it. And, you know, James was incredibly supportive, Scott was incredibly supportive, and then now the character I think has sort of fed back into the DCU in a cool way that we’re really happy to have been a part of.

Collin: Yeah.

Awesome. In Batman and Robin: Eternal, Jean-Paul kind of had his life torn down. Like Jason escaped him, Tim tore down his beliefs, Dick kind of even stole his revenge out from under him. Where does he go next and how does he deal with that?

Jackson: We’re- we’re actually going to be exploring that directly in the Grayson annual. In Grayson Annual #3 we are gonna find Azrael in his own story, we’re going to find him on his own quest, and I will leave it to you to discover what that is in that issue. But ultimately what we want to do is make sure that this guy has his own mission and his own appeal. At least for the time being. I think he’s also going to be involved in Tynion’s Detective Comics. So, in a lot of ways, James is going to be the next phase of what happens with Azrael and what he means. We’re gonna have our last statement on it I think in Grayson [Annual] #3.

Awesome. Well, so then coming to Grayson, you guys have worked in film for a long time and screenplay. Especially coming from that world where theoretically you have an actor who’s going to put their spin on something down the line, was it hard to nail down a voice like Dick Grayson’s that has been there forever and seen so many writers?

Collin: It was a thrilling challenge. Let’s put it like that. The interesting thing about Dick--and it took us a while to break this because he is such a fascinating character with so much history and we have so much respect not only for him but for the fans of Dick Grayson, which are just this really vibrant culture of people who really engage with this, what we’ve discovered is, basically the most perfect dude. Like he’s smart, he’s charming, he’s empathic, he’s emotional, he’s learned at the foot of the darkest detective but hasn’t let that darkness shadow his own bright attitude. What we learned is that he has very few actual flaws, which makes him an insanely difficult character to write.

Jackson: And it’s funny because we’ve even been warned about that from like Kyle Higgins and from Tom and Tim for years. Like I knew Kyle through his whole Nightwing run. And he used to say that, he’s like, and he still does, where he’s like, “Yeah, writing Dick is really hard ’cause he doesn’t have any problems and he doesn’t have any flaws.” You have to give him things around him to challenge that. Grayson, to me, is such a good book and such a great premise because it forces Dick into a situation where he is flawed. Because he’s not a good spy. He’s a really good superhero, but he cares too much, he feels too much, he has too much of a sense of right and wrong, he has too much of a sense of justice. All of that Batman training and all of that good-natured good person of him all, it really messes up his ability to be a good spy. That’s why I love the Old Gun story where he encounters Tiger for the first time and thinks that he can talk his way out of this and talk everybody into putting down their guns. Until he goes, “No, they’re all spies, we’re all gonna shoot each other, Dick!” Like that’s what-

Collin: Yeah, murdering is part of the job description. License to kill. Not license to make friends.

Jackson: Yeah. And so that flaw, that’s the thing that we found that’s interesting to write about Dick. And then in terms of the voice, I actually found that we took to it pretty quickly and pretty easily. I mean, fans can tell us if we’re right or wrong about that, but I found that I- We both really like wisecrackin’, positive, I mean, if you read Joyride it’s like full of wisecracking, positive, fun, adventurous kids. So thinking about Dick as just like the most mature version of that- Uh, yeah, you just always gotta make sure he’s not being mean. I think the big thing- the big temptation you always gotta get around with Dick Grayson is like he’s just never gonna be- he’s not gonna be a dick.

Collin: Yeah.

Jackson: So you gotta always, you gotta live by the Will Wheaton rule, like, don’t be a dick (with Dick Grayson).

We now know that Agent 37 is gonna go back to Tim Seeley and be Nightwing again.

Jackson: Yep.

You guys have obviously tried very hard to do justice to the set-up that he and Tom King left for you.

Jackson: It was our 100% priority.

Collin: Because we love that book more- That was the book-

Jackson: It’s my favorite book.

Collin: Yeah, it’s just-

Jackson: -at the Big Two.

Collin: Yeah. It was awesome.

So, now that we know that there is not going to be more Grayson in the foreseeable future, or at least not in that form, is there stuff that you, like if you had had time to just make this your own, is there stuff that you were like, “This would be the funnest thing!”

Jackson: Well we have a whole series, y’know, when we got brought in initially, we wrote a fill-in story for Grayson that now probably won’t go ’cause, y’know, Grayson’s ending. But we pitched out a bunch of stories. We sat down and talked out like, okay, what would we- But none of them were arcs. We never had the delusion of grandeur, “Oh, we’re gonna take over this book.” We never thought that ever. So-

Collin: Yeah, we honestly thought that they were just giving us an inventory issue to be like, “Well, these guys actually know what they’re doing,” and then it turns out that no, no, no, that was a real job.

Jackson: And then they turned it around to, “Hey, y’know, do you guys wanna land this ship?” Um, so I think pretty quickly we put it out of our minds that, “Oh, we’re ever gonna put our particular stamp on this character beyond what we can do within the Tim and Tom context.” So what I would say is by the time you get to issue #20, it’s a Lanzing/Kelly story. Like it really is. Like issue #20 is a very us kind of issue. And it’s got shades of Tim and Tom. And it’s all their set-up and it’s all paying off the stuff they set up. But I think it’s as much a personal statement from us about Dick Grayson as it is an homage to what they did.

Collin: And then after we wrote all that, they were like, “Surprise! You get to write an annual.” And we were like, “Are you kidding? We get to write an annual? Oh!” Like- like that’s the victory lap, right? So we were like, “Well, what can we do?”

Jackson: Huge page count. Lots of different artists.

Collin: Yeah! And they were like, “Yeah, we’re thinking about using a bunch of different artists, so can you find some way to tell a story that mirrors that?” So we landed on this idea of just taking all these little bite size stories that we would love to tell with Dick Grayson and getting them all in there as like kind of like a Black Cases file. Like it’s all these adventures that we’ve never seen. And we have this really interesting way to thread it all together, but we were essentially able to tell five different Dick Grayson stories, Agent 37 stories, in one annual. With different artists and they’re all different tones and it’s like this really interesting way to look at Dick from a bunch of different directions.

Jackson: And then having those perspectives be established DCU characters. So that it’s not like, “Oh, here’s a bunch of  characters from Grayson remembering Grayson.” It’s like, “No.” In the interest of doing what Tom and Tim, I think, have stated often about Grayson being a book that elevates Dick Grayson’s status in the DCU and makes him something more than just an ex-Robin or more than even just Nightwing. And I think you’ll see in Nightwing he’s now more than just Nightwing, right? They’re really trying to step up what he means and who this guy is.

He is going to encounter John Constantine. He’s going to encounter Simon Baz. He’s gonna encounter Azrael. He’s gonna encounter-

Collin: Harley Quinn!              Jackson: Harley Quinn.

Jackson: And each of those are gonna be by different artists, with different tones. And you’re not going to be seeing Harley Quinn through Agent 37’s eyes, you’re going to be seeing Agent 37 through Harley Quinn’s eyes. That Dick Grayson is the passive protagonist of the story, what you’re actually seeing are a whole bunch of people encountering him, and what it means to encounter Agent 37 after the growth that he’s gone through over Grayson. So being able to say, ‘This is a really a character that means a lot in the DCU now as this spy character and here’s all the way that he’s impacted them and taught Azrael a lesson and taught Simon Baz and taught’, well, maybe doesn’t teach Harley Quinn a lesson. Maybe Harley teaches him a lesson, but like there’s something- John Constantine is in love. You just find those things that you get to tell and that was really fun.

Collin: And it was just so fun because we get to tell the story of like Agent 37 in a war zone, Agent 37 at a dance party, Agent 37 in a super sexy situation, right? So we like get to look at all these cool aspects of it and it really was like a victory lap. It was a blast.

Jackson: Another thing we broke - on a plane this time. We were stuck together on a plane just sitting there and we got the e-mail as we were getting on the plane. We’re like, “Alright, let’s just brainstorm: who are the four characters we would love this guy to meet?” And we’re such a fan of what Tynion and Doyle have done on Constantine, such a cool modern reinvention of that character. I’m loving the Harley Quinn books and obviously she’s so, like, in the conversation right now. It felt like, especially given their mutual connection to Batman and their mutual status as sidekicks that it would make a really cool story. You know, and obviously we wanted to be telling Azrael stories ’cause we feel a certain kinship with him now. And then Simon Baz, that was a place where we knew we wanted a Green Lantern story. And it was a matter of which Green Lantern do we use? And we found it was best to use one who really didn’t know what the hell he was doing yet and Simon fits that really perfect.

Alright. Let’s get on to Joyride.

So, Joyride is all about a couple of teenagers who steal a spaceship to escape their shitty totalitarian Earth. They’re off in space as of issue # 1. It’s all set up for some pretty crazy adventures. How much are we gonna be dealing with Earth going forward?

Jackson: It’s a big conversation for us. A lot. But not maybe in the way that you think.

Collin: Yeah. We have very little interest in ever going back to Earth. That’s the entire point, right? Earth sucks. We don’t want to go back. But what we do want to know is, y’know, we’re going to see Earth through the eyes of these characters as they’re continuing their adventures, as they’re going on the joyride. You can’t grow without looking backwards. So they need to address the fundamental issues that happened when they were growing up on Earth. Those formative years taught them how to be who they are and gave them the damage that they have. So, in order to grow past that as they’re going on this journey, they have to reflect back on where they came from. So we are going to be seeing Earth in terms of the context of their feelings and their emotions and their journeys and their memories. But, if we don’t ever actually go back to Earth, we will be two super happy writers.

Jackson: But what I will say, cryptically, is that the first page of issue #2 takes place on Earth. Like after they’ve left. So we are interested in what is happening there without being focused on it. And there is a plot thread that’s going to start at issue #2 that we’re gonna carry through issue #4 and I think you’ll see how we use that to reflect back on Earth, starting issue #2.

And the other thing is that these are kids, they’re teenagers. Like I was like, eleven in 2001. So-

Yeah! Yeah! I was thirteen, fourteen.

So, like, I remember the Bush years and like that feeling of security vs. freedom being both very scary and kind of very facile. Like it just felt so simplistic and unnuanced and, like, “Ugh. Why are adults dumb?”

Yeah. Yeah. Like yeah.

Obviously they’re living in a serious totalitarian world, how much do you think is them having nailed it on the head and how much do you think is- ’Cause we never actually-

Jackson: Oh, absolutely!

Like how much is this Uma being like, “NO! You’re wrong!”

Jackson: Yeah!

Collin: Sure, sure. Yeah!

Jackson: A lot! How much-

Collin: How much is just teenage angsty rebellion and how much is actually on point?

Yeah.

