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1. Ruby Thursday Visits the Stately Beat Manor Comics Pull for 5/27/15

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I would prefer not to name names, but a certain member of the Beat Staff has ingested one too many Steve Gerber comics and fell into the celebration of oddities. For those not in the know, we’ve been getting a lot of stray visitors at the mansion lately — the castaways of comics long ago who find themselves wandering the hallways of The Stately Beat Manor after hours. This week Ruby Thursday happened to pay us a visit. No…not ringing any bells? Thursday is a member of the Headmen, a group of B-list Defenders rogues sent to wreak havoc upon the work schedules of everyone here at The Beat. Or so we thought…as the aforementioned Beat Staffer blamed above and Ruby Thursday seemed to be getting along quite well. When Thursday heard that we took down Howard the Duck villain Bessie (Hellcow) with the power of love (and literature) she grew a newfound respect for us. We introduced her to some of the signatures we’ve acquired from past guests of the Comics Pull(s) including the Matter-Eater Lad (who she is also quite fond of.) She decided to help us continue The Beat tradition. Ms. Rubinstein suggested the following comics for this week revealing herself as quite the Archie fan.


Ruby Thursday’s picks:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #3

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Artist: Robert Hack

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It’s the night before Halloween, the night before Sabrina’s sixteenth birthday, the night of the blood-moon and the lunar eclipse, and Sabrina has made her decision: She will go into the woods of Greendale as a half-witch and emerge…on the other side of a frightful ritual…as a fully baptized member of the Church of Night. But there will be a cost, and his name is Harvey. And unbeknownst to Sabrina and her aunts, there is a serpent in the garden, their great enemy Madam Satan, who is conspiring against them…

With a taste for the dark arts and 90’s sitcoms, Ruby couldn’t help but single out this week’s installment of Sabrina. While she did voice displeasure at the comic’s amount of delays — the villain can’t get enough of this reimagining of the titular witch. She expressed that the story has all the morally ambiguity she looks for in media, and the comic has just started to bring out more of the creepie crawlies…whatever that means.

Black Hood #4

Writer: Duane Swierczynski Artist: Michael Gaydos 

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NEW ONGOING SERIES FROM DARK CIRCLE! “Bullet’s Kiss, Part 4″ The Connection’s lieutenants have discovered the identity of the new Black Hood. And now Greg Hettinger has only 24 hours to unmask their boss-the man who set Greg up!  As the badly-injured Black Hood struggles to piece together the puzzle, he’s forced to put his faith in a woman who could end up saving him… or sending him straight to the slammer!

Black Hood is also gearing up for a fourth issue that Ruby specifically wanted to single out. This is another installment within Archie’s own Dark Circle line of comics. With another series that’s filled with moral ambiguity and gritty realism, this is just the comic for Ruby. Before she left, Ms. Rubinstein wanted to mention that she will have revenge on the X-Men, Bruce Banner, Heroes for Hire, Bullseye, She-Hulk, Cloak, Silver Samurai, Skaar, and more. She’s also running in 2016 — so look for that — did we mention that Ruby Thursday previously ran for president?


Matt O’Keefe’s picks:

Old Man Logan #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Old_Man_Logan_1_Cover

Enter the Wastelands: a realm where all heroes have been murdered by their arch-enemies, villains who now rule over the land with an iron fist. In the midst of this dystopian chaos, one man may make a difference?a reluctant warrior who was once the greatest mutant of all? A man known as OLD MAN LOGAN.

The original Old Man Logan (illustrated by Steve McNiven), was exactly what you’d expect from a Mark Millar comic: bold, brash, broad and full of interesting concepts largely left unexplored. That’s why it’s so exciting to see Brian Michael Bendis pick up on those old threads, adding his depth of character and focus on the more intimate details to the mix. The fact that the X-Men annuals he did with Old Man Logan artist Andrea Sorrentino were the best Bendis I’d read in years only gives me more confidence that this series has the potential to be something special.


Dave’s Pick:

Sons of the Devil #1

Writer: Brian Buccellato  Artist: Toni Infante

SondsOfTheDevil_01_1

Last year, Brian Buccellato asked everyone for help making this project. On Wednesday, Sons of the Devil is officially an Image Comics reality. The premise poses the question; what would you do if you found out your father was evil like a Jim Jones or David Koresh? SOTD looks to bring supernatural horror to a human level.


Kyle’s Picks:

Material #1

Writer: Ales Kot Artist: Will Tempest

material #1

A man comes home from Guantanamo Bay, irrevocably changed.
An actress receives an offer that can revive her career.
A boy survives a riot and becomes embedded within a revolutionary movement.
A philosopher is contacted by a being that dismantles his beliefs.

Look around you. Everything is material.

I love pretty much everything Ales Kot does, from Secret Avengers to Zero (easily one of my top books of the 2010’s thus far), so this will surely prove no different.  Material looks to return to the wide-ranging ensemble cast style of his critically acclaimed earlier work like Change, but as with everything written by Kot, it’s impossible to pin down any of his titles into one particular box and that’s why I find him to be such a refreshing read every time out. I already know what will be on top of my modest pile tomorrow. It should be on top of yours as well.

The Sandman: Overture #5

Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: J.H. Williams

sandman overture #5

The fate of the entire universe hangs in the balance when Dream finally gets his mother’s full attention. Magic, joy, war and heartbreak are brought to life on the pages with epic luminosity in the penultimate issue of THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE.

The biggest problem with Overture is that it’s been so long since the last chapter, I don’t remember what happened in the previous issue, much less anything before that. But, to its benefit, Williams’ work is so gorgeous that its hard to argue with re-reading the four issues that came before in order to catch up. It’s Neil Gaiman’s second to last issue of Sandman, if I was a betting man, I’d say you’re probably going to read it.

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2. Matter-Eater Lad Visits the Stately Beat Manor Staff Comics Pull: 5/20/15

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The Beat Staff has been…busy lately with two events going on and the Ultimate Universe coming to an end (sort of) this week. All of us that write here at The Beat live at the Stately Beat Manor where our heads are stuck in the printed page from early morning to late in the day. However, we’ve had some…distractions as of late. We have had a series of unwelcome guests from the pages of these…comic books come and crash our party — or unwavering focus on delivering the news delivered straight to our astute fans and readers. Unfortunately, our newest guest did the unthinkable when he made his way over to the Beat Manor. His name — Matter-Eater Lad of the Legion of Superheroes. We noticed our comics supply dwindling over the past few weeks, and in truth, we we’re happy with it. Here at the Manor, the Beat Staff has been running low on space to store their books — but when crucial high priced back issues were missing from the pile, we had a feeling that something was wrong. After a Beat Stakeout we caught one of the weirdest legionnaires in the act of literally devouring expensive older issues. We took him to small claims court and relinquished a large part of the Legion’s monetary reserves. All’s well that ends well — here’s our top comics picks for this week.


Alex’s Picks:

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A-Force #1

Writer: G. Willow Wilson & Marguerite Bennett Artist: Jorge Molina Cover: Jim Cheung

Marvel’s Mightiest Women finally get their own explosive series! In a secluded corner of the Battleworld, an island nation is fiercely protected by a team of Avengers the likes of which has only ever been glimpsed before..Fighting to protect the small sliver of their world that’s left, the Amazing A-FORCE stands shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde!

No single issue this week has been buzzed about more than A-Force #1. The comic has been the headline of more than a couple of fascinating news stories, and was supposed to be announced on The View. Afterwards, a piece from Jill Lepore via The New Yorker lit the internet on fire. Now, the comic is finally here written by the incredibly well respected author G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett featuring the art of Jorge Molina. The comic is a tie-in to Marvel’s new Secret Wars event, that fetures various Avengers females teaming up together in a certain region within Battleworld. The pedigree of the tale alone should allow it to become more than just a silly news story — but it’s up to the quality of the book to capture the attention of the readers.

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Oh Killstrike #1

Writer: Max Bemis Artist: Logan Faerber Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus Letters: Jim Campbell

WHAT’S TO LOVE: Say Anything frontman Max Bemis writes a love letter to 1990s superhero comics in this tongue-in-cheek homage to the era, featuring the art stylings of Logan Faerber – reminiscent of works by Chip Zdarsky and Jeff Lemire. Much like Polarity, Oh, Killstrike is very personal to Bemis: It’s about a new dad who loves comics from his youth. Part twisted buddy comedy, part profound coming-of-age story, we could not stop smiling when reading Oh, Killstrike. WHAT IT IS: Jared, a new father, fears parenthood. An old comics fan, he turns to them for comfort. But when he unwittingly lets loose his favorite character, Killstrike – a single minded, vengeance loving anti-hero – onto the world, Jared must find a way to send him back before he harms all the people he loves the most. But before that happens, Killstrike leads Jared on a quest of self-discovery to make him realize the kid who loved this character is not the man he has become.

In the wake of the end of the Ultimate Universe, we chose to look at something a little different — Oh Killstrike #1 from Boom Studios. The series has an incredibly enticing premise, featuring a vengeance seeking 90’s rebel attempting bothering the life of Jared, a brand new father attempting to escape his stressful via the escapism of comic books. Killstrike is on the difficult new quest of acclimating Jared to his upcoming quest of being able to cope with a brand new kid. Author Max Bemis has written some interesting stories with titles like Evil Empire and Polarity. He’s joined by Logan Faerber — an alumni of Bravest Warriors, Adventure Time, and Regular Show — this story is a departure from the rest of Faerber’s works.


Brandon Schatz’s Pick:

Optic Nerve #14

Optic Nerve #14

Optic Nerve 14 brings Adrian Tomine’s multifaceted, expressive cartooning to a new peak with two stories and a bonus autobiographical strip. “Killing and Dying” is about a father’s struggles to be supportive: it centers on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy. “Intruders” depicts a man obsessively trying to find his way back to a former life by revisiting places he once knew. Optic Nerve 14 will appear on the twentieth anniversary of Tomine’s beloved comic book series, in whose pages the landmark graphic novel Shortcomings was first published. Each story in Optic Nerve 14 reveals new dimensions to Tomine’s unique visual sensibility and complex, character-driven stories.

