Wieringo, Kirkman, Kubert, Vaughan & More

  • Spent last week on vacation, disconnected from most of the world. While I did bring a couple comics with me to read, I spent most of my reading time with a non-comic on my iPad. I'm sure that says something about the growing habits of digital reading somehow, but I'm still too tired after a long car ride home to figure that out.
  • What I did start reading was the first hardcover collection of the Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo "Fantastic Four" run. I haven't looked at it in a couple of years, but it still holds up. Imaginative, action-packed, family-oriented, adventurous, fun. I read the first half, right up to the start of the Doctor Doom storyline, but you can still see how Waid layers his stories and subplots dynamically, with Johnny's new role gaining importance as the series goes on, and Reed Richards' guilt and responsibility for his friends' conditions grinding down on him. All of that is expertly displayed by Wieringo on the page. He gets plenty of chances to draw superheroes in costumes, but also some fantastic creatures and environments alongside classic Marvel New York City street-level stuff. It's the perfect mix for Wieringo's style. Having Mark Buckingham fill in for two issues is a smart complement to Wieringo's style, too. Buckingham has a similar expressiveness/cartoony-ness feel to his art. He isn't afraid to bend reality a touch for the sake of telling the story or giving extra life to an otherwise plain scenic extra.

    But the book is still Wieringo's, and it's always a joy to relive that work. It also sparks the usual sadness, five years on, of all the other amazing creations Wieringo had in him but never got the chance to come to fruition past sketches in his blog. Instead, I'll concentrate on the books I do have, and am happy to reread those.

    Now, if we could just convince DC to reprint the classic Waid/Wieringo "Flash" issues in some sort of hardcover format to match.

  • The biggest news of the week, of course, was the passing of New Jersey's own Joe Kubert, on the same day we stopped to remember Wieringo and Mark Gruenwald's untimely deaths. Kubert's contributions to the field can't be understated, particularly with regards to his art school. I have a good friend who did the animation program there, and plenty of working comic professionals did their time in that building, as well. I imagine there are a lot of advertising folks who started there and realized that if they wanted a "real" career with things like "benefits" and "a paycheck" that they should stay the hell away from comics. As comics readers, we've all benefitted from the rest, whose love of the medium keeps them around.

    I learned a lot about Joe Kubert from Fantagraphics' biography on him that I read last fall. It immediately made me want to go buy some reprints of 50 year old DC material that I previously had no affection for. The fact that he credits Carl Barks as one of his inspirations just made him all the more awesome.

    Kubert didn't make enemies. He just made great comic pages, straight up until the day he died. It's mind-numbing to think how good he was until the very end. He's not a man who peaked in his early years and traded in on nostalgia to get jobs. He was still a vital and thriving artist well into his 80s. How many can lay claim to that? I'm only sorry this means we won't get to see the anthology series he was working on for DC now. (Is it too much to hope that he had the whole thing outlined and that his sons might finish it off for him?)

  • The thing that amuses me the most about the "Marvel NOW!" announcements of the last week is one little cover detail. The issue numbers are all three digits long. Those first issues are numbered "001." I look forward to all the Bond jokes we'll be seeing in the solicitations in six months, but I laughed out loud at the thought of any Marvel comic these days getting to issue #100 without being rebooted. They might as well have gone with "01," instead. I'm a computer programmer, though, not a cover designer; I do what makes logical sense, not what makes pretty design.
  • Last weekend, Wizard World ran a convention that misused the word "comic" in its title. Some people went. Nobody associated with comics seems to have enjoyed themselves terribly. Maybe it's time for the folks behind Wizard World to admit to themselves that they run a "pop culture festival" and stop trying to ride on Comic-Con International's coat tails with a questionable usage of the phrase "Comic Con"? (Oh, look. There's no hyphen so it's OK.) They should drop the name they ripped off and run their own cute little local show there. That might work. At least it keeps out of work Star Trek actors occupied. . .
  • It wasn't always so dire for Chicago's convention. Here's my writeup of the show in 2001. I like this part:

    One last odd DC Booth story: By the end of the day, I was having a bad enough hair day that I picked up a CrossGen baseball cap to cover it up. Standing around in the DC booth with my Mighty Gremlin-issued "Electric Girl" shirt and CrossGen cap, I ran across J. Torres, who I stopped to sign my copy of Oni Press' "Alison Dare."

    Nobody batted an eyelash at the sight. That's why I love comic conventions.

  • The upcoming hundredth issue of "Invincible" won't come anywhere close to selling the nearly 400,000 copies that "The Walking Dead" #100 did, even with multiple covers, but it should do well. It's interesting to note that a creator-owned zombie series is faring so much better than a creator-owned superhero series. (Even without the TV series, I think this would still hold true.) I think it proves once again that Direct Market comic readers aren't such superhero snobs as they are Marvel/DC superhero snobs. Everything else is up for grabs.
  • Best news of the week: "Saga" is making Brian K. Vaughan more money than his work-for-hire stuff. Also good news: The first issue sold 70,000 copies. Wow!
  • Graeme McMillan comments on the latest round of Kirkman versus Tony Moore here at CBR. I don't agree with him on all the points, but they're well written. For starters, I don't automatically side with David versus Goliath. Sometimes, Goliath might be right; that makes for a less dramatic story, but the truth's the thing. Second, his description of Kirkman's countersuit as "tacky" jumps the gun. I'd place my money on it being a legal move more than a battle of wills or clash of personalities. Once you get into Lawsuit Land, all sorts of chess moves start that make little sense to outsiders, but are likely standard operating procedure to lawyers looking to establish a case in any way possible. See the current on-going Superman lawsuit for examples of that.

    I think I've said it before here, but it bears repeating: I don't know who's in "the right" when it comes to this situation. I'm not taking sides. It's heart breaking to watch it happen, and I hope it can be amicably resolved, though I think things have gone too far down the road now for that to ever happen. At the very least, I hope Kirkman is living up to the terms of his agreement with Moore and keeps the books open so that proper royalties can be paid, because they would amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year at the current publication rate, by my back of the envelope calculations. We'll let the lawyers sort out the rest, and stick to enjoying the comics in the meantime.

  • 12 years ago this week in Pipeline, my review of the banned issue of Warren Ellis' "Hellblazer" run:

    It is a purely psychological horror story. It doesn't involve large bug-eyed monsters. It doesn't involve fierce bloodshed, personal danger, or ghost, gremlins, and ghouls. The investigation of a school shooting is gruesome enough, but Ellis goes even further by running it alongside excerpts from Jim Jones at the Jonestown Massacre. It's Jones speaking to the masses as they die, telling his flock how little there is to live for: "Death is a million times more preferable to spending more days in this life..." You won't realize how truly thematic his speeches are to the story until you get to its end.

    That story finally saw print a couple of years ago in "Vertigo Resurrected."

  • Let's end with a favorite quote from Mike Wieringo, from the "Modern Masters" volume dedicated to his work:

    "...I wish the industry and its fan base would be a bit more willing to embrace more diversity in both subject matter/genre as well as art styles. I'm a huge fan of the European comics market, where it seems like anything and everything goes. There are folks with very cartoony/animated styles that work on serious, dark material. There's a huge market there for comedy and humor material. There's a huge market for fantasy and science-fiction. . . I suppose it's a form of envy, but I really wish we had more of a taste of what they have there over here in the States. Good stories are good stories, and good art is good art. . . I think there's room for everything and enjoyment to be had for all in diversity. Long underwear should not necessarily be King."

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