Jackson: I think that’s the conversation about Uma. I think over time that’s the thing we’re interested in getting into, yeah. Because as two kids who came up as teenagers during the Bush years, that was a great time to be a rebel because everything was broken. So you could say, “Fuck the system!” to any aspect of the system and you were right. And it didn’t matter if there were good people in that system, if there were people who were trying to do the right thing, if there were people who were like- And I think you can go back and look at a lot of that and there are good people in that ecosystem who were trying to do the right thing. But they were surrounded by a system that was designed to anchor them towards- And even maybe that system thought it was doing the right thing, right? But when you’re on the ground then you can be a teenager and just be like, “Fuck all that!” then like you can, man. That’s great. Do it.

Collin: And there’s a certain aspect of privilege. Like if you are one of the privileged. If you have that privilege, then the system is in your favor. And it’s not so bad. Right? But the question is what happens if that’s not you. ’Cause if you’re not one of those privileged few and you’re a marginalized part of society, then it hurts every time you look at what you don’t have. Every time you’re told to go, like, “This isn’t your place,” it’s like a slap in the face. So, rebelling against that kind of cruelty only makes sense.

Jackson: Yeah. We’re interested, I think, in looking at what it means to be a teenager and that’s what Joyride is all about. So when you have the slow understanding that you don’t understand, that’s being a teenager. That’s growing into adulthood, y’know?

So, I think we’re very interested in taking them on that journey but no time fast. Like Joyride, from a character perspective - right now we’re at four, but we wanna be ongoing - we would like to be able to tell a much longer tale with these characters so that you can see how they’re gonna grow. Because we know where they end.

At least we know a lot of the points along the way of where they end, so we’re very interested in seeing what becomes of Dewydd and what becomes of Catrin and what becomes of Uma as space changes them and as it evolves their understanding of them.

Collin: But I also wanna point out that “Earth sucks” is not a red herring. Earth does suck.

Jackson: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s not like you’re going to learn, “Oh, my gosh! We were wrong the whole time!”

Yeah, no. There are moon cannons.

Jackson: There’s a gun on the moon that just blew up Toronto. Like, it’s not a good place.

So, finally, you guys are working with Marcus To again on this project.

Jackson: Yeah, we are!

Collin: Absolutely

Jackson: Co-created by Marcus. He’s as much a part of it as we are.

Yeah. And, I mean-

Jackson: If not more.

And the origin story that you told the BOOM! panel was really p amazing. But you also mentioned that you’re really working in like a different style than Hacktivist where you guys a more of a screenplay type thing where you- where Marcus panels everything out. How has that been in comparison to all your other work in comics and film?

Jackson: Uh, it is like jazz. It is the least stressful scripting process I’ve ever experienced.

Collin: Yeah. It’s everything- If we take a screenplay, all the fun that we have in screenplays, we’re able to remove all the formalism and all the stress that you have in paneling a comic script, we remove all of that meticulousness. So we end up just getting to write the freest, most fun action we can tell with the most punchy, delightful dialogue, hand it over to Marcus, and know that he’s going to take all of those disparate elements and tell a visually compelling, emotional story that then we can go back in and kind of lay out the dialogue as it falls.

Jackson: It was Marcus’s idea, but I kind of feel that we like pulled one over on him. It was like, “You get to do all the work.” There’s this really interesting aspect of it where I do feel like we hit a point with this book where it’s just fun to write. That there’s no stress, that there’s no question marks, there’s no like, “Oh, how do we do this?” If you’ve got writer’s block just throw some new weirdness at the wall and see what it does to your characters, like we outlined very meticulously, so it’s never a matter of having a problem between us. We communicate often...very often and we have a-

Collin: And robustly!

Jackson: Yeah. And we have a very solid outline that’s paginated that we know what each person is handling. ’Cause we write separately, or like separate sequences, and then we rewrite each other, that’s how our process goes. We don’t like sit over each other’s shoulders. So, we all know what we’re doing. We all know where it’s going. We all know what we’re trying to give Marcus. And it just becomes a question of how to get there in the most fun way possible, the most delightful way possible.

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Batman/Superman #31http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/22/batmansuperman-31/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/22/batmansuperman-31/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:45:13 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48131 Batman:Superman #31

To whom do you turn when there is a universe to weave?  In whom do you trust when the strands of story and character and strategy must be carefully plaited together?  For DC Entertainment the answer is Peter Tomasi.  As editor and writer Tomasi has occasionally made questionable choices, as when he had Batman travel to Apokalips and retrieve the body of his son by literally punching Darkseid in the face.  But Tomasi is perhaps the greatest master of continuity DC has, barring only Geoff Johns, and as the Rebirth of the DCU approaches his is the logical hand to guide the Superman books toward the crisis point.

Batman/Superman #31 is the second installment in Tomasi's crossover leading toward the upcoming event, and in this episode Superman seeks out his old friend, Bruce Wayne, to enlist the Dark Knight's help as his life ebbs away.  Clark has realised his cousin Kara, that is Supergirl, has gone missing, and is determined to find her so that she can step into the role of Earth's protector.  Batman, after overcoming his distress at the news of Superman's impending death, rapidly traces Supergirl to National City, a location that comes as no surprise at all to fans of the Supergirl series currently garnering impressive ratings on CBS every Monday night.

And there is where things get extremely interesting as creatures representing the Chinese Zodiac attack the two heroes while screaming "Chou Xie!"  Now, I am not fluent in Mandarin, not even close, but research says that the phrase shouted by the ornate attackers means "reciprocate" or "thank with a gift."  Doubtless that is a go in translation missing any amount of nuance, but it certainly seems to imply that someone in Asia bears a grudge against the Man of Steel.

Meanwhile, the mysterious ghostly Superman is flying about doing, well, Superman things.  Is he a visitor frocoming m another dimension?  Is he a ghost from the future?  Is he a portion of Superman's fading life force freed from the Kryptonian's failing physical body?  Something tells me that the fate of Superman in the coming Rebirth regime depends on the identity of this glowing specter as much as the motives of the Chinese Zodiac master.

Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza turn in art work that seems a natural continuation of Mikel Janin's work from last week's installment.  Here, as there, the clear lines, along with Wil Quintana's sharp, bold colors and brightly lit panels, create a visible tension with the mystery and darkness suffering the storyline.  This tension provides the motive energy propelling the story at a brisk but hardly breathless pace.

The post Batman/Superman #31 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Batman:Superman #31

To whom do you turn when there is a universe to weave?  In whom do you trust when the strands of story and character and strategy must be carefully plaited together?  For DC Entertainment the answer is Peter Tomasi.  As editor and writer Tomasi has occasionally made questionable choices, as when he had Batman travel to Apokalips and retrieve the body of his son by literally punching Darkseid in the face.  But Tomasi is perhaps the greatest master of continuity DC has, barring only Geoff Johns, and as the Rebirth of the DCU approaches his is the logical hand to guide the Superman books toward the crisis point.Batman/Superman #31 is the second installment in Tomasi's crossover leading toward the upcoming event, and in this episode Superman seeks out his old friend, Bruce Wayne, to enlist the Dark Knight's help as his life ebbs away.  Clark has realised his cousin Kara, that is Supergirl, has gone missing, and is determined to find her so that she can step into the role of Earth's protector.  Batman, after overcoming his distress at the news of Superman's impending death, rapidly traces Supergirl to National City, a location that comes as no surprise at all to fans of the Supergirl series currently garnering impressive ratings on CBS every Monday night.And there is where things get extremely interesting as creatures representing the Chinese Zodiac attack the two heroes while screaming "Chou Xie!"  Now, I am not fluent in Mandarin, not even close, but research says that the phrase shouted by the ornate attackers means "reciprocate" or "thank with a gift."  Doubtless that is a go in translation missing any amount of nuance, but it certainly seems to imply that someone in Asia bears a grudge against the Man of Steel.Meanwhile, the mysterious ghostly Superman is flying about doing, well, Superman things.  Is he a visitor frocoming m another dimension?  Is he a ghost from the future?  Is he a portion of Superman's fading life force freed from the Kryptonian's failing physical body?  Something tells me that the fate of Superman in the coming Rebirth regime depends on the identity of this glowing specter as much as the motives of the Chinese Zodiac master.Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza turn in art work that seems a natural continuation of Mikel Janin's work from last week's installment.  Here, as there, the clear lines, along with Wil Quintana's sharp, bold colors and brightly lit panels, create a visible tension with the mystery and darkness suffering the storyline.  This tension provides the motive energy propelling the story at a brisk but hardly breathless pace.

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ECCC 2016 Report: Reimagining the Female Villain, Power Rangers, and Day 3http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/15/eccc-2016-report-reimagining-female-villain-power-rangers-day-3/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/15/eccc-2016-report-reimagining-female-villain-power-rangers-day-3/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 11:17:03 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48123 ECCC2016

My Saturday opened with one of the highlights of any convention I attend: a panel moderated by professor Ben Saunders. Professor Saunders has thoroughly impressed me over the past year or two with a slew of intelligent, humorous, and fascinatingly specific panels at a number of conventions. This time it was an issue close to many hearts, including mine, Beyond the Femme Fatale: Reimagining the Female Villain.

Professor Saunders opened by asking the panelists what female villains inspired them as children. Though Amy Chu offered the Wicked Witch of the West and Cruella DeVille, Mairghread Scott kind of stole the show by making an impassioned argument for the feminism of The Lead Raptor From Jurassic Park, stating that the nameless antagonist is legitimately frightening, “not sexualized at all”, respected by her subordinates and rival, and never excessively violent snapping only to ensure the chain of command or when hungry.

The entire panel also mentioned Catwoman at one time or another, leading discussion towards the many versions and reinventions of the character. Catwoman may be “the only consistent woman in Batman’s life”, but her role in that life, not to mention the attention paid to her own, is hardly consistent. In fact, essentially the only constant of Catwoman is that she’s always just a little ahead of the curve, both intellectually and societally. Tim Burton’s Catwoman received quite a bit of attention, with Scott discussing how striking it was to see an “unabashedly aggressive” female villain. She also says that, looking back, the 1992 film touched on many of the great Joker ideas about madness through Catwoman.

Ever the comics historian, Professor Saunders couldn’t help but introduce this image.

These panels from Batman #1 is undeniable evidence of the strange sexuality of Catwoman. Saunders thought it interesting that the earliest iteration of the Bat and Cat relationship effectively presented the entire WWII-era culture that the panel often rejects, but that later versions spoke to them all so strongly.

For Scott, the answer might be that the core of the character is a subtle reinvention of a sexist trope. While Catwoman, especially in Batman #1, is one of comics’ classic Femme Fatales, Scott feels that she challenges one of the central presuppositions about the archetype. In a classic Femme Fatale, sex is a tool and the game is manipulation. It flips the script on the traditional assumptions of gendered power while revealing essential male fears about courtship. Despite this, Catwoman is not merely playing a game, Catwoman legitimately wants to sleep with Batman. Though one cannot discount the way that many writers tried, or perhaps had, to use this as an example of women being innately emotional and man-crazy, the agentive power of Catwoman’s desires and the equality of she and Batman makes for an overall healthier version of the trope for Scott.