A new issue of Optic Nerve is a rare and beautiful thing to behold. Adrian Tomine is one of those fancy-pants comic creators who make the bulk of their “money” doing “art” for the “New Yorker” instead of rolling in the fat stacks of cash that exist in the comic book industry. As a result, issues of Optic Nerve occur few and far in-between – but the results are always stunning. Everyone in Optic Nerve seems to be screaming just behind the eyes whether they know it or not, as they claw and attempt to find perfection in flawed worlds. Equally uncomfortable and exquisitely beautiful, this is the event comic I wait each and every year (or two) for.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have stacks of comics in boxes to ignore as I read through this before my store opens.


 

1 Comments on Matter-Eater Lad Visits the Stately Beat Manor Staff Comics Pull: 5/20/15, last added: 5/20/2015
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3. All the Secret Wars News You Can Handle from the last 48 Hours

Even without an issue of Secret Wars proper this week, the news coming out of Marvel regarding the event has been overwhelming. Get a snack and relax as we inform you on all the big new coming from the publisher about the event from the last two days — it’s kind of a lot!

1. Get ready for the ‘THE FINAL WAR.’

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This morning CBR debuted the brand new new solicits for the publisher where Thanos stands in what seems to be the pit introduced in Secret Wars #2 with a solicit reading reading: THE FINAL WAR! I think this Alex Ross cover has my attention…

2. Something is happening…8 Months Later?

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AS IF that wasn’t enough for you, Marvel also announced on Newsarama yesterday that their books after Secret Wars are picking up a full 8 months after the big event! It’s interesting to hear that Marvel is billing 8 months as their mysterious number. Fans already got a taste of the Marvel Universe 8 Months Later with the Free Comic Book Day Avengers story. Sneaky! The House of Ideas went onto to state that A-Force and Weirdworld are continuing after the event (AWESOME!) Maestro, Mrs. Deadpool & The Howling Commandos, and Uncanny Inhumans will all be part of the new Marvel Universe (reboot?) So let’s look for the reboot publishing initiative in Fall 2015.

3. Uncanny X-Men #600 Delayed!

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Uncanny X-Men #600 has been delayed until AFTER Secret Wars. That’s huge news as Marvel has been seeding some massive plot developments for Cyclops in Secret Wars that need to be addressed in Bendis-written titles eventually! Uncanny X-Men #600 has been delayed into October, and it is the last X-Men title written by Bendis.

The author commented on the story through Tumblr: the Internet is half lying to you. It is not shipping in October because I am a massive spastic fuck up. it was bumped until after secret wars for editorial and commercial reasons. not my call. this was marvel. but they have their reasons.

4. Mike Zeck is getting an Artist’s Edition with a Secret Wars reprint.

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Finally, the extremely important 80’s Marvel artist Mike Zeck known for a little story entitled Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt, and an obscure comic called Secret Wars first published in 1984 is getting an Artist’s Edition featuring his Marvel work called: Mike Zeck’s Classic Marvel Stories: Artist’s Edition.

The author said the following about working on the original Secret Wars with Jim Shooter via this comment with CBR: I didn’t think much about that at the outset, but when issues started hitting comics outlets, it became evident that it was “a big deal with a lot of attention!” Deadline pressures and other elements made the work less enjoyable than some other projects but [it was] definitely worthwhile in the end. “Secret Wars” totally succeeded in bringing attention to Marvel comics via the series and the toy tie-ins. I always hear from fans at conventions that it was “Secret Wars” that prompted them to start reading comics. Very gratifying.

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4. X-O Manowar is “blending character drama and widescreen action” for Exodus

X-O Manowar has been an instrument of war over the past 30+ issues that has seen Aric of Dacia dismember and kill others with the X-O suit of armor. Then, he started to change. As a king of his Visigoth people that are once again reunited — Aric was thrust into a survival role, and is now constantly attempting to keep the fighting away from his home in the Valiant Universe. The upcoming X-O Manowar storyline entitled ‘Exodus’ stays in that same tradition, as the tale see’s Aric attempting to once again keep the peace. When the Vine and one of Aric’s old enemies come back to Earth, he’s going to have his hands full over the next couple of issues. The creative team on Exodus features none-other-than Robert Venditti alongside the excellent Rafa Sandoval, formerly of DC Comics, now a Valiant exclusive.

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X-O Manowar spent so much of his life fighting the Vine and now he must be their champion – how will Earth react, said editor Valiant Editor Tom Brennan. Or his fellow survivors of Vine enslavement for that matter? We’re going to answer those questions and more, and Rafa Sandoval’s ability to brilliantly blend character drama and widescreen action is the perfect compliment to Rob’s story of what it truly means to be a hero.

X-O MANOWAR #39 (NEW ARC! “EXODUS” – PART 1)

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI

Art by RAFA SANDOVAL

Cover A by RAFA SANDOVAL (MAY151599)

Cover B by ROBERT GILL (MAY151600)

Variant Cover by CAFU

Variant Cover by BRENT PEEPLES

$3.99 | 32 pages | T+ | On sale AUGUST 12 (FOC – 7/20/15)

The issue comes right after X-O Manowar #38, which is Aric’s big wedding issue that also features a cadre of excellent artists and writers.

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X-O MANOWAR #38 (WEDDING SPECTACULAR!)

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI with AMY CHU, ANDY RUNTON, and RAFER ROBERTS

Art by RAFA SANDOVAL with CLAYTON HENRY, CAFU, ANDY RUNTON, and RAFER ROBERTS

Cover A (Wraparound) by RAFA SANDOVAL (MAY151599)

Cover B by CARY NORD (MAY151600)

Cover C by CAFU (MAY151601)

Variant Cover by JAY FABARES (MAY151603)

Variant Cover by TOM FOWLER ((MAY151604)

Blank Invitation Variant Also Available (MAY151602)

$4.99 |48 pgs.| T+ | On sale JULY 1 (FOC 6/8/15)

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5. Review: Secret Wars #2 Is a Solid First Issue in Disguise

Secret-Wars-2-spoilers-preview-5Writer:

Jonathan Hickman

Artist:

Esad Ribic

Colors:

Ive Svorcina

Letters:

Chris Eliopoulos

• WHEN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE IS GONE, ALL THAT REMAINS IS BATTLEWORLD!
• LEARN THE SECRETS OF THIS BRAVE NEW REALM IN THIS SPECIAL OVERSIZED ISSUE!

Well folks…that’s how to write an event comic.

Secret Wars #1 had so many plot threads to tie-up that it didn’t really have a chance of being a good story in it’s own right. After all, the series opened with the direct continuation of the really interesting plot thread from New Avengers #33 — a story that a lot of Secret Wars readers probably never looked into. The issue even bookended with that same plot point, but in a manner that is likely set to alienate new readers. Even those that are familiar with the first series (from the 80’s) or have read previous Secret Wars comics may not have recognized the new forms that the Beyonders took in the story. With that, comes Secret Wars #2, a story that shifts the Marvel Universe into a brand new place. Without giving away too much, I would like to say that this installment is about Battleworld. Somehow the Marvel press train actually managed to skirt more than a couple surprises about this story that are hidden from even the most astute readers.

The Marvel Universe is gone and Battleworld is now here, but everything else about what is inside the new Secret Wars issue #2 remains a shroud of wonderful mystery. Author Jonathan Hickman bends the mythology of the Avengers franchise, and once again mixes and matches everything he has created into a beautiful mess here. All the pieces already established in Avengers and New Avengers are rearranged in this issue, which is full of characters forming new relationships with each other that feel ancient. When Jim Shooter first ushered in the original Secret Wars series, he did so with pride, promising some lofty goals. Where that series eventually devolved into mindless fighting — this Secret Wars saga promises something else via this issue.

Sure new status quotas, characters, and relationships, are something frequently seen in the Marvel Universe — but this exact world has new things to say about characters.

LIGHT SPOILERS: One such example of these new things are the way that the Thor characters all have different relationships amongst themselves and with others. Yes, there are a ton of people with hammers arranged in this issue — but that doesn’t mean everything about surprise of the heroes’ own mythology is known to the reader.

Thankfully, this inversion of the original premise makes the actual saga of Avengers (the 2012 volume) less relevant. For some fans, that might be a let down, but this new Secret Wars needs to last and be burned into the mythology of the Marvel Universe. If everything about this comic sounds incredibly complicated — that’s because it is — however, this issue did the right thing by averting expectations and shifting pieces off of the board. The main criticism of the tale is that it just should have been the first issue. Confusing readers with context about a threat that they are unfamiliar with is not the good for the average fan. If any new reader is interested in this saga, hand them this second issue first. It will avoid some questions that will lead to trouble further down the round.

This tale is also much more suited to the art of Esad Ribic now. His depiction of Doctor Doom is nothing less than terrifying. The opening scene calls for a certain type of emotion that proves why Ribic can be counted among the best in the industry. Ive Scorcina’s color palette is also a haunting and beautiful. Secret Wars has an expansive scope that is perfectly explored within this tale. Key moments of action retain the fluidity necessary of great comics while still evoking the cerebral line work and sheer beauty of what Ribic is depicting in this comic.

Never before have I seen an event series so confident in it’s own ideas — as Hickman packs the story with loads of Marvel mythology in a king-sized ration. There are but a few plot threads tethering this story to our version of Marvel reality, but this story is meant to be witnessed through the eyes of the outsider, purposefully alienating the reader. For a Marvel comic filled with explosive wonder look no further than this week’s Secret Wars #2. Hickman and Ribic create mythology of lasting impact in Secret Wars #2.

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6. Review: Sons of the Devil #1 Can’t Wait to Meet You!

SondsOfTheDevil_01

Writer: Brian Buccellato

Penciller: Toni Infante

Publisher: Image Comics

From New York Times Best Selling writer BRIAN BUCCELLATO and artist TONI INFANTE comes a psychological horror story about TRAVIS, an average guy trying to get by, who discovers that he has familial ties to a deadly cult. Told across three decades, SONS OF THE DEVIL is an exploration of cults, family, and the dark side of human nature. It’s TRUE DETECTIVE and ORPHAN BLACK meets HELTER SKELTER.

