Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. JK Parkin is off in San Diego trying to get that Elvis Stormtrooper’s autograph, so I’ll be your host today. Our special guest this week is George O’Connor.
O’Connor is probably best known as the author of the ongoing Olympians series of graphic novels, which attempt to retell classic Greek myths (the latest, Hera, just came out from First Second). He’s also the author of such books as Journey Into Mowhawk Country and the children’s picture book Kapow, as well as the artist of Ball Peen Hammer, which was written by Adam Rapp.
To see what George and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading …
Chris Mautner: Dustin Harbin is quickly becoming one of my favorite cartoonists, at least among the under-35 crowd. I love the amount of detail he throws into his drawings, even the tiny ones; his gift for caricature and goofy faces; and his genuine wit.
Thankfully, Koyama Press has two new books out from Harbin right now: The second volume of his Diary Comics, now published in a (perhaps more appropriate) mini-comic size; and Dharbin!, a collection of his first two self-published comics, most of which contain simple one or tw0-page jokes or stories. OK, so it’s not all entirely new material, but it is quite good. Harbin is a born raconteur, and he has a gift for making even simple events like hanging out with friends or working late at night seem special or revealing. Plus, he’s a really funny guy.
Tim O’Shea: How happy am I after reading Daredevil 1 by Mark Waid along with artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin? After finishing the issue I felt as hopeful and engaged as I did in the early 1980s after reading Walt Simonson’s Thor 337 (the first issue in his epic run). Now while I sincerely doubt that I will get a three-issue run from this creative team, I am hopeful that I will least get a year. It was interesting to see how both artists experiment with how to convey DD’s radar sense. Of the two styles, I find myself partial to RIvera’s approach. Also Riviera does nice little details to his story, such as when Murdoch is going through a metal detector and has to take off his trademark “blind” glasses. And I have to quote and agree with Michael May from this week’s Food or Comics?, who wrote: “Mark Waid fills me with confidence about every Marvel or DC series he writes, but I’m just happy to see a superhero smiling”.
Hated seeing the six-issue Vertigo miniseries Cinderella: Fables are Forever, by writer Chris Roberson and artist Shawn McManus, end this week. Of the Fables (hell Vetigo) universe, CInderella has become my favorite character.
Judging by the female empowerment speech that Matthew Sturges gives Power Girl to say in the opening of Power Girl 26, I find myself hoping that in the coming days of the new 52 DC Comics the writer finds himself an assignment. He’s a solid writer who should have been on one of the creative teams in the first place (instead of some of the questionable creators that garnered assignments instead).
Brigid Alverson: I have been reading a lot of Archie comics lately. I don’t think I would have picked up Jughead at all if it wasn’t for the much-praised Jughead #200, written by Robot Chicken creator Tom Root, but it’s actually one of the more interesting comics in the Archie line. In Jughead #207 and #208, written by Craig Boldman and illustrated by Rex Lindsey, Jughead actually leaves home after a blowup with his father. First he settles at Archie’s house (having discovered that he and Archie are distant cousins), then he moves to Ethel’s for a spell. I particularly liked the first story, as it showed a bit more depth than your typical Archie comic; the parents get involved in the situation, for instance, and Jughead shows a remarkable (for him) capacity for introspection. The story isn’t over yet, and I’m more than mildly curious to see what happens next.
Of course, it’s all in good fun, and so is Archie & Friends #156, which is set at Riverdale Comic Con. The script is by Archie Comics publicity director Alex Segura, who knows a thing or two about cons (he came to Archie from DC Comics), with pencils by longtime pro Bill Galvan. The whole gang shows up in costume, and they are followed by a mysterious but obnoxious robot as they sample the delights of the con and compete in a costume contest (with real-life movie producer JJ Abrams as the judge). It’s a very Archie plot, complete with an itching-powder double-cross (who carries itching powder any more?), but Segura and Galvan toss in some sly insider references, both verbal and visual (Archie dresses as Pureheart the Powerful, the gang heads to the MLJ Comics booth to see Dan Parent, and Archie is searching for a back issue of The Shield, a character he replaced in Pep Comics). Incorporating current pop culture into a comic is risky, but Segura and Galvan pull it off nicely.