We also learned an interesting tidbit about Amy Chu: she can pick locks! It’s not a big deal, you see, everyone at Harvard from a certain era could. Apparently, one of Chu’s peers did their thesis on lock picking and the basics of the craft spread through the student body like wildfire. It’s not that Chu or her contemporaries particularly cared to get into whatever they were picking, but that they were honing their craft. She sees Catwoman the same way, the spoils are secondary to the challenge when she shows up in Chu’s Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death.

Likewise, Chu draws her experience in corporate business and higher education to craft Ivy, herself. Ivy is a brilliant scientist and a formidable threat to the status quo. Of course, her sensuality is a central part of her character, but, for the most part, that doesn’t concern Chu, “I know that Clay [Mann] will handle the sexuality,” she says.

Terry Moore spoke about his version of Lilith and his conception of her struggle, accursed and surrounded by short-lived, annoying reminders of her disproportionate punishment. Playing with Lillith, Rachel, and the witches that have sprung up around them naturally throughout history seems to be great fun for Moore, but the greatest focus in Rachel Rising was Zoë.

Calling up a famous page of Zoë murdering her sister with cling wrap, Professor Saunders asked what is to be made of this sexless, remorseless evil in comparison to the Femme Fatale archetype the panel had been discussing, leading Mairghread Scott to offer one of the panels great insights. For a woman, she says, “apathy is the unforgivable sin.” So often we are conditioned to think of women as the hysterical sex and so seeing an emotional woman murder is therefore somehow acceptable to us. Unlike their male counterparts who do so to conquer the world, female villains kill because they are jilted and when jilted they kill. “When men are jilted they start a band.” Somehow libido mitigates a woman’s rage.

It was a fascinating point and one that served as an interesting corollary to the strange relationship that America has with sex and violence. As some gorgeous concept art will attest, the witches in Scott’s Toil and Trouble were originally nude. Scott and artist Sarah Stone conceptualized them as natural, native forces that wouldn’t bother with clothes, reasoning that the violence of the story would ensure a mature reader rating anyway. However, when she turned in the pitch, the three sisters tearing each other apart was deemed acceptable, as long as they did so clothed. Chu agreed, saying that she’d gotten notes from Dan DiDio saying that issues of Ivy were great but that she ought to be wearing more.

Asked to speak about the history of misogyny surrounding Shakespeare’s Macbeth and how she adapted it into Toil and Trouble, Scott utterly dismissed the notion of Lady MacBeth as the true villain of the piece, as has been a fairly standard interpretation for many years, “like he would have been a nice guy if it hadn’t been for that woman...” One way of giving her witches some power was to make Macbeth essentially a proxy for their struggles, a choice that one can’t help but notice is hardly uncommon with the genders reversed. Of course, there’s also the fact that one of the great plays of the English language is already written about Macbeth, allowing him an agency in Toil and Trouble that the Wyrd Sisters did not receive without it. If anything it’s an argument for fan work, or at least for telling stories from multiple perspectives.

Having tackled two of DC’s Siren Trinity, the panel turned to Harley Quinn. The panel agreed that Harley’s joy and lack of angst was a huge part of her success, however, Chu took a moment to point out that, even against Ivy and Catwoman, Harley isn’t stupid. In fact, that’s a big part of why the character appeals to her. To Chu and Scott, Harley Quinn is a brilliant woman who pretends to be stupid and that’s very familiar to them.

Returning to the questions of sexual agency and sincerity surrounding the Femme Fatale, the panel determined that a huge part of the problem is that the archetype is too often little more than a dangerous ‘penis jar’. The whole thing struck Amy Chu, who asked why there aren’t male femme fatales. Mairghread Scott had a rather matter-of-fact answer, “Oh, cause we still hate women.” No one could deny it, but, probing further, they looked at the example of Nightwing, who is famously considered a male hero who essentially codes female. Despite his existence, the panel concluded that he still falls into the simple madonna whore dichotomy, with Scott in particular pointing to his ‘boy next door charm’ and the effortless beauty that he doesn’t realize he has, “but that’s what makes him beautiful.”

The discomfort with female villains obviously doesn’t stop at sex, either. Fans have long speculated that the Doctor, of Doctor Who, should reasonably be able to regenerate as a woman, however, Amy Chu pointed out that the only time a Time Lord has been shown to do this was, tellingly, in the case of a villain. Mairghread Scott was obviously intrigued, but could not offer much as she does not watch Doctor Who. Part of the audience was scandalized, but Saunders calmed them down, explaining that “[Doctor Who is] and acquired taste, like olives...or poetry.”

It was a funny moment, but, judgements about BBC sci-fi aside, it occurs to me that it was decidedly apropos for the panel. Unfortunately, for many, female villains and well written ‘minority’ characters are an acquired taste, but they’re an acquired taste like poetry. They make the world beautiful and interesting.

Before long I had to run next door to Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel. By Saturday you could see the increased traffic starting to take its toll and I actually had to wait on line for this one. Nonetheless, it was easy enough to get into.

Though eyes were on them for announcements after DC’s Rebirth, both as a response and in order to fill the schedule, C.B. Cebulski was quite clear up top, the next big thing was already on stands, there would be no announcements at this panel. There wasn’t even a slide show! Instead the panel focused on honest discussion and communication with fans.

But beside giving Kieron Gillen the idea for a Han Solo vs. Dinosaurs miniseries (it happened a long, long time ago, after all), the big moment of the panel came from Brian Michael Bendis.  Responding to a comment by editor Katie Kubert that Marvel is simply waiting for Bendis to release a new Alias series, Bendis said that he’s been waiting on artist Michael Gaydos. Bendis seemed prepared to pass the buck, but, with a glance to Cebulski, threw caution, and the talent scout’s earlier warning, to the wind to announce that he and Gaydos have begun work on a new Jessica Jones book to be released after  “Civil War II”.

As the final questioner approached the mic, Bendis teased him, saying that he had to come up with a question that would encapsulate the entire panel and the experience of the convention. With absolute confidence, the questioner asked why 2016 seems to be the year of heroes fighting heroes, prompting stunned silence from the panel and uproarious applause from the audience.

Bendis, acknowledging that he had been bested, defended “Civil War II”, saying that he doesn’t think of it as heroes vs. heroes but ideals vs. ideals. “Done well,” Bendis said “there’s no better story. Done poorly, it runs two hours and forty-five and has five dream sequences.”

The same room then played host to Boom!’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers panel. Though the book is often, not incorrectly, listed as an all-ages title, the audience was almost entirely made up of fans who had grown up with the show, some of whom seemed unaware of the recent comics revival.

Kyle Higgins opened by discussing his desire to put to paper a version of the franchise that neither reflected his memories of the series nor the reality, but a translation of what it made him feel as a child. Part of this was refocusing the series on the tensions and connections between the Rangers, though he was quick to say that there ought to be plenty of monster fighting for everyone except his editor Dafna Pleban. Pleban, there moderating the panel, was quick to correct him, “If it were up to me it would just be Billy crying.”

Brendan Fletcher spoke about his mysterious and highly anticipated miniseries, Power Rangers: Pink. Fletcher called the series a “six issue treatise” on why Kimberly Hart is the best Power Ranger. It’s kind of expected that writers will defend their characters one they have a hold of them, but if you heard Fletcher talk you’d probably believe that he’s been having this argument as long as he’s known the characters. Fletcher sees Kim as a strong contender for the next great Power Rangers leader, but one that never got the chance to shine around “type-A personalities” like Jason and Tommy.

In a surprising move, the miniseries will not run parallel to the main book, instead looking at an adventure of Kim’s after she left Angel Grove. Fletcher promised returning favorites as villains and new additions to the Power Rangers Universe, as well as an explanation of how Kim had access to her powers even after leaving the team, though he did admit that the covers may or may not reflect the content when asked about the presence of the Pterodactyl Zord on the cover.

Even more interesting, especially in light of Fletcher’s comments insinuating a similar set up to the events of “A Different Shade of Pink”, is the revelation that Kyle Higgins’ run will not be set between the episodes of the original show, as has been generally possible thus far, and, in fact, may well take some radical liberties with the timeline. Higgins let this slip in response to a question about possibly introducing future Rangers as supporting characters, but was quick to assure the questioner that there are no guarantees that those characters will become Rangers at the same time as in the show, or even that they will become Rangers at all!

Higgins finished his remarks by casually wondering where Goldar has been. You know, I didn’t even notice, but he hasn’t show up yet. Hmmm...

I spent most of the rest of the day in Artist Alley. Over the past few years I’ve really come to appreciate anthologies, both for general reading and as a way to discover new creators. So while I often try to stick to grabbing a bunch of sale items at conventions instead of a couple of full price books, I couldn’t resist a pair of anthologies from attending creators: Kel McDonald’s Cautionary Fables and Fairytales - Asia Edition and Josh Trujillo's Death Saves.

Cautionary Fables and Fairytales is exactly what it sounds like, a selection of great Asian fairytales as interpreted by a slew of talented indie comic creators. With so many of the creators at the show and a bunch of personal favorites represented, I couldn’t help but pick it up. I spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday tracking down the creators.

Death Saves is another kickstarted anthology title, but drawing from a very different brand of mythology. Death Saves is a memorial to all those Paladins and Rangers who didn’t make it and the RPG campaigns that led to their demise. I initially discovered it because Josh Trujillo was sharing a table with Levi Hastings, who paints some of the most beautiful dinosaur prints that I’ve ever seen. Especially as I currently work in a game store, the concept of the anthology was too perfect to pass up.

Exhausted from a long day, I stopped in with some friends in Artist Alley to catch up as the last minutes of the con ticked away. And, with that, there was only one day left...

The post ECCC 2016 Report: Reimagining the Female Villain, Power Rangers, and Day 3 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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ECCC2016

My Saturday opened with one of the highlights of any convention I attend: a panel moderated by professor Ben Saunders. Professor Saunders has thoroughly impressed me over the past year or two with a slew of intelligent, humorous, and fascinatingly specific panels at a number of conventions. This time it was an issue close to many hearts, including mine, Beyond the Femme Fatale: Reimagining the Female Villain.

Professor Saunders opened by asking the panelists what female villains inspired them as children. Though Amy Chu offered the Wicked Witch of the West and Cruella DeVille, Mairghread Scott kind of stole the show by making an impassioned argument for the feminism of The Lead Raptor From Jurassic Park, stating that the nameless antagonist is legitimately frightening, “not sexualized at all”, respected by her subordinates and rival, and never excessively violent snapping only to ensure the chain of command or when hungry.