After a Kickstarter, publisher announcement, Image Expo appearance and months of build-up Sons of the Devil is finally here. Creator Brian Buccellato even spearheaded a short film to go along with the comic on release for the Image website. Needless to say, there was an immense amount of lead-up this issue; so…is the comic any good? My immediate reaction would mention that it isn’t quite that simple. Buccellato and artist Toni Infante seem to be working the story towards a big moment in later issues that makes this first issue a quiet storm before the rest of the series will hopefully pick up the pace.

Toni Infante’s art gives the story a heavy stylized line work that echoes back to someone like a Tradd Moore mixed with Sean Murphy. Nestled in the back of these pages is a horde of detail including multiple fixtures within the room itself. Infante’s layouts are impressive as well. He approaches the page by letting panels bleed out for texture purposes. One of the best parts of the issue is when Infante is given the mileage to muck around with the tone of the comic, adding a canine in the story. This presents a lot of potential for him to draw a pretty interesting looking devil via his excellent representation of the other creatures — especially when the actual depiction of Venice itself is already impressive. Sometimes, the facial expressions of the characters can get a little muddy, and the characters themselves are suffering from one too many lines on their faces that are obscuring the people of California.

Protagonist Travis is a broken man wandering through life after a tough upbringing. The book squanders at first in how it tries to make the audience sympathetic towards the lead. Fortunately, the tale picks up some steam in the latter half that serves to move the comic in the right line. This comic is pretty light on dialogue, and the plotting also slowly starts to move the rest of the pieces into place.

Sons of the Devil takes place in California which may take some readers by surprise. The story could easily function as some sort of companion piece for Southern Bastards tonally. Which tangentially brings me to another point — the rest of the cast doesn’t quite pop the way that they probably should. Most of them don’t quite reach the level of above being stereotypical supporting cast members. The one saving grace of this story is that the mythological elements have not yet been revealed here. With the high concept of the lead being the son of a devil being put in play, this story may have served audiences better in an expanded page count or even less compressed format here.

It’s hard to exactly call this story a character study, the art of Infante and the mindset of Buccellato seem to contain a sturdier emphasis towards action — which this issue is largely absent of. The cliffhanger and the rest of the story present a package that seems to be building towards a deeper climb with the dark parts of humanity. It’s virtually impossible to judge an entire comic based off of one issue, especially one containing such a high concept premise. Sons of the Devil #1 is the first set of building blocks towards a bigger story.

Sons of the Devil #1 launches May 27.

The short film from Image Comics is available here.

Check out our MATT CHATS column with the author.

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7. On the Scene: 4 (AWESOME) Comics Locations in Europe

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I didn’t think London would be a particularly (hip hop) happening place for comics, alas I was wrong. In many instances I was pleasantly surprised at what was going on in the comics world overseas. During a leisurely excursion into the land of royalty and great pub food and drink, I was treated to a variety of specialty shops complete with a wonderful sense of style and tone all their own. These places had Free Comic Book Day events, special bundles and sales, exclusive art prints and more. One of the only downsides period; was the exchange rate on each sale. There is no sales tax on books in the United Kingdom (I’m pretty sure,) which lessened the blow of getting hit with the currency dilemma. Without further ado, here’s an assessment of my trip so far:

1) Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is a well documented dose of nerd surprises. What struck me is the sheer amount of toys waiting on the first floor. The comics were hidden in the basement below, allowing me to believe that the retailer makes most their income based on the amount of toys they sell in front. The comic book selection was still completely overwhelming. With the high prices, I was searching for something that would be out of print, or on the small press side of the industry. With a limited knowledge of small press and knowing what was in print at the moment, I chickened out of buying anything. The Death of Captain Marvel was the only thing tempting me ­­ but it was in a weird hardcover format that would have probably been heavy in a suitcase. This is a side note, but I still would like to say that DC has done an extraordinary job with their newest set of packaging for their figures. All of the packages contain a simple and clean white background with some comics panels lurking in the background ­­ now it’s time for Marvel to catch up.

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Picture via Wikipedia

1.1) Harrods

Harrods (think black tie Costco) was mostly devoid of comics content. Even their bookstore contained no comics. Still, I was determined to find something ­­ and I did…eventually. I found a painting by Roy Lichtenstein for over £30,000. Not exactly comics, but something that the comics community feels strongly about.

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1.2) Stonehenge

You know…comics can be found in some funny places ­­even the Stonehenge museum? Inside the museum lie a couple of comics inside bearing the representation of the signature landmark. Recently London has spent a considerable amount of capital updating the landmark with an expanded lobby area. As seen in the image below, representations of the figure in comics work can be seen in Thor, Rip Hunter, Action Comics and more.

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2) American Dreams Comics

Bath, close to Stonehenge is a truly lovely City ­­and one place that also contained some hidden comic book treasures. Hidden may not be the correct word, because Batwoman and Captain America cosplay teams were handing out DC and Marvel issues for Free Comic Book Day and leading foreigners towards their shop known as American Dreams Comics. I was ecstatic because I was able to get everything I wanted from FCBD without having to wait in the lines of Forbidden Planet on the way back home. The cashier had instructed me to look out for long lines, but told me that they did have a lot of product in store at Forbidden Planet. This was a perfect solution and convenient for the people that I was traveling with. A healthy amount of youth were enjoying themselves in the store scouting out some of the posters that the retailer probably had leftover. It’s really cool that Secret Wars #0 took a spotlight on the Future Foundation for the duration of the comic. This makes the tale much more accessible for the youth that may have populated this shop.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Picture via americandreamcomicsbath.wordpress.com

2.1) Doctor Who Experience

I Really quick just wanted to mention that the Doctor Who Experience had a few of the loose Doctor Who issues in the store. Unfortunately, they were all way ahead of what I’ve read ­­ as the first trade of Al Ewing’s Matt Smith Who title has been really good so far. That’s it! No more Doctor Who. Promise!

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3) Blackwell’s Art & Poster Shop

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Oxford was home to a lovely art store entitled Blackwell’s Art & Poster Shop. The store had everything from posters, books, and fine art as well. Everything in the store had a mostly independent vibe (making it a very Beat friendly store.) Speaking of friendly, the staff was more than willing to help out customers. I saw one of the employees actively evangelizing Maus (which I still haven’t read) and burst into an immediate smile. My haul was once again fruitless, but the temptation for me here was the Boxers & Saints slipcase edition that I haven’t seen before. Lately I have seen the comics split in two (not sure what that is about?)

4) Mega City Comics

Last but not least in my time in London was Mega City Comics. This store (which had a logo from Shaky Kane) had some incredible bundles. Even my jaded comic book heart couldn’t deny the fine assortment of deals here. My traveling companions had to talk me off the cliff off buying issues #6-68 of X­-O Manowar (the first series from the original Valiant.) they talked me off of that cliff…eventually. I did end up sealing my fate (and suitcase space) with the full #38 issues of Marc Andreyko’s Manhunter. I made out of the store like bandit paying less than a dollar an issue.

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Here’s a tiny picture of a tiny dog;
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You’re welcome.

Next week: Scotland!

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8. Arm-Fall-Off-Boy Visits The Stately Beat Manor Comics Pull: Best Comics of the Week for 4/29/15

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With great comics comes great responsibility — that’s something that we believe the Legion of Superheroes’ Arm-Fall-Off-Boy perfectly encapsulates. The character created by Gerard Jones, Ty Templeton, and Curt Swan inspires us to write these great pieces as he forces the staff here at The Beat Manor to keep reading until our arms fall off! How many characters have the ability to use their own limbs as instruments of destruction? Arm-Fall-Off-Boy A.K.A. Floyd Belkin’s visit to the mansion came at an important time in comics history as Marvel is now on the very edge of Secret Wars and DC is in the midst of Convergence. The rejected Legionnaire had some opinions on each that enlightened The Beat staff towards forming some new conceptions about these titles that we will share with the general public below. Our time with Belkin was limited, but he shared all the Superman and Legion anecdotes that we could handle in the span of just one afternoon. Without further ado we would like to present our picks straight from Belkin and The Beat Manor for your reading pleasure!


Alex and Floyd’s picks:

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Avengers #44 Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artist: Mike Deodato

New Avengers #33 Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artist: Kev Walker

Belkin advised us that Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga was one of the deepest and most bold comics events ever, with over 77 issues devoted to the lead-up into the Secret Wars, he told us that there was much ‘proverbial crap’ to hit the fan. We feel obligated to post anything the esteemed hero mentioned, but these pair of issues surely look interesting. How is Hickman and company going to blow up the Marvel Universe and create Battleworld? Bear in mind that this is comics, so it probably is going to be fun but not make any sense.

The_Multiversity_Vol_1_2_Textless

The Multiversity #2 Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Ivan Reis

Floyd expressed some interest in taking a break from the big events and talking up DC’s huge Multiversity event for a short while. This saga is bringing some brand new heroes together for the first direct follow-up to the Multiversity labeled as The Multiversity #2, but how or why would the installment could it be labeled as such with a new selection of characters being introduced? One of the highlights of our afternoon with Belkin was a spirited debate between team Beat on whether Morrison could even follow-up Multiversity! When one Beat staffer mentioned that he or she (I will not disclose their identity) didn’t like Brazilian artist Ivan Reis, they were given a stern talking to — they insulted one of Belko’s favorites!


Kyle’s Pick:

shazam

 

Convergence: Shazam #1

Writer: Jeff Parker, Artist: Doc Shaner, Colors: Jordie Bellaire

STARRING HEROES FROM CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS! It’s Shazam versus Steampunk, as the world of Gotham by Gaslight takes on the Captain Marvel family and friends!
I’m not sure about Floyd’s opinion on the matter, though I have to feel like one of the Legion’s goofiest (sorry, dude) cast of characters must have some affinity for what I think is the greatest superhero of all time, especially one with as whacky a history as Captain Marvel/Shazam.
I find most, if not all, of Convergence pretty uninteresting so far, but the draw on this one for me, beyond the fact that I’m a die-hard Marvel family fan, is the reunion of the Flash Gordon team of Parker and Shaner. I’m especially excited to see Shaner’s sunny, beautiful work take on not only C.C. Beck‘s wonderful co-creation but also the Mike Mignola designed Gotham by Gaslight characters. I’m excited about reading Multiversity, but I’m looking forward to admiring Shazam.