Finally, let’s talk about Kevin Keller, who gets his own series next year. Kevin Keller #1 (actually Veronica #207) is scripted and penciled by Kevin creator Dan Parent, who gives the characters a smoother, simpler look than the traditional Archie style‹he eschews those two parallel lines across the bridge of the nose that are such an Archie trademark, for instance, and his Veronica doesn’t have bangs, which really changes her look. The basic conflict is a contest again (they seem to have a lot of those in Riverdale); this time, it’s Jughead versus Kevin in a pie-eating contest. The story includes a flashback into Kevin’s past as a nerdy kid with braces who rescues a friend from a mean trick, and it introduces Kevin’s father, Col. Tom Keller. Yes, Kevin is an army brat, and he wants to go into the service himself someday, which is just fine with everybody (well, Veronica worries that he will get wounded somehow, but Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t merit a mention). We even get to see Kevin come out to his parents. But the place where the story really breaks new ground is with the pie-eating contest, because (spoiler alert!) Veronica has left the cream pies in an overheated car, a fact that Kevin and Jughead learn only after eating six apiece. I believe this is the first time anyone has ever vomited in an Archie comic, although of course we don’t see the actual act. Anyway, the comic has a lot of backstory and goes a long way toward establishing Kevin’s personality. If he has one flaw, it’s that everyone likes him too much (apart from the central-casting bullies in middle school). I’d like to see Reggie pull some pranks on him and Veronica give him the frosty treatment‹then we will really know he is one of the gang.
George O’Connor: Wow, thank god you’re asking me this while I’m actually reading some interesting things.
The Incal Classic Collection, by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius.. I finally picked this up, because (A) I just don’t have enough Moebius in my collection and (B) a couple of my studiomates (cartoonists Jason Little and Joe Infurnari, to be specific) are huuuge fans of Jodorowsky and so I figured, hey, I really ought to check this guy out. Story-wise, I have to admit it’s not particularly gripping me. It reads easy enough, but the characters slip out of their humanity and into being these, I don’t know, super-evolved avatars a bit too often, and kind of fly around delivering exposition. That said, Jodorowsky does an even better job of pulling out crazy ideas that Grant Morrison, and the artwork by Moebius—wow. If you too do not have enough artwork by Moebius, get some. He’s incredible. In this collection in particular I can see his influence on such masters as Dave Gibbons and P. Craig Russell.
The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema. Simonson’s run on the Mighty Thor was largely responsible for turning me into the comics fan (and pro) I am today. This absolute cinder block of a book has been sitting on my nightstand table for a month now as I slowly but surely wade through its contents, which is the entirety of Simonson’s 1980s run on the Mighty Thor book, as well as the Balder the Brave miniseries. A lot of this I hadn’t read since high school, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up. The new coloring is actually quite nice too. My one complaint is the enormous dent it’s putting in my sternum as I read this thing. Seriously, it must weigh 25 lbs.
Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White, by Taiyo Matsumoto. My girlfriend and I had seen the anime made from this previously and LOVED IT, so I finally got around to picking up the original Manga. I’m actually lying a little bit when I said I’m reading this now—it would be more accurate to say I was reading it, but my girlfriend has now absconded with it and now she’s reading it. My impression: the story is very familiar to what I’ve seen in the anime, but there’s a rougher edge to the artwork by Matsumoto that I’m really digging. Strangely, publisher Viz Media opted to print this western-style, so the book is read from left to right., as opposed to traditional Japanese right to left. To accomplish this, Viz must have reversed all of the artwork, which, in my experience, must have distorted it somewhat. I’m going to have to track down a Japanese version one of these days just to see the art how Matsumoto intended.
Fear Itself by Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger. Normally, I’m one of those guys who grumbles about crossover series like this, but I love Stuart Immonen’s work and had to pick this up. Now that I’m looking at them all together, I seem to be missing one of the issues, but writer Fraction does a very good job of moving the story along at all the points it needs to hit, and man, Immonen can draw. Von Grawbadger is his best inker, and the whole team has created the perfect comic-book equivalent of a popcorn flick, at least so far. Sometimes these things fall apart in the climax, you know?
Finally, the last book I’m reading is a bit of a cheat, as I’m included in it, but I literally only drew one page. Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies, featuring the work of 31 different cartoonists and edited by Michel Fiffe, is an anthology book featuring twisted takes on Erik Larsen’s venerable Savage Dragon and his supporting cast. The contributors are almost exclusively “indie” cartoonists, and they each bring their own idiosyncratic takes to their short tales of the Dragonverse. Some standouts so far are Kat Roberts “2000 Light Years from Home”, Chris Sinderson’s “Vicious Circle Therapy Group” and the aforementioned Mr Fiffe’s “The Date”, featuring a rotting character with the awesome name of Abner Cadaver. My own contribution was part of a short story ‘jam’ written by Joe Keating, and featuring artwork by my studiomates Simon Fraser, Tim Hamilton, Mike Cavallaro, Joe Infurnari and Dean Haspiel, with bookends by Mr Larsen himself.
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