The entire panel also mentioned Catwoman at one time or another, leading discussion towards the many versions and reinventions of the character. Catwoman may be “the only consistent woman in Batman’s life”, but her role in that life, not to mention the attention paid to her own, is hardly consistent. In fact, essentially the only constant of Catwoman is that she’s always just a little ahead of the curve, both intellectually and societally. Tim Burton’s Catwoman received quite a bit of attention, with Scott discussing how striking it was to see an “unabashedly aggressive” female villain. She also says that, looking back, the 1992 film touched on many of the great Joker ideas about madness through Catwoman.

Ever the comics historian, Professor Saunders couldn’t help but introduce this image.

These panels from Batman #1 is undeniable evidence of the strange sexuality of Catwoman. Saunders thought it interesting that the earliest iteration of the Bat and Cat relationship effectively presented the entire WWII-era culture that the panel often rejects, but that later versions spoke to them all so strongly.

For Scott, the answer might be that the core of the character is a subtle reinvention of a sexist trope. While Catwoman, especially in Batman #1, is one of comics’ classic Femme Fatales, Scott feels that she challenges one of the central presuppositions about the archetype. In a classic Femme Fatale, sex is a tool and the game is manipulation. It flips the script on the traditional assumptions of gendered power while revealing essential male fears about courtship. Despite this, Catwoman is not merely playing a game, Catwoman legitimately wants to sleep with Batman. Though one cannot discount the way that many writers tried, or perhaps had, to use this as an example of women being innately emotional and man-crazy, the agentive power of Catwoman’s desires and the equality of she and Batman makes for an overall healthier version of the trope for Scott.

We also learned an interesting tidbit about Amy Chu: she can pick locks! It’s not a big deal, you see, everyone at Harvard from a certain era could. Apparently, one of Chu’s peers did their thesis on lock picking and the basics of the craft spread through the student body like wildfire. It’s not that Chu or her contemporaries particularly cared to get into whatever they were picking, but that they were honing their craft. She sees Catwoman the same way, the spoils are secondary to the challenge when she shows up in Chu’s Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death.

Likewise, Chu draws her experience in corporate business and higher education to craft Ivy, herself. Ivy is a brilliant scientist and a formidable threat to the status quo. Of course, her sensuality is a central part of her character, but, for the most part, that doesn’t concern Chu, “I know that Clay [Mann] will handle the sexuality,” she says.

Terry Moore spoke about his version of Lilith and his conception of her struggle, accursed and surrounded by short-lived, annoying reminders of her disproportionate punishment. Playing with Lillith, Rachel, and the witches that have sprung up around them naturally throughout history seems to be great fun for Moore, but the greatest focus in Rachel Rising was Zoë.

Calling up a famous page of Zoë murdering her sister with cling wrap, Professor Saunders asked what is to be made of this sexless, remorseless evil in comparison to the Femme Fatale archetype the panel had been discussing, leading Mairghread Scott to offer one of the panels great insights. For a woman, she says, “apathy is the unforgivable sin.” So often we are conditioned to think of women as the hysterical sex and so seeing an emotional woman murder is therefore somehow acceptable to us. Unlike their male counterparts who do so to conquer the world, female villains kill because they are jilted and when jilted they kill. “When men are jilted they start a band.” Somehow libido mitigates a woman’s rage.

It was a fascinating point and one that served as an interesting corollary to the strange relationship that America has with sex and violence. As some gorgeous concept art will attest, the witches in Scott’s Toil and Trouble were originally nude. Scott and artist Sarah Stone conceptualized them as natural, native forces that wouldn’t bother with clothes, reasoning that the violence of the story would ensure a mature reader rating anyway. However, when she turned in the pitch, the three sisters tearing each other apart was deemed acceptable, as long as they did so clothed. Chu agreed, saying that she’d gotten notes from Dan DiDio saying that issues of Ivy were great but that she ought to be wearing more.

Asked to speak about the history of misogyny surrounding Shakespeare’s Macbeth and how she adapted it into Toil and Trouble, Scott utterly dismissed the notion of Lady MacBeth as the true villain of the piece, as has been a fairly standard interpretation for many years, “like he would have been a nice guy if it hadn’t been for that woman...” One way of giving her witches some power was to make Macbeth essentially a proxy for their struggles, a choice that one can’t help but notice is hardly uncommon with the genders reversed. Of course, there’s also the fact that one of the great plays of the English language is already written about Macbeth, allowing him an agency in Toil and Trouble that the Wyrd Sisters did not receive without it. If anything it’s an argument for fan work, or at least for telling stories from multiple perspectives.

Having tackled two of DC’s Siren Trinity, the panel turned to Harley Quinn. The panel agreed that Harley’s joy and lack of angst was a huge part of her success, however, Chu took a moment to point out that, even against Ivy and Catwoman, Harley isn’t stupid. In fact, that’s a big part of why the character appeals to her. To Chu and Scott, Harley Quinn is a brilliant woman who pretends to be stupid and that’s very familiar to them.

Returning to the questions of sexual agency and sincerity surrounding the Femme Fatale, the panel determined that a huge part of the problem is that the archetype is too often little more than a dangerous ‘penis jar’. The whole thing struck Amy Chu, who asked why there aren’t male femme fatales. Mairghread Scott had a rather matter-of-fact answer, “Oh, cause we still hate women.” No one could deny it, but, probing further, they looked at the example of Nightwing, who is famously considered a male hero who essentially codes female. Despite his existence, the panel concluded that he still falls into the simple madonna whore dichotomy, with Scott in particular pointing to his ‘boy next door charm’ and the effortless beauty that he doesn’t realize he has, “but that’s what makes him beautiful.”

The discomfort with female villains obviously doesn’t stop at sex, either. Fans have long speculated that the Doctor, of Doctor Who, should reasonably be able to regenerate as a woman, however, Amy Chu pointed out that the only time a Time Lord has been shown to do this was, tellingly, in the case of a villain. Mairghread Scott was obviously intrigued, but could not offer much as she does not watch Doctor Who. Part of the audience was scandalized, but Saunders calmed them down, explaining that “[Doctor Who is] and acquired taste, like olives...or poetry.”

It was a funny moment, but, judgements about BBC sci-fi aside, it occurs to me that it was decidedly apropos for the panel. Unfortunately, for many, female villains and well written ‘minority’ characters are an acquired taste, but they’re an acquired taste like poetry. They make the world beautiful and interesting.

Before long I had to run next door to Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel. By Saturday you could see the increased traffic starting to take its toll and I actually had to wait on line for this one. Nonetheless, it was easy enough to get into.

Though eyes were on them for announcements after DC’s Rebirth, both as a response and in order to fill the schedule, C.B. Cebulski was quite clear up top, the next big thing was already on stands, there would be no announcements at this panel. There wasn’t even a slide show! Instead the panel focused on honest discussion and communication with fans.

But beside giving Kieron Gillen the idea for a Han Solo vs. Dinosaurs miniseries (it happened a long, long time ago, after all), the big moment of the panel came from Brian Michael Bendis.  Responding to a comment by editor Katie Kubert that Marvel is simply waiting for Bendis to release a new Alias series, Bendis said that he’s been waiting on artist Michael Gaydos. Bendis seemed prepared to pass the buck, but, with a glance to Cebulski, threw caution, and the talent scout’s earlier warning, to the wind to announce that he and Gaydos have begun work on a new Jessica Jones book to be released after  “Civil War II”.

As the final questioner approached the mic, Bendis teased him, saying that he had to come up with a question that would encapsulate the entire panel and the experience of the convention. With absolute confidence, the questioner asked why 2016 seems to be the year of heroes fighting heroes, prompting stunned silence from the panel and uproarious applause from the audience.

Bendis, acknowledging that he had been bested, defended “Civil War II”, saying that he doesn’t think of it as heroes vs. heroes but ideals vs. ideals. “Done well,” Bendis said “there’s no better story. Done poorly, it runs two hours and forty-five and has five dream sequences.”

The same room then played host to Boom!’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers panel. Though the book is often, not incorrectly, listed as an all-ages title, the audience was almost entirely made up of fans who had grown up with the show, some of whom seemed unaware of the recent comics revival.

Kyle Higgins opened by discussing his desire to put to paper a version of the franchise that neither reflected his memories of the series nor the reality, but a translation of what it made him feel as a child. Part of this was refocusing the series on the tensions and connections between the Rangers, though he was quick to say that there ought to be plenty of monster fighting for everyone except his editor Dafna Pleban. Pleban, there moderating the panel, was quick to correct him, “If it were up to me it would just be Billy crying.”

Brendan Fletcher spoke about his mysterious and highly anticipated miniseries, Power Rangers: Pink. Fletcher called the series a “six issue treatise” on why Kimberly Hart is the best Power Ranger. It’s kind of expected that writers will defend their characters one they have a hold of them, but if you heard Fletcher talk you’d probably believe that he’s been having this argument as long as he’s known the characters. Fletcher sees Kim as a strong contender for the next great Power Rangers leader, but one that never got the chance to shine around “type-A personalities” like Jason and Tommy.

In a surprising move, the miniseries will not run parallel to the main book, instead looking at an adventure of Kim’s after she left Angel Grove. Fletcher promised returning favorites as villains and new additions to the Power Rangers Universe, as well as an explanation of how Kim had access to her powers even after leaving the team, though he did admit that the covers may or may not reflect the content when asked about the presence of the Pterodactyl Zord on the cover.

Even more interesting, especially in light of Fletcher’s comments insinuating a similar set up to the events of “A Different Shade of Pink”, is the revelation that Kyle Higgins’ run will not be set between the episodes of the original show, as has been generally possible thus far, and, in fact, may well take some radical liberties with the timeline. Higgins let this slip in response to a question about possibly introducing future Rangers as supporting characters, but was quick to assure the questioner that there are no guarantees that those characters will become Rangers at the same time as in the show, or even that they will become Rangers at all!

Higgins finished his remarks by casually wondering where Goldar has been. You know, I didn’t even notice, but he hasn’t show up yet. Hmmm...

I spent most of the rest of the day in Artist Alley. Over the past few years I’ve really come to appreciate anthologies, both for general reading and as a way to discover new creators. So while I often try to stick to grabbing a bunch of sale items at conventions instead of a couple of full price books, I couldn’t resist a pair of anthologies from attending creators: Kel McDonald’s Cautionary Fables and Fairytales - Asia Edition and Josh Trujillo's Death Saves.

Cautionary Fables and Fairytales is exactly what it sounds like, a selection of great Asian fairytales as interpreted by a slew of talented indie comic creators. With so many of the creators at the show and a bunch of personal favorites represented, I couldn’t help but pick it up. I spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday tracking down the creators.