Davey’s Pick:

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Holy F*ck TPB
ACTION LAB – DANGER ZONE
(W) Nick Marino (A/CA) Daniel Arruda Massa
Though we haven’t been able to talk much more about it since the first issue came out in print, Holy F*ck has been a fun ride that makes you feel dirty in the best way possible. A collected edition is the best way to read this:
Sister Maria has recruited two horny drug-fueled weirdos to stop the apocalypse. Their names? Jesus and Satan. Can these biblical frenemies help this nun with a gun defeat an army of pissed off mythological gods?

Heidi’s Pick:

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Super Mutant Magic Academy
Jillian Tamaki
DRAWN & QUARTERLY
 Lacking arms makes it hard to hold a book, so I don’t know where Floyd stands on graphic novels, but anyone with two hands would enjoy this. I know we’ve been Tamaki-crazy here at Stately Beat Manor, but SMMA, based on the long running webcomic, is a limber, darkly humorous take on the much-trodden “superpowered teens in school” genre, as teens learn that magic powers don’t help where self-esteem, misplaced love and growing up are concerned. As they do.
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 The complete Johnny Nemo
 Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins
Tian Comics
Okay technically this is a relisting, but why not take some time to honor the legacy of the late Brett Ewins, with this ode to Newave haircuts, private eyes and goofball futurism that never goes out of style. Milligan and Ewins in peak form.

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9. A-Force #1 Preview: Yes, Captain Marvel Punches a Shark…Stop Asking!

Marvel’s A-Force #1 from G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett with art from Jorge Molina features a stable of the publishers mightiest female heroes — and Captain Marvel punching a shark. The comic takes place during Battleworld in the upcoming Secret Wars event, which see’s nearly every Marvel character converging (haha) on one singular planet. The warriors attempt to defend their section of Battleworld, and Marvel notes that they have to fight off a mysterious horde. Nestled in the preview art is a mysterious woman in the back of the roster (five points to anyone who can figure out who she is in the comments!) The title includes a large roster of characters including familiar faces like She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, Rogue, Dazzler, Phoenix, Pixie, Captain Marvel, Medusa and more. The new comic is set to debut at local comic shops on May 20, 2015 at a $3.99 price point. Cover artists include Jim Cheung, Jorge Molina, Stephanie Hans, Russell Dauterman, Adam Hughes, and more. Thanks to CBR for the preview. More importantly, Captain Marvel punches a shark in this comic…you’re welcome.

A-FORCE #1 (MAR150665)
Written by G. WILLOW WILSON & MARGUERITE BENNETT
Art by JORGE MOLINA
Inhumans 50th Anniversary Variant by ADAM HUGES (MAR150666)
Variant Covers by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN (MAR150667) STEPHANIE HANS (MAR150668)
JORGE MOLINA (MAR150669) and SKOTTIE YOUNG (MAR150670)
Blank Variant Also Available (MAR150671)
FOC – 04/27/15, On-Sale – 05/20/15
As the Secret Wars begin, the Avengers as you know them are no more – and a new team will lead the way! In a secluded corner of Battleworld lies Arcadia, an island nation fiercely protected by a team of Avengers the likes of which has never been seen before!
So who are the Marvel powerhouses taking center stage? “She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa, Nico Minoru and other fan favorites, will take charge,” says series co-writer G. Willow Wilson. “We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of different characters from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies.”
And there came a day unlike any other, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroines found themselves united against a common threat. Fighting to protect the small sliver of their world that’s left, they stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to take on the horde. Ushering in a new day with a rallying cry heard across Battleworld – A-FORCE ASSEMBLE!









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10. Kaptara #1 Review: Sex Criminals Dreaming in Space

Kaptara-coverWriter: Chip Zdarsky

Artist: Kagan McLeod

Color Assist: Becka Kinzie

Editing: Thomas K

Production: Drew Gill


Kaptara is a wild card for Image Comics right now. Chip Zdarsky is a proven creator in the field of comics, but I’m not sure that anyone in the audience of the 2015 San Francisco Image Expo convention quite knew what the author was going to say. A book that he was writing to be set in space with an up-and-coming artist would have certainly ranked pretty low among anything the audience had in mind. Yet here we are at the first issue of Kaptara from Image.

What happens when a newspaper illustrator and a Sex Criminal go to space together?

The philosophy between two space travelers being a meathead a video game obsessed scientist is the perfect way to introduce readers to the fun of Kaptara. The irony nestled within this pages seems perfectly at home with Zdarsky and company, as with the other characters first introduced in the issue. The mission gets hectic pretty fast, and the language is laid down with thick discretion introducing readers about space. The protagonist Keith seems as if he sort of serves as the mouthpiece for the rest of the cast and the creators telling the story. His warm disposition and sarcastic attitude perfectly encapsulate the audience that will likely be engrossed in this story. Which is why it’s great that Keith is also the person that has the biggest problems with this tale via his interactions with other teammates. While he seems ready to see to the challenge, the unlikely hero is still flawed.

One of the best parts about this issue is how it almost immediately addresses some of the quiet moments between these people stuck on a space expedition. After all is said done, most of these quiet moments are present in the best instances of all your favorite sci-fi shows like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, it’s just a matter of making these characters interesting enough to land the quieter moments.

Still Kaptara is a genre tale. It’s not something incredibly concrete and immediately simple to the reader. In other words, it’s not just a bland run of the mill sci-fi military drama either. Speaking to that a little further, Kaptara almost immediately starts with fantastic pacing. By giving us a peek at the end of the story, stakes are being added to the quiet moments that happen later on. We’re already invested in these characters — making what happens at the end of this issue actually elicit some sort of genuine emotional response from the reader.

Speaking of craziness in artwork, that’s the catalyst that sturts to push this issue into crazytown. This comic embraces the weirdness of comics in general headfirst, descending full on into madness. This issue is a whopping 30+ pages, which is excellent for comics readers really looking to stretch their dollars as far as it can go for floppies. The comic also manages to shift up their supporting cast in ways that will affect subsequent installments. In fact, the Zdarsky humor starts to fade out towards bleak and dangerous subtext. Thankfully, the comic swerves back into the wonderful absurd brand of comedy that makes stories by this author great.

McLeod’s kinetic action-heavy cartoonist style with a bevvy of curved lines suit this title incredibly well. The artists’ work is described well as being ‘kinetic.’ The lines seamlessly flow off the page, and the monsters and characters are never staying still. In creator-owned titles, we’ve seen countless instances of not being able to tell characters apart because they are drawn too similarly. Thankfully, McLeod’s previous experience in the art world has allowed him to avoid the pesky instances denying clarity amongst a story. Wow…is all that should be said about the coloring in this story. McLeod and coloring assistant Becka Kinzie are going to amaze readers with the amount of sheer detail nestled into the coloring here. There is a lot of information being tossed at the reader very quickly in this first comic, but the first splash page really shows off something commendable in the not only the drawing by McLeod, but with the coloring as well.

For any comic book fan that has had enough of spandex clad gentlemen spending time in New York, I would like to propose something with a little space grit smeared all over it: Kaptara. This a book taking a familiar element of space travel that smothers in some dirty weirdness in the form of floating eyeballs, kings, princess, dance parties, skulls, lizards, space travel, and dreams. If you have a sickness Image Comics, Kagan McLeod, and Chip Zdarsky can you write you a prescription for a new drug called Kaptara.

6 Comments on Kaptara #1 Review: Sex Criminals Dreaming in Space, last added: 4/25/2015
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11. Warren Simons on Bloodshot Reborn and Reinventing a 90’s Icon

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In the wake of the premiere event series The Valiant came this week’s Bloodshot Reborn #1. The storyline published by Valiant comics gave Bloodshot an entirely new status quota that see’s the character questioning his own humanity. The series with art from Mico Suayan and writing from Jeff Lemire chronicled the complicated new mindset on Bloodshot. Within the issue, the anti-hero finds himself in the sparse new environment of Colorado trying to find some peace after being manipulated by Project Rising Spirit.

We reviewed the first issue, and thought that “Valiant seems closer than ever to reimagining the concept for one of their greatest and most beloved superheroes towards sheer delight with the power of Jeff Lemire, Mico Suayan, and some clever ideas.”

Comics Beat sat down with Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons to get some added perspective on the series that debuted this past Wednesday.

Comics Beat: From other interviews, author Jeff Lemire cited that he had something massive in mind for Bloodshot after The Valiant ends. Could you tease anything about that revelation without spoilers?

Simons: We’re going to take Bloodshot in a direction he’s never gone before. I think many people will be surprised by that, but I also think if you look at the world outside your window, it’s a natural evolution of the character, especially taking into account what he’s experienced. The close of The Valiant #4 plays an important role in that, but isn’t a precursor to reading or enjoying Bloodshot: Reborn.

CB: What new threats do the mysterious doppelgängers add to Bloodshot’s world?

Simons: The threat is not always directly toward Bloodshot, which in some ways is more of a challenge for the character.

CB: Can you key us in on Bloodshot’s new mental state when the first issue begins?

Simons: He’s definitely seen better days. When he was a soldier controlled by the paramilitary group Project Rising Spirit, he was forced to do atrocious things against his will, and he’s haunted by that past. Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan have taken the book in a new, unexpected direction, but there are a few of the great core components in there that Kevin Vanhook and Don Perlin tapped into with the original incarnation.

CB: How does Jeff Lemire blend his art style with the captivating work of Mico Suayan?

Simons: As the editor of the title, I’m very happy to have incredible talents like Jeff, Mico, and David Baron here. The book is beautiful.

CB: Does the relationship between Kay McHenry and Bloodshot continue to evolve from The Valiant?

Simons: Yes, but not in a way that you’ll probably see coming. That’s the most I can say without spoiling anything.

CB: Can you tell us how the theme of identity plays a role in this comic?

Simons: I think it’s part of the core of who Bloodshot is, tracking back to the 90s. Once upon a time he was not a very nice guy, and he’s no longer that person, but his past actions still haunt him.

CB: How does Bloodshot as a 90’s legacy character continue peak your interest? What does he offer towards newer readers?

Simons: As with many of the Valiant characters, there’s an origin or high concept that’s very compelling, which is why these characters are beloved to this day. Those key elements are still there, and they drive the character to this day.

CB: How is Jeff and the rest of team Bloodshot Reborn building off of the previous run of the title?