Death Saves is another kickstarted anthology title, but drawing from a very different brand of mythology. Death Saves is a memorial to all those Paladins and Rangers who didn’t make it and the RPG campaigns that led to their demise. I initially discovered it because Josh Trujillo was sharing a table with Levi Hastings, who paints some of the most beautiful dinosaur prints that I’ve ever seen. Especially as I currently work in a game store, the concept of the anthology was too perfect to pass up.

Exhausted from a long day, I stopped in with some friends in Artist Alley to catch up as the last minutes of the con ticked away. And, with that, there was only one day left...

The post ECCC 2016 Report: Reimagining the Female Villain, Power Rangers, and Day 3 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Spidey #4http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/14/spidey-4/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/14/spidey-4/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:37:28 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48127 Spidey #4

I love the idea of Spidey. The idea of a classic, easy to pick up, and truly all-ages Spider-Man title is fantastic and, in my opinion, exactly what Marvel should be putting out. That said, the reality has not fully lived up to that lofty dream. It’s not that Spidey has been bad - far from it - but it hasn’t quite had the necessary spark.

That may change this month.

With Spidey #4, Robbie Thompson follows in the footsteps of Amazing Spider-Man #5 and pits our green Peter Parker against Doom himself! Thompson’s version of Doom captures the intelligence, arrogance, and sophistication of the classic villain. Doctor Doom is probably a little beyond the Wall-Crawler’s abilities, whether now or in the past, but that only serves to make the adventure extra exciting.

As ever, the biggest strength of this issue is Peter Parker. I fully admit that Thompson’s script hits a little close to home for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think that, especially considering the amount of space he has available to him, this issue presents an objectively strong way to build Peter’s character for readers of this title. I would have loved to focus on the idea of Peter needing to take a day off a little more, but the story allows us a look at who Peter Parker is and, better than most, conveys that he’s dealing with a lot, including a significant loss.

I’m still not loving the failed quips. I get that Pete’s young and awkward, but his quips fall flat more often than they succeed. Not only does it not feel like Spidey would gain a reputation for banter this way, but each one takes up a lot of time in a single issue story. An occasional miss would

The structure of the issue is a little too well-trod. It’s effective but it’s also predictable and there are moments where things get a little too schmaltzy. A little more space probably could have helped and, though that’s partially a restriction of the single-issue format, it’s also a trade-off of some of the more impressive layouts of the issue. Thompson is obviously aiming to recapture some of the essential awe of doing whatever a spider can and, in my estimation, he does an admirable job. One single-splash page is especially effective at communicating the scale and visual splendor of the wall-crawler’s exploits.

These exploits are rendered by Andre Lima Araújo, who previously worked on the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse series. Araújo’s art is significantly improved over that artistically polarizing series. There are still some weird faces, but once the masks are on, things look much better. Thompson gives Araújo plenty of room to stretch his wings and,he happily obliges, ably realizing the big, high-motion pages and capitalizing on the quiet, introspective moments of the script. The dynamic, sometimes even curved, perspectives grant the issue appropriate speed and energy, worthy of its teenaged protagonist.

The post Spidey #4 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Spidey #4

I love the idea of Spidey. The idea of a classic, easy to pick up, and truly all-ages Spider-Man title is fantastic and, in my opinion, exactly what Marvel should be putting out. That said, the reality has not fully lived up to that lofty dream. It’s not that Spidey has been bad - far from it - but it hasn’t quite had the necessary spark.

That may change this month.

With Spidey #4, Robbie Thompson follows in the footsteps of Amazing Spider-Man #5 and pits our green Peter Parker against Doom himself! Thompson’s version of Doom captures the intelligence, arrogance, and sophistication of the classic villain. Doctor Doom is probably a little beyond the Wall-Crawler’s abilities, whether now or in the past, but that only serves to make the adventure extra exciting.

As ever, the biggest strength of this issue is Peter Parker. I fully admit that Thompson’s script hits a little close to home for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think that, especially considering the amount of space he has available to him, this issue presents an objectively strong way to build Peter’s character for readers of this title. I would have loved to focus on the idea of Peter needing to take a day off a little more, but the story allows us a look at who Peter Parker is and, better than most, conveys that he’s dealing with a lot, including a significant loss.

I’m still not loving the failed quips. I get that Pete’s young and awkward, but his quips fall flat more often than they succeed. Not only does it not feel like Spidey would gain a reputation for banter this way, but each one takes up a lot of time in a single issue story. An occasional miss would

The structure of the issue is a little too well-trod. It’s effective but it’s also predictable and there are moments where things get a little too schmaltzy. A little more space probably could have helped and, though that’s partially a restriction of the single-issue format, it’s also a trade-off of some of the more impressive layouts of the issue. Thompson is obviously aiming to recapture some of the essential awe of doing whatever a spider can and, in my estimation, he does an admirable job. One single-splash page is especially effective at communicating the scale and visual splendor of the wall-crawler’s exploits.

These exploits are rendered by Andre Lima Araújo, who previously worked on the Secret Wars: Spider-Verse series. Araújo’s art is significantly improved over that artistically polarizing series. There are still some weird faces, but once the masks are on, things look much better. Thompson gives Araújo plenty of room to stretch his wings and,he happily obliges, ably realizing the big, high-motion pages and capitalizing on the quiet, introspective moments of the script. The dynamic, sometimes even curved, perspectives grant the issue appropriate speed and energy, worthy of its teenaged protagonist.

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ECCC 2016 Report: Day 2http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/14/eccc-2016-report-day-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/14/eccc-2016-report-day-2/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 07:56:22 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48118 ECCC2016

Friday morning was an exhilarating but decidedly stressful one for me this Emerald City Comic Con. Arriving at the con on a tight schedule, I ran to the Valkyries booth to catch G. Willow Wilson’s only signing of the show. Willow has such a wonderful genuine energy about her. I generally try to keep conversations with creators as casual and personable as possible, but, given the issues of Ms. Marvel I had brought to be signed, I couldn’t help but gush a little bit. The best part is that Wilson was practically just as excited about those scenes, even months after their publication.

It was lovely to see her, but I had to run to an interview with Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. After that I walked Artist Alley a little more and found a comfortable spot to look through my Midnighter issues and finalize questions ahead of my second interview, with Steve Orlando.

Once again the show floor was packed, making it tricky to get around. Artist Alley was the core of this show and business was good. I had packed my bag with most of my comics to be signed, fearing that I wouldn’t have time on Saturday. I stammered out my praises for Elsa Charretier and stopped in with Amy Chu, but my longest visit was, unsurprisingly, with Mairghread Scott.

This was the first time I’d seen Scott since the release of Toil and Trouble and I adored that series. Better still, the artists, Kelly and Nicole Matthews, were in the next stall! I was thrilled to hear that the series had been kind to them and that they’ll be working on Breaker for Stela. I also learned that, apparently, the series had held fast to the rumors of ill luck surrounding the play upon which it was based. The beautiful version of the series that the Matthews delivered very nearly never was, as they were the fourth art team attached to the series, each of the previous teams being hit with some sudden misfortune or even vanishing, falling completely out of contact with Boom! Even the Matthews sisters were not immune, being hit by a number of serious storms over the course of the production.

Just like Thursday, I waltzed right into the Vertigo panel with no waiting. Speaking about the genesis of Clean Room, Gail Simone stated that she went into the series with an active goal not to write a redhead but that, when the character designs came back from  Jon Davis-Hunt, Astrid Mueller was, indeed, crimson haired. She also declared that she had discovered a fan-coined name for a Clean Room fan and that she was stealing it. Those who love Simone’s latest series are all Roomies.

Kurt Busiek announced that Astro City #35 will begin a story looking at Jack-in-the Box’s son. The two-part tale will take him to TJ Scoundrel, which Busiek describes as if TGI Fridays were covered in nothing but supervillain bric-a-brac; apparently you can’t really copyright your likeness when you’re a wanted super criminal. These issues will be drawn by Ron Randal.

Busiek also reminded readers that Astro City #41 is actually the hundredth issue of the series and let us in on one way that he’s planning to celebrate: we’re going to find out how Astro City got its name.

Named for a comment made by a Cherokee chief when the white man claimed the land of Kentucky, Shawn Aldridge’s The Dark and Bloody is a new series from Vertigo that shows what happens when two seemingly opposite worlds, Kentucky and Iraq, are smashed together carelessly. Struggling against the limited options for returning veterans, Iris Gentry has fallen back on what the war taught him, to trust his CO and not ask about legalities. But their actions have consequences in the form of a young Iraqi girl’s otherworldly revenge. Aldredge described the series as ‘what if PTSD was a supernatural entity’ and said that he wants to share a little of the wonderful and horrible present in his home state that comics have neglected to depict.

Perhaps as the natural counterpoint to DC’s Vertigo-tinged announcements the day before, Shelly Bond also took a pointed moment to talk about Dark Knight: A True Batman Story, the autobiographical original graphic novel by famed Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini. The OGN will discuss Dini’s relationship with the caped crusader as he recovered from a traumatic mugging. Dini is obviously something of a treasured writer at DC Entertainment, but Bond stressed how emotional and universal the story he’s telling is in her eyes. The book will release this June.

Asked if she had personal relationships with any of the characters that she’s written, Gail Simone answered that she frequently thinks ‘What Would Wonder Woman Do’ and later admitted that she suffered from increased nightmares while writing the Joker for the first time from the perspective of Barbara Gordon. Busiek didn’t have as clear an answer but said that he often discovers that his characters have connections to him. He recounted how the initial Astro City stories were intended to be about the struggle of a superhero, to do the most amazing things and never have time to appreciate that, but recognized that it was really about being a freelance comic writer.

Just before the panel I stopped by the AWaveBlueWorld booth to check if I’d be able to pick up a copy of the Broken Frontier anthology at the show. I’d backed the project on kickstarter a few months prior and was excited to get it signed by the attending creators if possible. I honestly planned to wait until the very end of the day to pick it up, but Robbie Rodriguez was going to be signing sooner, so I decided to bite the bullet and add it to the weight on my back.

But then tragedy struck! Walking the aisles, waiting for the signing to begin, I spotted the massive first trade of Elephantmen for ten dollars. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Elephantmen, but it’s been one of those series that seems to have a quiet but incredibly passionate fanbase that often warrants at least a look. And so, foolishly, I stuffed the omnibus sized collection into the last remaining space in my bag.

I had a nice time talking with the guys at the AWaveBlueWorld Booth and got a gorgeous sketch in the front of my book from Rodriguez before wandering out into Artist Alley to congratulate the contributors and get the book signed. Of course, the one problem was that now I was just carrying this hardcover anthology around in my arms. Through my own poor planning, I had accidentally made myself a walking advertisement for the book.

Winding my way through the tables, I came upon Sanford Greene and David F. Walker.  Over the extremely short time that I’ve known him, Walker’s immense honesty has struck me. Sometimes it takes the form of cynicism, but, in talking to him, you always get the sense that Walker is sharing as much of himself as he can. Add to that Greene’s air of enthusiasm and I’m almost certain that seeing these two work together must be incredibly fun.

Walker also revealed that he had just announced Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes, a Boom!/Dynamite team up co-written by himself and Tim Seeley. It’s a combo that’s as strange as it is obvious, but if you heard Walker talk about his love of the Planet of the Apes franchise, you’d be excited to see what comes of it too.

Not to mention that my earlier poor decision making paid off somewhat, well, at least for Walker.

https://twitter.com/AWaveBlueWorld/status/719009832011825152

The post ECCC 2016 Report: Day 2 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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ECCC2016

Friday morning was an exhilarating but decidedly stressful one for me this Emerald City Comic Con. Arriving at the con on a tight schedule, I ran to the Valkyries booth to catch G. Willow Wilson’s only signing of the show. Willow has such a wonderful genuine energy about her. I generally try to keep conversations with creators as casual and personable as possible, but, given the issues of Ms. Marvel I had brought to be signed, I couldn’t help but gush a little bit. The best part is that Wilson was practically just as excited about those scenes, even months after their publication.

It was lovely to see her, but I had to run to an interview with Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. After that I walked Artist Alley a little more and found a comfortable spot to look through my Midnighter issues and finalize questions ahead of my second interview, with Steve Orlando.

Once again the show floor was packed, making it tricky to get around. Artist Alley was the core of this show and business was good. I had packed my bag with most of my comics to be signed, fearing that I wouldn’t have time on Saturday. I stammered out my praises for Elsa Charretier and stopped in with Amy Chu, but my longest visit was, unsurprisingly, with Mairghread Scott.

This was the first time I’d seen Scott since the release of Toil and Trouble and I adored that series. Better still, the artists, Kelly and Nicole Matthews, were in the next stall! I was thrilled to hear that the series had been kind to them and that they’ll be working on Breaker for Stela. I also learned that, apparently, the series had held fast to the rumors of ill luck surrounding the play upon which it was based. The beautiful version of the series that the Matthews delivered very nearly never was, as they were the fourth art team attached to the series, each of the previous teams being hit with some sudden misfortune or even vanishing, falling completely out of contact with Boom! Even the Matthews sisters were not immune, being hit by a number of serious storms over the course of the production.

Just like Thursday, I waltzed right into the Vertigo panel with no waiting. Speaking about the genesis of Clean Room, Gail Simone stated that she went into the series with an active goal not to write a redhead but that, when the character designs came back from  Jon Davis-Hunt, Astrid Mueller was, indeed, crimson haired. She also declared that she had discovered a fan-coined name for a Clean Room fan and that she was stealing it. Those who love Simone’s latest series are all Roomies.

Kurt Busiek announced that Astro City #35 will begin a story looking at Jack-in-the Box’s son. The two-part tale will take him to TJ Scoundrel, which Busiek describes as if TGI Fridays were covered in nothing but supervillain bric-a-brac; apparently you can’t really copyright your likeness when you’re a wanted super criminal. These issues will be drawn by Ron Randal.

Busiek also reminded readers that Astro City #41 is actually the hundredth issue of the series and let us in on one way that he’s planning to celebrate: we’re going to find out how Astro City got its name.

Named for a comment made by a Cherokee chief when the white man claimed the land of Kentucky, Shawn Aldridge’s The Dark and Bloody is a new series from Vertigo that shows what happens when two seemingly opposite worlds, Kentucky and Iraq, are smashed together carelessly. Struggling against the limited options for returning veterans, Iris Gentry has fallen back on what the war taught him, to trust his CO and not ask about legalities. But their actions have consequences in the form of a young Iraqi girl’s otherworldly revenge. Aldredge described the series as ‘what if PTSD was a supernatural entity’ and said that he wants to share a little of the wonderful and horrible present in his home state that comics have neglected to depict.

Perhaps as the natural counterpoint to DC’s Vertigo-tinged announcements the day before, Shelly Bond also took a pointed moment to talk about Dark Knight: A True Batman Story, the autobiographical original graphic novel by famed Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini. The OGN will discuss Dini’s relationship with the caped crusader as he recovered from a traumatic mugging. Dini is obviously something of a treasured writer at DC Entertainment, but Bond stressed how emotional and universal the story he’s telling is in her eyes. The book will release this June.

Asked if she had personal relationships with any of the characters that she’s written, Gail Simone answered that she frequently thinks ‘What Would Wonder Woman Do’ and later admitted that she suffered from increased nightmares while writing the Joker for the first time from the perspective of Barbara Gordon. Busiek didn’t have as clear an answer but said that he often discovers that his characters have connections to him. He recounted how the initial Astro City stories were intended to be about the struggle of a superhero, to do the most amazing things and never have time to appreciate that, but recognized that it was really about being a freelance comic writer.

Just before the panel I stopped by the AWaveBlueWorld booth to check if I’d be able to pick up a copy of the Broken Frontier anthology at the show. I’d backed the project on kickstarter a few months prior and was excited to get it signed by the attending creators if possible. I honestly planned to wait until the very end of the day to pick it up, but Robbie Rodriguez was going to be signing sooner, so I decided to bite the bullet and add it to the weight on my back.

But then tragedy struck! Walking the aisles, waiting for the signing to begin, I spotted the massive first trade of Elephantmen for ten dollars. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Elephantmen, but it’s been one of those series that seems to have a quiet but incredibly passionate fanbase that often warrants at least a look. And so, foolishly, I stuffed the omnibus sized collection into the last remaining space in my bag.

I had a nice time talking with the guys at the AWaveBlueWorld Booth and got a gorgeous sketch in the front of my book from Rodriguez before wandering out into Artist Alley to congratulate the contributors and get the book signed. Of course, the one problem was that now I was just carrying this hardcover anthology around in my arms. Through my own poor planning, I had accidentally made myself a walking advertisement for the book.

Winding my way through the tables, I came upon Sanford Greene and David F. Walker.  Over the extremely short time that I’ve known him, Walker’s immense honesty has struck me. Sometimes it takes the form of cynicism, but, in talking to him, you always get the sense that Walker is sharing as much of himself as he can. Add to that Greene’s air of enthusiasm and I’m almost certain that seeing these two work together must be incredibly fun.

Walker also revealed that he had just announced Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes, a Boom!/Dynamite team up co-written by himself and Tim Seeley. It’s a combo that’s as strange as it is obvious, but if you heard Walker talk about his love of the Planet of the Apes franchise, you’d be excited to see what comes of it too.

Not to mention that my earlier poor decision making paid off somewhat, well, at least for Walker.

https://twitter.com/AWaveBlueWorld/status/719009832011825152

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Superman #51http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/12/superman-51/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/12/superman-51/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 07:06:24 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48100 Superman #51

There is something frightening about a pause.  I don't mean a momentary hesitation or even a true time of rest, but rather the sudden silence and stillness of a hurricane's eye, or of a graveyard.  That is probably what is most eerie about a cemetery, the silence and emptiness.  Well, that and the reminder of mortality that it represents.

Superman #51 is decidedly eerie because it is a pause, a sudden stop on the way to the Rebirth that is soon to overtake the DC Universe.  And it is also an intimation of death as surely as the most gothic graveyard.  The death in question is that of Clark Kent, the Superman of the New 52 universe, and with him the universe itself.  There are not many writers brave enough to start a major crossover with Superman staring directly out of the panel and telling the reader "I'm dying," and Peter Tomasi actually makes his blatant revelation work, providing a sense of purpose and movement to the story as Superman enters his last days.

This paradox is heightened by Mikel Janin's artwork.  His trademark bold, clear lines and bright colors clash creatively with the somber message of the book, generating a tension that helps fuel the smoldering unease and restless energy that imbue the story with momentum.  Superman is dying for reasons that Tomasi doesn't see fit to pin down exactly, that he doesn't crystallize in a neat diagnosis, but which are grounded in the multiple blows the Man of Steel has received from Ulysses, from Vandal Savage, and from the fire pits of Apokalips.  He is a hero not defeated, but accepting and in a way at peace even as he worries about what his death will mean for Earth.  The bulk of the issue is filled with moving conversations with Lana Lang, from whom he requests burial next to his parents, with Lois Lane, from whom he wants a chance to tell his story, and even Krypto, whose reappearance is welcome and oddly comforting.

Clark's preparations are intercut with scenes from China, where a mysterious scientist is attempting to access files from Stormwatch and the Justice League, and of the appearance of a fiery being wearing Superman's shield and claiming to be him.  It is almost shades of the Death of Superman, except played out before the martyr's fall rather than after.

But the further tension comes from the fact that we know the death will not be the end of Superman's story.  Leaving aside how economically foolish that would be for DC Comics, there is another Superman in this world, the refugee from the universe before Flashpoint.  And with an event like Rebirth in the offing, one has to wonder whether death might prove even shorter than usual.

The post Superman #51 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Superman #51

There is something frightening about a pause.  I don't mean a momentary hesitation or even a true time of rest, but rather the sudden silence and stillness of a hurricane's eye, or of a graveyard.  That is probably what is most eerie about a cemetery, the silence and emptiness.  Well, that and the reminder of mortality that it represents.Superman #51 is decidedly eerie because it is a pause, a sudden stop on the way to the Rebirth that is soon to overtake the DC Universe.  And it is also an intimation of death as surely as the most gothic graveyard.  The death in question is that of Clark Kent, the Superman of the New 52 universe, and with him the universe itself.  There are not many writers brave enough to start a major crossover with Superman staring directly out of the panel and telling the reader "I'm dying," and Peter Tomasi actually makes his blatant revelation work, providing a sense of purpose and movement to the story as Superman enters his last days.This paradox is heightened by Mikel Janin's artwork.  His trademark bold, clear lines and bright colors clash creatively with the somber message of the book, generating a tension that helps fuel the smoldering unease and restless energy that imbue the story with momentum.  Superman is dying for reasons that Tomasi doesn't see fit to pin down exactly, that he doesn't crystallize in a neat diagnosis, but which are grounded in the multiple blows the Man of Steel has received from Ulysses, from Vandal Savage, and from the fire pits of Apokalips.  He is a hero not defeated, but accepting and in a way at peace even as he worries about what his death will mean for Earth.  The bulk of the issue is filled with moving conversations with Lana Lang, from whom he requests burial next to his parents, with Lois Lane, from whom he wants a chance to tell his story, and even Krypto, whose reappearance is welcome and oddly comforting.Clark's preparations are intercut with scenes from China, where a mysterious scientist is attempting to access files from Stormwatch and the Justice League, and of the appearance of a fiery being wearing Superman's shield and claiming to be him.  It is almost shades of the Death of Superman, except played out before the martyr's fall rather than after.But the further tension comes from the fact that we know the death will not be the end of Superman's story.  Leaving aside how economically foolish that would be for DC Comics, there is another Superman in this world, the refugee from the universe before Flashpoint.  And with an event like Rebirth in the offing, one has to wonder whether death might prove even shorter than usual.