Simons: Duane Swierczynski, Christos Gage, Joshua Dysart, and the entire Bloodshot team did a fantastic job of establishing the character in the Valiant Universe. As we’ve seen in events like Harbinger Wars and Armor Hunters, he is a very integral part of this world. Bloodshot Reborn is about the next evolution of the character.

CB: Do you have a long term goal in mind for the series? I understand that Jeff was crafting the book before The Valiant began?

Simons: Jeff’s been constructing his vision for Bloodshot Reborn for some time. In fact he’s already turned in over 12 issues of scripts as his story continues to develop. We’re very exciting about the things to come.

CB: Thanks for your time.

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12. Duggan and Shaner Travel Back to 1872 with Famous Friends

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With Agent Carter plugging up the airwaves with awesomeness, it’s time for the comics to start integrating period pieces back into the fold. Enter 1872, the newest Secret Wars tie-in from Marvel featuring two fine creators in author Gerry Duggan and artist Evan “Doc” Shaner taking our favorite heroes back a few century or two. 1872 #1 ships in May with a stunning Alex Maleev cover on the first issue.

A Western drawn by Shaner is worth the hole Secret Wars is blasting into your wallet. Don’t just take our word for it either “Doc’s first sketches blew holes in our heads,” said Duggan to the AV Club regarding Shaner. Let the saliva continue to drop from your mouth when you hear about Sheriff Steve Rogers, Blacksmith Tony Stark, and a young strapping Bruce Banner running amok in the Old West.

The best part of this entire story revealed by the AV Club might be the strapline: Real Heroes Die With Their Boots On. Duggan explained the genesis of how the off-the-wall title came to be with a few simple words “I pitched it.” This is yet another case of someone on a Secret Wars tie-in getting the opportunity to tell the stories that they want to tell.

Here’s the full solicitation and cover:

1872 #1

Written by GERRY DUGGAN

Penciled by EVAN “DOC” SHANER

Cover by ALEX MALEEV

Variant Cover by EVAN “DOC” SHANER

REAL HEROES DIE WITH THEIR BOOTS ON

  • SHERIFF STEVE ROGERS faces corruption and fear in the boom town of TIMELY.
  • The only thing ANTHONY STARK seems capable of is pulling a cork, so can he pull Rogers’ fat from the fire?
  • But…a stranger comes to town that will change Timely forever…for anyone left standing, that is.

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13. What is the Secret of Gene Luen Yang’s Superman?

superman-d120fOf all the comics projects announced this far from DC after Convergence, the one that arguably has fans the most excited is Superman from author Gene Luen Yang. The indie cartoonist will likely bring a different vibe to DC’s flagship character that will be focused on some of the ideas reflected in his own works like Boxers & Saints and American Born Chinese. We learned today in the solicitation text that the Man of Steel is going to have a brand new secret after the events of the aforementioned storyline.

Illustrator John Romita Jr. is staying on the comic after his short stint on the title with previous storyteller Geoff Johns. In an interview with Hero Complex, the writer talked about his experiences working on some of those titles, and how an upcoming secret will be revealed that will change up the status quota of the character after the Convergence event. Yang explained to the outlet how this book will focus on Superman’s Earth experience as an immigrant reflecting the author’s own life chronicled in some of his earlier works.

That’s just an essential part of the character. And as I’m writing, what I’m expecting is that it will come out organically. Superman has been around for so long; he’s been around for, what, eight decades now? And he goes through these different eras where different aspects of who he is get emphasized. I think at the core of him is the idea of the immigrant experience. His creators were two children of Jewish immigrants.

Take a look at the solicitation for the issue from Hero Complex further teasing the big secret of Superman:

Superman # 41
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art and cover by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson
The Joker variant cover by Karl Kerschl
On sale June 24 • 32 pages, FC, $3.99 U.S. • Rated T
The epic new story line “TRUTH” continues with the debut of the amazing new creative team of new writer Gene Luen Yang (“American Born Chinese”) and continuing artists John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson! What will happen when the big secret is revealed?




The author also elaborated on his own attachment to Superman as a character:

There’s something very special about getting to the seed, to the genesis of this entire industry. And like I said before, I’m really fascinated by the ways in which facets of the immigrant experience play out in a very fantastic way within his origin and within who he is and what he does. I think over the years they’ve built up this very interesting supporting cast that I’m excited to play with.

Superman #41 goes on sale June 24 in digital and print marketplaces.

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14. A Tale of Three Kings: Ninjak #1 Review

NINJAK_003_COVER-A_LAROSABook 1

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clay Mann
Inker: Seth Mann
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe



The Lost Files

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Butch Guice
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe



Ninjak #1 by Matt Kindt is the ongoing series that you’ve wanted ever since Valiant first relaunched in 2012. The highly sought after British Ninja’s first solo adventure is just what you’d expect, featuring all the guns, swords, and punching that you were hoping for. The first piece of info is a clue into the inner workings of Ninjak’s tools, which is an image perfectly captured and described by the folks at Valiant. This illustrates another important piece of this comic – this is a comic with a lot of substance and ideas that proves itself as an action story with both brains and brawn.

Clay Mann makes a fierce debut to the world of Ninjak, finally getting that big book that is going to set him apart from the competition in the industry. The first battle within the issue is a fight scene containing some incredibly intricate layouts. Mann proves his flexibility in the way he draws the young Colin King (Ninjak) to be so innocent, and the older version to be so cynical. The artist perfectly illustrates the juxtaposition of the two heroes. The streets of the big city look alive with the wonderfully fierce incarnation of an older Colin King invested towards further exploring this new place in which he calls home. Visual cues of technology prove how versatile this artist can be.

664412_320The briefing scenes from MI-6 perfectly utilize Ninjak’s own inner monologues to paint a unique landscape that draws attention to itself for all the right reasons. A computer folder shows a slow burn process of Ninjak learning new things about himself that recalls some of the best moments within Rai (also written by Kindt) which has arguably transformed into one of the best ongoings at Valiant Entertainment. The trio of scenes here are still utilized in an even stronger effect, showing that Kindt does have a great pull towards some of the espionage moments that could make a series like this truly great. This title is light on plot, but heavy on espionage. With a host of plot secrets surfing around this issue, Book 1 is a triumphant first solo outing for the hero that has an immense amount of potential to continue to reveal more about the Valiant lands.

The Lost Files backup storyline is another really intriguing debut for Kindt, revealing the sort of middle ground on how King became Ninjak passed his early youth. If I had any gripe with this storyline – I wish this plot was nestled in between the primary feature and the art was made to look more like flashbacks. Making the tale even more dense, and cramming it with more story and intrigue would have led to a really interesting thought experiment that would enlighten the world of Ninjak. Still, it’s incredible that Kindt can tell a story this strong in under ten pages in the back of the book. Also, the tale is even lighter on plot than the opening issue, which is mildly disappointing,

exclusive-Ninjak

Butch Guice is exactly the brand of awesomeness that Ninjak needs, it’s a quieter less complicated tale that still has the right amount of heavy shadows and linework to really keep my interest peaked. Guice’s work is just as lovely as Mann’s art, and I hope the two will eventually work together within the frame of one story.

Ninjak #1 is a sharp package that contains 30 pages of sheer delight. So many smart ideas and plotting instances are featured throughout this comic. Based on the success of this first installment, team Ninjak could have a book as good as Rai on his hands.

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15. IDW Announces a Miracleman Artifact Edition: Buy Responsibly

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Miracleman, a character with one of the most fascinating back stories in comics chronicled in our own Poisoned Chalice pieces is getting an Artifact Edition from IDW. The collection was announced this morning from Comics Alliance, and contains 144 pages of sheer Alan Moore awesomeness. The hardcover is going to set you back $95, but features an orientation size of 15 x 20. The book is for those who describe themselves as ‘process nerds’ featuring artwork in the size that it was presented with notes as the title was produced.

Miracleman Artifact Edition HC

The Original Writer (w) • Garry Leach, Alan Davis, John Totleben, and more (a) • John Totleben (c)

Miracleman was launched 30 years ago in the now legendary Warrior magazine. It turned the concept of “super-hero” on its ear with big ideas that helped redefine an entire genre… when Miracleman fought Kid Miracle Man on the streets of London… well, things would never be the same.

And then there was the art.

Miracleman had a true knack for bringing out the best work from extraordinary artists. Starting with co-creator Garry Leach, followed by Alan Davis (and others) and finishing with one of the most amazing endings in comics history by the phenomenal John Totleben, Miracleman was a work of art painted on a grand canvas, unlike anything before or since.

HC • BW • $95.00 net discount item • 144 Pages • 15” x 20” • ISBN: 978-1-63140-392-7

Miracleman is a special character who was finally capitalized on in recent reprints of the series from Marvel. This excellent work from people like Garry Leach, John Totleben, and Alan Moore (who is credited as the original writer) is now widely available in numerous incarnations across bookshelves, and for that we commend IDW and Marvel. Miracleman is so rich with history and intrigue, it’s excellent to think that a new horde of readers are going to be digging into the incredible work.

Please, make sure to buy responsibly.

MircaleMan_011

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16. Welcome the Excellent Stuart Immonen to Star Wars #8

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Illustrator John Cassaday recently announced his departure from the Star Wars comic book with author Jason Aaron. Issue #6 is his last, as announced on Sunday from his Facebook page.

“While wrapping up my final issue (#6) and the first arc of STAR WARS,” said Cassaday.

The All-New Captain America artist Stuart Immonen is jumping on board with Aaron. Immonen is set to draw the upcoming issue #8, and provided a cover that has yet to be colored with Luke Skywalker – it should be no surprise that it looks nothing short of excellent. He’s a great choice for the series, able to provide lots of different characters and faces with dynamic action and linework as proved with his tenure on All-New X-Men.

Author Jason Aaron advised fans not to worry about his involvement with the title clarifying that he’s going to be on the comic for sometime.

Just for the record, I am on STAR WARS for the long haul. There are so many stories I want to tell with these characters.

CBR broke the news, and also teased that a special artist is jumping on #7. Any guesses? I’m hoping for Arthur Adams, but after delivering interior art for Guardians Team-Up #1 it seems unlikely.