The post Superman #51 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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ECCC 2016 Report: Day 1http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/11/eccc-2016-report-day-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2016/04/11/eccc-2016-report-day-1/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 18:41:28 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48106 ECCC2016

Emerald City Comic Con was a full four-day event this year. But though Thursday was the shortest day of the convention, it was hardly a fluffy one. Once the doors opened I headed over the skybridge to beat the crowds, snag some deals, and wait for any creators who had partied too hard at Image’s Spring Formal the night before.

As last year, Comics Dungeon was an impressive option for those with time and a desire for more comics. Their trade selection was admirable, but the real draw are their bargain bins. I nabbed a couple of great Mark Waid Flash issues out of the $2 box before diving into the 3 for $1 bins. I grabbed some New Mutants issues and a long sought after issue of Thor for next to nothing. I even threw in some old Marvel Star Wars issues featuring THE DRAGON LORDS OF DREXEL because my Star Wars: Age of Rebellion players have stranded our campaign there because...well there are Dragon Lords there.

After that I ran out to the skybridge to get my issues of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers signed by Kyle Higgins and Corin Howell. I’d never met Corin before but she was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed watching she and Mairghread Scott confuse Kyle as they geeked out over their ‘Starscream as the Grinch’ story from the Transformers Holiday Special.

Higgins, for his part, was thrilled with the response to Power Rangers. He made me quite happy by informing me that his new series with Rod Reis, Hadrian’s Wall, will be launching in August, but he really made my morning by saying that there’s a definite possibility of more stories in the world of C.O.W.L. in the next few years.

I chatted with some awesome creators at the Boom! booth for a while, but around 4:05 I had to run to make sure I’d have a spot in DC’s first panel of the show.

To be honest, I needn’t have worried. I strolled right in to DC’s All Access panel, no line or anything and found a seat near the front. That’s an oddity at a big convention like this.

Dan Didio was clear on his message that Rebirth was viewed as a course correction for the New 52. He not only called it a return to DC’s core characters, but to the core of shared universe comics, claiming that the goal was to reintroduce the vibrancy of DC’s universe and reestablish the primacy of the comics in a world full of video game and cinematic adaptations.

Robert Venditti echoed the sentiment, saying that Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps would focus on the triumph of will vs. fear, not only in Hal’s case but the entire Corps’. Sinestro is still the ultimate peacekeeping authority in the Galaxy and Hal believes that its his responsibility to take him down again, but the rest of the Corps is about to return. He pointedly mentioned the sense of freedom he feels from DC editorial.

Steve Orlando spoke about the upcoming Supergirl or, as Didio called it “Supergirl...Finally.” For Orlando it’s about reintroducing the comic reading audience to the Maiden of Might, making them understand that “Supergirl is a character whose compassion is as mighty as her strength.” Asked about the relationship to the popular TV show starring the character, Orlando said that he would be drawing some inspiration from it, introducing National City, incorporating versions of Cat Grant and the DCO similar to their TV counterparts, and trying to mirror the feeling of positivity that he credits with the show’s success.

Didio also stated that the sales of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death have been very strong and that based on the fan demand, more Poison Ivy comics are a very real possibility.

One clear takeaway of the panel is that Dan Didio loves embarrassing people. HE’S MAD WITH POWER. One particularly interesting example came when he asked Amy Chu and Emanuela Lupacchino what they did before working in comics. Chu bashfully admitted that she has three degrees, a BA from Wesleyan, a BS from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard. Though she tried not to brag, she admitted that this experience informed her writing of Poison Ivy as a brilliant, career oriented woman. As for Lupacchino, she worked in the biotech industry, investigating the DNA sequence of the salmonella bacterium.

The biggest announcement of the day, however didn’t come from anyone on the stage when the panel started. Part way through, comic writer; former DC intern; and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way took the stage to announce DC’s Young Animal Imprint.

Young Animal is something of a tribute to the classic Vertigo titles, creating a space for weird, wild, adult stories to take place inside the DC Universe. The greatest inspiration for Way was clearly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and, unsurprisingly the line is anchored by Way’s take on the classic oddball franchise. The new Doom Patrol won’t only be inspired by Morrison’s take, with Way promising that it would honor the full history of the team.

The second book for Young Animal is another classic reinvention. Meet Shade, the Changing Girl from Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone. The series will star an alien inhabiting the body of a teenaged bully.

Before announcing the third title, Way explained a childhood hobby of his. As the wikia generation can probably understand, Way used to spend a long time looking through his copy of Who’s Who in the DC Universe for obscure characters. It was here that he discovered a little known splunker named Cave Carson. The interesting thing about Cave’s entry was that it, in Way’s estimation, contained essentially no information, save for the fact that Carson had an utterly unexplained cybernetic eye. So, with some fanfare, Way introduced Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye by Way, Jon Rivera, and Michael Avon Oeming.

Finally the initial line is rounded out by a new character, Mother Panic by Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and John Paul Leon. Not much is known but Mother Panic also seems to be designed to highlight the integration of this line into the larger DC Universe, being set in Gotham City.

To Way, Young Animal is a way of putting DC comics in the hands of new audiences, one that’s just appearing or one that has never been interested in superhero comics before.

The announcements weren’t done yet. For a long time Dan Didio has been fiercely protective of Kamandi. It’s been something of a quiet understanding in comics that everybody wants to do Kamandi and Dan DiDio loves the franchise, but nothing ever came of it. Dan explained that this was out of a desire to wait for a pitch that would do Jack Kirby’s creation justice, but it never quite came along. But the publisher and his team have come up with a new idea that will return the Last Boy on Earth to the shelves: The Kamandi Challange. Inspired by DC Challange, the Kamandi Chalenge will be a round robin story from a randomly paired pool of industry greats including Neal Adams, Greg Pak, Tom King, Kevin Eastman, Marguerite Bennett, and Walter Simonson.

During Q&A one fan asked about a possible return for the JSA. Didio said that DC recognizes the popularity of the characters but has nothing to announce at this time. It is worth noting, however that he also mentioned, in response to an unrelated question, that we have not seen the full extent of Rebirth yet. There will be more.

Perhaps inspired by the JSA question, one fan came to the mic to ask about “the Robins”, seemingly referring to the contingent in We Are Robin and mentioning Duke Thomas by name. It was a slightly awkward question as Didio immediately pointed to Damian and Tim Drake’s place in Rebirth, but would or could not address the fate of the Robin movement.

My next panel was Boom!’s Discover New Worlds panel. Hope Larson and Brittney Williams spoke about their super stylish girl detective miniseries Goldie Vance. For the creators the relatively quick production schedule of the series has actually been a benefit allowing them to both be designing and influencing each other simultaneously. Larson described the series as Eloise of the Plaza Hotel meets Nancy Drew and assured us that anyone who like mysteries and racing will be on board.

Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly spoke about working with Marcus To again on their new series Joyride. “We have a brain thing,” Lanzing said of the trio. Apparently it was To who came to the writers with a desire to draw an optimistic, exuberant series about a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space, an idea he has been interested in since his youth. Oddly enough, Kelly and Lanzing were, at the time, working on a screenplay called ‘Grand Theft Starship’ about, get this, a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space. Fate was clearly on their side so they approached Boom! with the idea.

The pitch was accepted but To had a request of his own. Contrary to the practice on Hacktivist, where Lanzing and Kelly have made a game of asking for increasingly mind-blowing page structures from To, To handles all the layouts on Joyride himself, allowing the comic/screen writers to write in an extremely free style.

Lanzing and Kelly describe the series as a ‘punk rock teenage Star Trek’, likening it to TOS. That use of terminology led Lanzing to ask how many Trek fans were in the audience. The lack of response was surprising. Regardless, the duo explained that Uma, the series’ lead character, is kind of a Captain Kirk type. Basically she’s leading a small crew into space on a sort of episodic series of adventures to various worlds, but, where Star Trek usually asks what social issue can we explore, Uma tends to ask “can this become a party? Can I make out with that?”

Sam Humphries talked about his series Jonsey, which is about a teenaged girl who can ship IRL, and took the opportunity to needle Kyle Higgins for (in)famously not knowing what that means. Intrigued, Humphries polled the audience on their knowledge of the term. He triumphantly pointed out that more people at Emerald City Comic Con know what shipping is than like Star Trek.

Si Spurrier explained the story behind those ominous ‘swallow the spider’ teasers that you may have seen on the back of your recent IDW purchases. Lacking interest in the traditional versions of the ‘superheroes in real life’ stories, Spurrier basically posed the question ‘what if instead of loyalty to any particular principle those imbued with these amazing powers only held loyalty to eachother’ and, once that idea was in place, he realized that, effectively, what he was describing was organized crime.

The panel also announced a new series: Kong of Skull Island from James Asmus and Carlos Magno. Joining the panel, Asmus announced that he had been in close contact with the estate of Merian C. Cooper and that there was a great deal of material fleshing out the world of Kong. Based on these notes, Kong of Skull Island will look at the first contact between Kong and the people of Skull Island. There will be humans, there will be dinosaurs a-plenty, and there will even be multiple Kongs...Kong? A pack of Kong(s)? A savage? A Kingdom? Asmus jokingly urged us to share our opinions with the hashtag #AGroupOfKongs. Asmus didn’t have much more to say at this point, but he praised his artist and editors, saying that the project felt like a creator-owned book.

And with that my day came to an end. Or rather, my day in the convention center. Afterwards I headed out to the peculiarly top floor venue of Oni Press’ Fresh Romance Mixer, the Rock Bottom Brewery. It seemed like the party was something of a secret, which is a shame, because it was pretty awesome!

Entering guests were invited to write their name and what they were looking for on their nametag alongside a pre-generated character name. In addition to filling out a networking bingo sheet, we were encouraged to track down the other member of our Fresh Romance character’s ship. I spent the early part of the night talking to journalist, editor, and Jade Street Protection Services writer Katy Rex, who is awesome, and Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh, who (based on general knowledge and one night of chatting) is also awesome. We had a really fun conversation about X-Men and how the in universe stories of oppression have often been slow to openly acknowledge minority eperiences. Long story short, no one is truly happy with this scene.

I also spoke with some awesome people working in lesser seen roles at Oni and Boom! Studios and bore witness to School Spirit artist Arielle Jovellanos’ mad mingling skillz. Apparently if you put it into the form of an icebreaker party game, she can and will become a networking juggernaut.

The number of awesome people working in comics at the party was incredible but it made me wonder if not enough people knew about this. I sincerely hope that Oni will do more of these, so if you were there or if you wish you were there you should tell Janelle Asselin that you’d totally go to another.

I know I would.

The post ECCC 2016 Report: Day 1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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ECCC2016

Emerald City Comic Con was a full four-day event this year. But though Thursday was the shortest day of the convention, it was hardly a fluffy one. Once the doors opened I headed over the skybridge to beat the crowds, snag some deals, and wait for any creators who had partied too hard at Image’s Spring Formal the night before.

As last year, Comics Dungeon was an impressive option for those with time and a desire for more comics. Their trade selection was admirable, but the real draw are their bargain bins. I nabbed a couple of great Mark Waid Flash issues out of the $2 box before diving into the 3 for $1 bins. I grabbed some New Mutants issues and a long sought after issue of Thor for next to nothing. I even threw in some old Marvel Star Wars issues featuring THE DRAGON LORDS OF DREXEL because my Star Wars: Age of Rebellion players have stranded our campaign there because...well there are Dragon Lords there.

After that I ran out to the skybridge to get my issues of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers signed by Kyle Higgins and Corin Howell. I’d never met Corin before but she was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed watching she and Mairghread Scott confuse Kyle as they geeked out over their ‘Starscream as the Grinch’ story from the Transformers Holiday Special.

Higgins, for his part, was thrilled with the response to Power Rangers. He made me quite happy by informing me that his new series with Rod Reis, Hadrian’s Wall, will be launching in August, but he really made my morning by saying that there’s a definite possibility of more stories in the world of C.O.W.L. in the next few years.

I chatted with some awesome creators at the Boom! booth for a while, but around 4:05 I had to run to make sure I’d have a spot in DC’s first panel of the show.

To be honest, I needn’t have worried. I strolled right in to DC’s All Access panel, no line or anything and found a seat near the front. That’s an oddity at a big convention like this.

Dan Didio was clear on his message that Rebirth was viewed as a course correction for the New 52. He not only called it a return to DC’s core characters, but to the core of shared universe comics, claiming that the goal was to reintroduce the vibrancy of DC’s universe and reestablish the primacy of the comics in a world full of video game and cinematic adaptations.

Robert Venditti echoed the sentiment, saying that Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps would focus on the triumph of will vs. fear, not only in Hal’s case but the entire Corps’. Sinestro is still the ultimate peacekeeping authority in the Galaxy and Hal believes that its his responsibility to take him down again, but the rest of the Corps is about to return. He pointedly mentioned the sense of freedom he feels from DC editorial.

Steve Orlando spoke about the upcoming Supergirl or, as Didio called it “Supergirl...Finally.” For Orlando it’s about reintroducing the comic reading audience to the Maiden of Might, making them understand that “Supergirl is a character whose compassion is as mighty as her strength.” Asked about the relationship to the popular TV show starring the character, Orlando said that he would be drawing some inspiration from it, introducing National City, incorporating versions of Cat Grant and the DCO similar to their TV counterparts, and trying to mirror the feeling of positivity that he credits with the show’s success.

Didio also stated that the sales of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death have been very strong and that based on the fan demand, more Poison Ivy comics are a very real possibility.

One clear takeaway of the panel is that Dan Didio loves embarrassing people. HE’S MAD WITH POWER. One particularly interesting example came when he asked Amy Chu and Emanuela Lupacchino what they did before working in comics. Chu bashfully admitted that she has three degrees, a BA from Wesleyan, a BS from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard. Though she tried not to brag, she admitted that this experience informed her writing of Poison Ivy as a brilliant, career oriented woman. As for Lupacchino, she worked in the biotech industry, investigating the DNA sequence of the salmonella bacterium.

The biggest announcement of the day, however didn’t come from anyone on the stage when the panel started. Part way through, comic writer; former DC intern; and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way took the stage to announce DC’s Young Animal Imprint.

Young Animal is something of a tribute to the classic Vertigo titles, creating a space for weird, wild, adult stories to take place inside the DC Universe. The greatest inspiration for Way was clearly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and, unsurprisingly the line is anchored by Way’s take on the classic oddball franchise. The new Doom Patrol won’t only be inspired by Morrison’s take, with Way promising that it would honor the full history of the team.

The second book for Young Animal is another classic reinvention. Meet Shade, the Changing Girl from Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone. The series will star an alien inhabiting the body of a teenaged bully.

Before announcing the third title, Way explained a childhood hobby of his. As the wikia generation can probably understand, Way used to spend a long time looking through his copy of Who’s Who in the DC Universe for obscure characters. It was here that he discovered a little known splunker named Cave Carson. The interesting thing about Cave’s entry was that it, in Way’s estimation, contained essentially no information, save for the fact that Carson had an utterly unexplained cybernetic eye. So, with some fanfare, Way introduced Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye by Way, Jon Rivera, and Michael Avon Oeming.

Finally the initial line is rounded out by a new character, Mother Panic by Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and John Paul Leon. Not much is known but Mother Panic also seems to be designed to highlight the integration of this line into the larger DC Universe, being set in Gotham City.

To Way, Young Animal is a way of putting DC comics in the hands of new audiences, one that’s just appearing or one that has never been interested in superhero comics before.

The announcements weren’t done yet. For a long time Dan Didio has been fiercely protective of Kamandi. It’s been something of a quiet understanding in comics that everybody wants to do Kamandi and Dan DiDio loves the franchise, but nothing ever came of it. Dan explained that this was out of a desire to wait for a pitch that would do Jack Kirby’s creation justice, but it never quite came along. But the publisher and his team have come up with a new idea that will return the Last Boy on Earth to the shelves: The Kamandi Challange. Inspired by DC Challange, the Kamandi Chalenge will be a round robin story from a randomly paired pool of industry greats including Neal Adams, Greg Pak, Tom King, Kevin Eastman, Marguerite Bennett, and Walter Simonson.

During Q&A one fan asked about a possible return for the JSA. Didio said that DC recognizes the popularity of the characters but has nothing to announce at this time. It is worth noting, however that he also mentioned, in response to an unrelated question, that we have not seen the full extent of Rebirth yet. There will be more.

Perhaps inspired by the JSA question, one fan came to the mic to ask about “the Robins”, seemingly referring to the contingent in We Are Robin and mentioning Duke Thomas by name. It was a slightly awkward question as Didio immediately pointed to Damian and Tim Drake’s place in Rebirth, but would or could not address the fate of the Robin movement.

My next panel was Boom!’s Discover New Worlds panel. Hope Larson and Brittney Williams spoke about their super stylish girl detective miniseries Goldie Vance. For the creators the relatively quick production schedule of the series has actually been a benefit allowing them to both be designing and influencing each other simultaneously. Larson described the series as Eloise of the Plaza Hotel meets Nancy Drew and assured us that anyone who like mysteries and racing will be on board.

Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly spoke about working with Marcus To again on their new series Joyride. “We have a brain thing,” Lanzing said of the trio. Apparently it was To who came to the writers with a desire to draw an optimistic, exuberant series about a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space, an idea he has been interested in since his youth. Oddly enough, Kelly and Lanzing were, at the time, working on a screenplay called ‘Grand Theft Starship’ about, get this, a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space. Fate was clearly on their side so they approached Boom! with the idea.

The pitch was accepted but To had a request of his own. Contrary to the practice on Hacktivist, where Lanzing and Kelly have made a game of asking for increasingly mind-blowing page structures from To, To handles all the layouts on Joyride himself, allowing the comic/screen writers to write in an extremely free style.

Lanzing and Kelly describe the series as a ‘punk rock teenage Star Trek’, likening it to TOS. That use of terminology led Lanzing to ask how many Trek fans were in the audience. The lack of response was surprising. Regardless, the duo explained that Uma, the series’ lead character, is kind of a Captain Kirk type. Basically she’s leading a small crew into space on a sort of episodic series of adventures to various worlds, but, where Star Trek usually asks what social issue can we explore, Uma tends to ask “can this become a party? Can I make out with that?”

Sam Humphries talked about his series Jonsey, which is about a teenaged girl who can ship IRL, and took the opportunity to needle Kyle Higgins for (in)famously not knowing what that means. Intrigued, Humphries polled the audience on their knowledge of the term. He triumphantly pointed out that more people at Emerald City Comic Con know what shipping is than like Star Trek.

Si Spurrier explained the story behind those ominous ‘swallow the spider’ teasers that you may have seen on the back of your recent IDW purchases. Lacking interest in the traditional versions of the ‘superheroes in real life’ stories, Spurrier basically posed the question ‘what if instead of loyalty to any particular principle those imbued with these amazing powers only held loyalty to eachother’ and, once that idea was in place, he realized that, effectively, what he was describing was organized crime.

The panel also announced a new series: Kong of Skull Island from James Asmus and Carlos Magno. Joining the panel, Asmus announced that he had been in close contact with the estate of Merian C. Cooper and that there was a great deal of material fleshing out the world of Kong. Based on these notes, Kong of Skull Island will look at the first contact between Kong and the people of Skull Island. There will be humans, there will be dinosaurs a-plenty, and there will even be multiple Kongs...Kong? A pack of Kong(s)? A savage? A Kingdom? Asmus jokingly urged us to share our opinions with the hashtag #AGroupOfKongs. Asmus didn’t have much more to say at this point, but he praised his artist and editors, saying that the project felt like a creator-owned book.

And with that my day came to an end. Or rather, my day in the convention center. Afterwards I headed out to the peculiarly top floor venue of Oni Press’ Fresh Romance Mixer, the Rock Bottom Brewery. It seemed like the party was something of a secret, which is a shame, because it was pretty awesome!

Entering guests were invited to write their name and what they were looking for on their nametag alongside a pre-generated character name. In addition to filling out a networking bingo sheet, we were encouraged to track down the other member of our Fresh Romance character’s ship. I spent the early part of the night talking to journalist, editor, and Jade Street Protection Services writer Katy Rex, who is awesome, and Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh, who (based on general knowledge and one night of chatting) is also awesome. We had a really fun conversation about X-Men and how the in universe stories of oppression have often been slow to openly acknowledge minority eperiences. Long story short, no one is truly happy with this scene.

I also spoke with some awesome people working in lesser seen roles at Oni and Boom! Studios and bore witness to School Spirit artist Arielle Jovellanos’ mad mingling skillz. Apparently if you put it into the form of an icebreaker party game, she can and will become a networking juggernaut.

The number of awesome people working in comics at the party was incredible but it made me wonder if not enough people knew about this. I sincerely hope that Oni will do more of these, so if you were there or if you wish you were there you should tell Janelle Asselin that you’d totally go to another.

I know I would.

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