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17. David Gabriel Reveals which Marvel titles are on hold During Secret Wars

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We knew Marvel had to thin out their line for Secret Wars, the huge upcoming event from Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic, but the degree that the new tie-in miniseries and other books have been paused or moved of the way is slightly maddening. ComicBook.com broke the news yesterday of which books the publisher is cancelling or putting on hold during the Secret Wars. Marvel’s SVP of Sales & Marketing David Gabriel broke the news.

  • All-New Captain America
  • All-New Ghost Rider
  • All-New X-Men
  • Amazing Spider-Man
  • Amazing X-Men
  • Angela: Asgard’s Assassin
  • Avengers
  • Avengers World
  • Captain Marvel
  • Cyclops
  • Deadpool
  • Elektra
  • Fantastic Four
  • Guardians 3000
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Hulk
  • Inhuman
  • Iron Fist: The Living Weapon
  • Legendary Star-Lord
  • Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man
  • New Avengers
  • Nightcrawler
  • Nova
  • Rocket Raccoon
  • Secret Avengers
  • Spider-Man & The X-Men
  • Spider-Man 2099
  • Storm
  • Superior Iron Man
  • Thor
  • Uncanny X-Men
  • Wolverines
  • X-Men

That’s 33 comics on hold for Secret Wars.

In addition, those Secret Wars banners may have been more important than we initially thought, as the books branded as having their Last Days are the ones that are coming to an end. “LAST DAYS titles are creators bringing their stories to their natural conclusions before the destruction of the Marvel Universe.” Then there’s Warzones – which is the stuff that the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe is made of. “All of which are laying foundations for a new Marvel Universe.” The Battleworld books are the tie-ins, that’s why we have seen so many of those titles announced from the past couple of days.

“For example, during Secret Wars Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows is the “core” Spider-Man series. That should be pretty obvious considering Dan Slott is writing it.” During the event we are supposed to see the main titles as the Battleworld tie-ins (is that obvious though?)

Finally, Gabriel talked some numbers. “We’re going to surpass a half a million units on the first issue which is amazing. And that’s just selling straight to our Direct Market core retailers.”

11 Comments on David Gabriel Reveals which Marvel titles are on hold During Secret Wars, last added: 3/23/2015
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18. Another Take: Chrononauts is Not a Screenplay, It’s a Glorious Comic (Review)

chrononauts_issue_2_by_seangordonmurphy-d8eqj7jWriter: Mark Millar

Penciller: Sean Gordon Murphy

Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos


Writer Mark Millar is a polarizing creator, but with the recent critical success of Starlight, interested in his work has been reignited. Teaming the author with a killer creative team including both artist Sean Gordon Murphy and the excellent colors of Matt Hollingsworth & letters of Chris Eliopoulos should be a case for instant success. Fortunately, Chrononauts #1 reads as if it is cut from the same cloth of Starlight. The tale builds out a world and personality for our characters recalling some of the intense interpersonal work that Millar crafted in what is arguably his strongest Big Two work: The Ultimates.

Within the space of this one issue Millar fills these characters with heart and nuance. Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly are both written with an immense amount of pathos and love in this tale. As soon as this comic establishes these two as interesting human beings with engaging backstories, it starts collapsing and shifting the dynamic. The high science aspects of this issue take a similar approach to the works this story is based off of like Back to the Future with similar color schemes, aesthetics, and heart. Those influences suit this comic well, and so long as we invest in the two personalities of these characters throughout the more action heavy parts of this story, Chrononauts is likely going to be a tale that’s engaging during the full span of the story.

Artist Sean Gordon Murphy is an incredible asset to the storytelling of this issue. Millar’s focus on cinematic presentation simply requires excellent artists fleshing out his environments and spreads added to the work. Perhaps the most mesmerizing sequences of this comic are the incredible instances of technology in which Murphy draws futuristic vehicles with all the bells and whistles that futuristic machinery could possibly have. Millar has always worked with top flight artists in the industry, and with the right project he and Murphy are a match made in comic book heaven. The vehicles aren’t the only excellent part of this comic, office spaces and scenic vistas are jam-packed with an immense amount of detail. This is the comic that you remove the staples from and tack to the wall. A crowd shot in the middle of the tale is filled with individuals that Murphy pencils in an immense amount of detail. Due to the nature of the title, time travel is a necessary component to the book – which is another strength of the penciller. The eras represented here feel authentic and unique. This book jumps to the future and the past, so clarity is a requirement.

The personal lives of our main characters is fleshed out to an excellent degree, giving them the right amount of emotion and comedic elements. On multiple occasions, I was shocked with just how funny this story was. Murphy and Millar both nail the comedic elements of this story with some physical humor from the leads to small instances of funny fervor hiding in the background of this story. More importantly, this comic never strays too far into either comedy or drama, but instead moves into the dramedy section of entertainment, as the stakes for our heroes is clearly and cleanly laid out amongst the first installment of this story.

Cinematic is a term that is sometimes daunting for the medium. It’s something that can absolutely be applied in this context, with a story that is lighter on dialogue and heavier on splash pages and big wide panels. These stories mix great on the comic store shelf next to complicated pieces covered with dialogue. Still, these cinematic comics shouldn’t read like movie scripts, they should read like comics. The medium should be taken advantage of at all times. That attitude of trying to get everything up on the screen is a turn off, and something that has distracted fans from Millar’s own writing. Chrononauts #1 reads like a comic, and it’s made all the better for being written, drawn, and created as such.

2 Comments on Another Take: Chrononauts is Not a Screenplay, It’s a Glorious Comic (Review), last added: 3/22/2015
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19. Marvel Reveals A-Force Presents Vol. 1: An anthology with Marvel Heroines

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Marvel is attempting to do something a little different with already published work via A-Force Presents Vol. 1. The series is a trade paperback anthology collection that presents work published from Marvel  in a new format shipping bi-monthly. Included in the first collection that is already up for pre-order for Amazon shoppers is Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Thor, Captain Marvel, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Also included on Amazon is the release date for volume 1 at September 29th of this year at $13.49. The next volume known as A-Force Presents Vol. 2 is coming shortly after on November 24th at $14.99.

Marvel seems be aiming for fans who have never seen this material on the bookstore market. Over their last few years of publishing, there has been a renewed focus on younger female heroines. As of yet, we are unsure of what is being published in the second collection.

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3 Comments on Marvel Reveals A-Force Presents Vol. 1: An anthology with Marvel Heroines, last added: 3/23/2015
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20. Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states

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A collaboration of French stars from three different mediums, Last Man brings together the gifted animator Balak, Bastien Vivès, the much heralded comics creator, and Michaël Sanlaville, a rising talent in game design, for a manga influenced, tournament-based martial arts adventure that’s been all the rage in their native country.

The planned 12 volume series, 6 of which have been published, was recently awarded the Prix de la Serie at Angoulême this year, highlighting the popular and critical acclaim of the series overseas. Last Man centers on Adrian Velba, a 12 year old boy enrolled in Battle School whose highest ambition is to participate in the annual tournament sponsored by the King and Queen. After the sudden departure of his required partner, Adrian faces having to wait another year to compete, until a mysterious loner named Richard Aldana, who is also in need of a partner, crosses his path. This unlikely pair, and how they turn the tournament and city on its ear, makes up much of the excellent first volume, entitled “The Stranger”, which sees English-language publication from First Second on March 31st.

I was fortunate enough to chat with these three creators in the lead-up to its release in the U.S.:

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L to R: Sanlaville, Balak, Vivès

You began working on Last Man in 2013, what was the origin of the project and how was the creative nucleus of this ensemble formed?

Balak: Bastien and I have known each other for 12 years. We hung out at the same message board, catsuka.com<http://catsuka.com/>, chatting about comics, Japanese animation and well-endowed women, the usual geeky stuff. Then we went to the same animation school in Paris, Gobelins, where we met Michael. Bastien and Mic got along well and quit the school to make comics. Years later, Bastien told me he’d like to make a comic book with eveything we like in it: cool one-liners, great adventure with a manga-ish epic feel, larger than life characters and larger than life natural breasts. In short: The very reason Art exists. The catch is that we wanted to do it the manga-way: to draw 20 pages a week and publish 3 books a year. So we had to be a three-person team, well organized, and say goodbye to any social life for a few years. It seemed like a cool project, so  here we are.

While reading the first volume, I was reminded of my time perusing some of my favorite mangas, including that of the shounen variety, was that an influence…or more specifically, was there a particular type of action-based storytelling that informed this series?


Balak: Yes, that was the reason Bastien asked me and Mic to join in the first place. He knows we’re avid manga readers since forever. Basically, we wanted to have this very calibrated shounen feel that we love in the first books, and put our little twist on it: What if John McClane was thrown into a Dragon Ball tournament? We mixed the two things we loved: manga and US action movies we watched as kids. This stuff made us who we are today, for better and worse. Last Man is the result of this.

Last Man looks to have a fairly wide audience appeal, particularly in terms of age, what is it about tournament stories that seem the draw the younger audience?


LASTMAN-sampler-1lowBalak: Even the worst Hollywood script doctor would tell you that story is about conflict. A tournament is the core of the most basic, comprehensive storytelling. You’ve got a hero you’re rooting for: he wants to win the cup, and everyone wants the same thing as well. The premise is simple, almost visceral. That’s why manga of this type are popular, they manage to convey each characters burning will to win and emotions; each battle is a story in itself. But when we say it’s simple, it doesn’t mean “simplistic.” Keeping things simple is hard, there is an unnoticeable elegance to it that is very difficult to achieve.

Were there any story elements in particular that you implemented or had to adjust in order to attract younger readers?


Balak: Not at all, we just did things as we pleased. The only thing we naturally refrained was sex. It can be sexy, but you don’t have anything too graphic.

Describe a typical day in the creative process for the series, were you all huddled in a room together planning out the beats of the story or was it more segmented?


Balak: “A quiet mayhem” is the best expression that could sum up our typical day and creative process. We don’t write much like a regular script. Bastien puts down his ideas on 10 or 15 pages for the book to come. Mic and I read it, then we discuss it, have several meetings, decide what is changing, what would be better. I take quick notes on a paper towel and I directly draw the 20 first pages of storyboard, come up with dialogues ideas, new situations. Each Monday, we discuss what the next 20 pages will be about, while Bastien and Mic draw the previous pages, 10 each. It’s not very kosher, and it’s quite exhausting, but it’s what keeps our ideas fresh and our motivation going. If we had the classic “here is the script, then we do the whole storyboard, then we can draw the whole thing,” it wouldn’t work for us. With our method, it feels very organic, we are constantly reacting on each others pages, at any time.

There’s a fascinating sense of culture combination in this first volume, with a setting that resembles pre-Revolutionary era France but with Eastern traditions sprinkled throughout. What is it that makes these two very different cultures mesh so well together?


Balak: To be honest, we didn’t put a lot of thoughts into this culture mix. We just drew what seemed right to us, the French medieval thing is a part of our culture, we just put a martial art in it not thinking twice if it would match or not… It seemed obvious to us!

Bastien, you’ve had a few of your comics translated into English into the past, how has the LASTMAN-sampler-2lowtranslation process for Last Man compared? Has it been relatively smooth overall or have any pieces of dialogue had to be changed outright?


Bastien: My English is not very good, so I can’t really tell!!!  But I think First Seconds did a good job!
Balak: The translation is very good, some cultural, typical French things are well adapted to an English audience. The main difference is that the French version is filled with cursing and very bad language that the English version is toned down a little . . . Aldana is even more rude in French!

For Balak and Michael, was the transition into comics a difficult one from the work you’re used to, or is there a natural handover from gaming and animation into sequential art?


Balak: I always wanted to draw comics. That’s the very first thing I wanted to do as a kid, so it’s not an issue at all. Sometime I’m a little frustrated by the page constraint, the fact that you can’t surprise the reader anytime you want, you have to take care of the double spread, keep your surprises for the first panel of the left page. . . . But it’s fun. I tried to get rid of this by creating something called Turbomedia, a way to make digital comics. You can see how it works by looking up Marvel’s Infinite Comics line, I’ve worked with them on this. Or even better, check the great Mark Waid’s Insufferable, at Thrillbent.com.  It’s cool. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.)

Do you see Richard Aldana as a character to be admired or one to be pitied? Is it somewhere in the middle?


Balak: You pinpointed Richard. He’s right in the middle. He’s a badass, he’s looking cool and cracking jokes, but you wouldn’t want his life. But don’t try to show him pity, he would punch you in the face. Or walk away with a burning one-liner that would hurt you even more. Or both at the same time, if you’re not lucky.

Will Richard’s background play a bigger part going forward in the next chapters being released this year?


Balak: Yes, a big, BIG part. We’re even making a whole animated TV show about Richard’s past. It will be out in 2016 in France. It will be dark, violent and funny.

When you’re writing the dialogue of a child Adrian’s age, how difficult is it to find a right tone of voice that sounds natural?


LASTMAN-sampler-3lowBalak: Adrian’s way of talking is mostly Bastien’s. He’s kept is inner ten year-old child very close. It seems very easy for him. When I’m writing Adrian’s dialogues, it almost always sounds wrong.

Last Man was incredibly well received in your home country, to the point that it won the Prix de la Serie at Angoulême. What was the first thing that went through each of your minds winning such a prestigious honor?


Balak: I should’ve dressed better for this.
Bastien: It’s very good to feel supported in your country.
Balak: (Bastien tries to look tough and all, but he cried on stage. Really.)
Mic: It happened quite fast, I think I haven’t realized yet what it means. . . . To me, this prize goes out to all the great Japanese manga artists that inspired me to draw, and are still unknown to the wide audience for the most part. . . . But things are changing, so that’s good.



At what point was First Second the natural choice to bring Last Man to the states?


Balak: Mark Siegel gets the book totally, it seems that everybody there genuinely loves what they are publishing. We’re proud to be  surrounded by all these other great books.

Beyond the translation of Books 2 and 3 this year, what’s next for the series? I understand there are other media plans. How is that process coming along? Is it possible I’ll be playing as Richard Aldana in a video game soon?


Balak: Hopefully, it should happen this very year! We’re producing our own video game, called Last Fight. It’s kind of like Power Stone, you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLFxFKmqYDs If everything goes smoothly, it will be released in September. And as I’ve said previously, the animated TV show about Richard’s past is scheduled to next year. On each project, we have a very close look on the whole creative process.

What can/should your American readers look out for in Books 2 and 3? Any major surprises you can tease?


Balak: I can guarantee you some surprises . . . I can only say that you won’t stay into King’s Valley too long.

You can pick up Last Man Vol 1: The Stranger this coming Tuesday, March 31st from First Second at a book retailer near you.

1 Comments on Interview: Balak, Bastien Vivès, and Michaël Sanlaville bring the award-winning Last Man to the states, last added: 3/30/2015
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21. ECCC’15: Valiant opens the Book of Death

Valiant has just revealed a brand new event at Emerald City Comic Con following up Armor Hunters entitled Book of Death. The following image drawn by Robert Gill was sent as a press release. With a 25th Anniversary, the publisher is looking to celebrate their line including the old and new versions of the company. The image teases a July 2015 release and popular characters like Quantum and Woody, Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar, Vincent Van Goat, Ninjak, Rai, Punk Mambo, Bloodshot, Dr. Mirage, Divinity, The Eternal Warrior, Shadowman, Faith, Peter Stanchek, and more hidden in the background. The heroes lurk below what seems to be a representation of Death in the Valiant Universe.

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Could we see some characters from the old Valiant line come back in this story? Is this the Blackest Night of Valiant?

1 Comments on ECCC’15: Valiant opens the Book of Death, last added: 3/30/2015
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22. Celebrate 25 Years of Valiant With an Anniversary Convention Tour

Ladies and Gentlemen we are officially in convention season! After celebrating Emerald City Comicon last weekend, it’s already time for WonderCon! Luckily Valiant is headed to the Anaheim Convention Center to take part in the festivities alongside comics fandom. The publisher is bringing along a few giveaways and prizes to the upcoming event. A tease at Bloodshot: Reborn #1 is going to be distributed in Valiant’s booth numbered #405.

Also shared is the following teaser image drawn by Tom Fowler celebrating the Valiant 25th Anniversary Convention Tour. The art features a group of heroes owned by the superhero company with Archer & Armstrong, X-O Manowar, Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, Dr. Mirage, Faith, Livewire, Quantum and Woody, and Vincent Van Goat.

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Creators at the show include James Asmus, David Baron, Joshua Dysart, Ryann Winn, and Fred Van Lente. The first Valiant panel is for beginners labeled Valiant 101: The Story Starts Here. This gives new readers a chance to jump in on the fun in the Valiant Universe, and takes place on Friday April 3rd at 3:30pm at Room 208. The next panel is the Valiant 25th Anniversary Celebration where fans will hopefully learn more about the mysterious Book of Death down at the show. The panel takes place on April 4th at 12pm at room 211.

0 Comments on Celebrate 25 Years of Valiant With an Anniversary Convention Tour as of 3/31/2015 10:19:00 PM
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23. Jay Hosler Interview: Comics are the “most powerful” medium for teaching

In Last of the Sandwalkers, Eisner nominee Jay Hosler combines his love of comics with his academic background in biological sciences and teaching.  The result is a graphic novel aimed at students, ages 10-14, that has the intellectual weight to interest a much wider audience. Tackling themes like creationism vs. evolution, space exploration, and more, Last of the Sandwalkers features a pack of beetles searching for life beyond their home. With the graphic novel releasing today, we spoke with Hosler about the inspirations for the book and the utility of the graphic novel in the classroom.

What’s your “secret origin” in the comics industry? Have you always been interested in sequential art?


Like most kids, I was drawing at a very early age. The only difference between me and most of my peers wasn’t really the quality of the work so much as the fact that I never stopped drawing as I got older.

I have early memories of reading Tintin and Charlie Brown at my Grandmother’s lake cottage in northern Indiana. Grandma wasn’t a comics fan and I don’t think my mom or her siblings were either, but for some reason she had hardback volumes of Herge’s “The Secret of the Unicorn” and Schulz’s “Peanuts Treasury.” I would read and re-read those over and over.

I can remember being fascinated by the emanata each cartoonist used; squiggly lines and stars when someone got pegged in the head or sweat droplets flying into the air when they were nervous or tired. I started to reproduce those elements in my own drawings. Suddenly, all of the dinosaurs I was obsessively drawing were blushing, sweating and staring at stars circling their noggins.

It wasn’t until I was in second grade and got my hands on Marvel Team Up #19 that I started emulating sequential art. Stegron the Dinosaur Man drew me to the comic, but Spider-Man made me stick around for more. I started trying to tell stories with multiple pictures. These tended toward humor more than adventure stories and given my love of Peanuts most of what I tried to do was comic strips.

In high school, college and graduate school I did comic strips for the school newspapers. Unfortunately, they were pretty banal stuff; this class is hard, I can’t get a date, the bookstore charges to much, bad puns, etc. In the last 30 years, I’ve managed to shake all of those themes except bad puns. By the time I was in graduate school, I was doing a daily comic strip called Spelunker for the Notre Dame newspaper as well as a weekly strip called Cow-Boy for the Comic Buyers Guide. The problem is that I was really feeling the constraints of doing a four-panel strip and I wasn’t very good as a gag-man. I wanted to try something longer.

So, along with the editorial cartoonist at the Notre Dame newspaper and a fresh-faced aspiring writer named Bill Roseman (now of Marvel fame), I decided to give comics a try. We self-published a single, 22-page issue of Wired Comix. The comic contained three stories and was as well received as one could expect for something with such limited distribution. This whetted my appetite for more.

Eventually, I would make a 72-page issue of Cow-Boy that featured seven original comic stories. I loved it, but it was still primarily goofy humor and a super hero parody wasn’t really contributing anything new to the medium. Maybe it was the scientist in me, but I wanted to make a novel contribution to comics in the same way I was trying with my research to add a little something novel to our understanding of insect physiology. It was at this point that I made the leap addressed in the next question…

At what point did you decide to bridge the gap between your love and science and cartooning?

After I had gotten my doctorate, I stayed at Notre Dame for a year and taught a few classes. After getting your degree, the next phase of a scientist’s career usually entails postdoctoral work in another lab, so I was casting about for possibilities. I managed to land a position at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Research Laboratory at Ohio State University (sadly, no longer there, but not because I broke it).

My graduate research had focused on how insect muscle function was affected by low temperatures, but the work at Rothenbuhler would focus on how regions of the bee brain processed floral odors. To prepare for this work, I decided I needed to bone up on my knowledge of honey bee biology, behavior and natural history. Mark Winston’s book “The Biology of the Honeybee” was a revelation. Not only was it comprehensive and interesting, but it inspired me. I remember thinking, “Someone should do a comic about bees!” It wasn’t until I was a year into my postdoc that the little light bulb went off over my head and I realized that that someone could be me.

I wrote and drew the first issue of Clan Apis and submitted it for a Xeric Grant.  Several weeks later, I got the news that it would be funded. In fact, I received that news in the same week that I received funding for a three-year grant form the National Institutes of Mental Health to fund my research and my salary. I think I was more excited about the Xeric.

You’ve crafted a number of graphic novels under your own publishing house (Active Synapse). What made you want to go that route from the outset? Did you find self-publishing came with its own challenges?


The decision to self-publish was ultimately made for me. No one was interested in publishing a biologically accurate comic book about bees in the late 1990s. I suppose if I had drawn them as buxom, gun-toting cyber bees I might have had a chance, but that wasn’t the route I wanted to go. Plus, I wanted the freedom to do the books the way I wanted. I used the Xeric Grant to get things started and then was lucky to form a partnership with my friend Daryn Guarino to form Active Synapse. This was great for my books and Daryn is an indefatigable business and distribution force. He is also a very talented man and has started writing his own books.

Self-publishing is difficult, expensive and it can consume your life and I think both of us wanted to channel our creative energies elsewhere.

How did the creative process for Last of the Sandwalkers compare to your previous offerings? Did you find that there were lessons learned that you could apply?

One of the big differences was the amount of ongoing feedback that I sought. I showed the first few chapters to a friend and his kids. These are bright, book loving kids and they weren’t sure what the heck was going on at the start of the book so their feedback stimulated me to add the short first chapter as a means of clarification.

When I had it half done, I passed the book around to a few cartoonists and comics loving friends to see if what I was doing was working. All of their feedback, along with my own glacially slow deliberations, helped me make the story better. Ten plus years is a long time to work on something without feedback. Thankfully I got some excellent advice and the book didn’t wind up a hot mess (IMHO).

I think the toughest thing for me was the fact that it wasn’t a strictly linear story like my past books. There were all of the hints of past event and flashback that I wanted to tie together with the present, but I wanted them to unfold like a mystery. This required mapping out the story, drawing connections, decided how much I could say and when I could say it. What was too subtle? What was too obvious? And how do I do all of this and make it appealing to the broadest audience possible? How do you entertain comic savvy folks and comic newbies? Kids and adults?

In terms of tone, my approach was the same with all of my other books. I emulated Looney Tunes cartoons. A Bugs Bunny cartoon had slapstick for me as a kid and word play and political commentary for my Dad. There was enough there to keep us both entertained and provide us with a shared experience. That is how I hope people respond to this book.

Did you feel as though you had a specific mission statement while working on Last of the Sandwalkers?



The science writer Matthew Ridly wrote a cover blurb for Richard Dawkin’s book The Greatest Show on Earth in which he praises Dawkins as a master of “wonderstanding.” I’m usually not a fan of cutesy words but this one has been a useful touchstone for me.

I want people to feel the sense of wonder I feel in the natural world. My goal is to share that excitement and to help provide them with more than just a surface appreciation. I want them to develop an understanding of how things works and how living things are interconnected and I want to have fun doing it. I also want them to forge an emotional connection with the natural world. Laughing and crying connects us to stories and the world in powerful ways. We come back to things that make feel. And if I can cultivate a sense of wonderstanding in my readers, then insects will become more than creepy crawling things we squish without a second thought. They will enrich our sense of who we are and our connection to the natural world.

When you’re creating a work as long as Last of the Sandwalkers, what exactly is your day to day work process?

My process was fundamentally the same for this book. I found a topic that captured my interest and started doing research, cobbling together notes and story ideas. I would write a script for a chapter, read it out-loud, edit, read it to my family, edit, start thumbnailing pages, edit, start drawing, edit, show the pages to my family, edit. Lather, rinse, repeat for each page. There were some false starts. I drew a version of the first chapter in a completely different, hyper-simple style that didn’t work.

For most of this book, there was no reliable day-to-day process. I could go an entire semester without having a chance to work on it at all. But the minute the semester ended and finals were in, I could get back to it.  On the first day after my final class I usually drew a page and triumphantly posted it to Facebook.

My goal was usually to get a chapter of two done over the summer, but there were times when even that wasn’t possible.  Last of the Sandwalkers took the back seat when paying gigs would pop up. I couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon on Evolution any more than I could miss the opportunity to illustrate entomologist-extraordinaire May Berenbaum’s book The Earwig’s Tale. So, the beetles got shuttled to the back burner at times, but they were always in my mind percolating.

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Do you script first and then move on to to the illustration stage or is there another method you find works best?



The story comes first. I need to work out the balance of science and adventure so that it isn’t too insipid or too ponderously didactic. But, as I noted earlier, once the first draft is done, there is a very dynamic feedback loop between drawing and writing.

At what point did First Second become involved? How has working for a large publishing house impacted your work?

Working with First Second was a dream. Our relationship started when I met Gina Gagliano (marketing) at SPX several years ago. I can’t remember how we started talking, but I had a draft of the first half of the book at my table and after she looked through it she said, “We’d be interested in this.” I was very flattered (and a bit surprised), but at the time I was still planning to self-publish. Of course, being self-absorbed, I tucked that compliment away in my mental files for future review. When my self-publishing circumstances changed, I put together a pdf of the first 160 pages and sent it to Gina. I don’t have an agent, so this was probably a bit brassy, but fortunately I was too dumb to know any better.

My future editor Calista Brill got back to me very quickly with a proposal and we were rolling. Calista was incredibly supportive and patient and the book is better because of her. Likewise Colleen Venable (the designer at the time) was an inspiration. She worked so long and patiently with me on the cover and in the process taught me a lot about design. Her covers are great, so I just followed her lead and we arrived at a cover that is infinitely better than the one I initially proposed.

Now, I’m working with Gina to market the book. She is so on the ball, it’s tough for me to keep up sometimes! She has lined up so many opportunities for me to promote this book and I am deeply grateful.

At every step of the way I have been treated with respect, patience and creative freedom. They’ve taught me so much and new knowledge is the greatest gift you can give an academic. I feel really lucky to be working with them.

Can you explain the relationship between The Sandwalk Adventures and Last of the Sandwalkers?

It was accidental at some level. Or perhaps serendipitous, I’m not sure. For most of the time I was working on the Last of the Sandwalkers, I was using a very different title. Once the ball got rolling at First Second, we decided that my working title might not be the most effective way to go, so we went back and forth for a long time and finally settled on Last of the Sandwalkers.

In The Sandwalk Adventures, the sandwalk was the place on Darwin’s property in Downe where he would take a noon stroll and talk to the follicle mite in his left eyebrow.  In the comic, the sandwalk is where they would have adventures (both imagined and real).

In Last of the Sandwalkers, the main character is a desert beetle, or sandwalker, named Lucy. And, as the title implies, she is the last of her kind as far as she knows. Calling Lucy a sandwalker was meant to be a shout out to the Darwin book, but it really inspired my editor Calista Brill and she eventually convinced me that this was the better title.

That said, there are some interesting parallels. Darwin walked a sandwalk, so he was a also sandwalker. Lucy is a scientist living in an island oasis that is surrounded by a sea of sand. She eventually leaves the island and makes discoveries that reshape our view of nature. Sounds to me a lot like Darwin leaving England on the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Clearly, something may have been at work in the back of my mind that I wasn’t even aware of.

Is it difficult to find the right balance between providing educational facts and creative storytelling? 

It can be, although I don’t think of the science I weave in as “facts.” My hope is that they are knowledge of natural history that the characters need to advance the plot or tell a joke.

As far as my approach to this is concerned, imagine a sci-fi show where the characters need to reverse the polarity of the tachyon beam to generate a ripple in subspace gravity field so that they can collapse a rift in the space-time continuum. When I structure a story, I just replace all that made-up sci-fi exposition with real natural history exposition.  When I can, I try to set the stories in the real world, just not the human real world. The trick is to be willing to look at a worm or an insect as a marvelous, mysterious thing. An alien underfoot. You have to see the everyday from a different perspective, but when you do it can be startling and breathtaking.

Teaching has taught me a lot about weaving storytelling and science together. For every lecture I give or lab I run, I need to see the story in what we are discussing. Throwing a slide on the screen that is packed with information is a universal guarantee of trigger the sleep response. Information in any field requires context and cohesion and these are the elements that stories provide. A worm isn’t just a worm, it is a necessity for aerating soil or the scourge of terrace rice farmers. It is a force of nature working completely out of our site, moving and transforming the ground beneath our feet.

These are the things I keep in mind as I write, but I can easily delude myself. After all, I can enjoy a good textbook as much as a novel and I know that makes me weird, so I read everything I write to my family. They’re the final arbiters of what works and what doesn’t. They will tell me when to dial back the science or give them more. They will tell me when things are too frenetic or confusing or when I need some more excitement or humor. If I can get it right for myself and for my family, then I’m usually pretty confident the story is in a good place. For a book this long and complicated, I also sent it to several colleagues and friends to get feedback as I worked.

What attracted you to do the graphic novel medium as a tool for teaching? Have you seen an increase in the use of graphic novels as an educational tool?

Our brains are wired to receive information as pictures. When I give public talks, I often throw up a slide with a block of text describing an item. The definition I use comes from the dictionary and after about thirty seconds of reading and processing a few people raise their hands to tell me what it describes. Many other are still working it out when I through up a picture of a cog and everyone in the room immediately gets it.

Our brains also appear to be wired for story. Work form cognitive scientists is starting to demonstrate the importance of storytelling for memory formation and contextualizing information.  Stories scaffold ideas for us and help us hold onto to those ideas and use them effectively.

As McCloud points out in Understanding Comics, we know this intuitively because we give kids picture books. Recognition of the power of pictures doesn’t go away when kids get to college. I pick the textbooks I use based on the quality of the illustrations and figures. But, the storytelling component is all but gone. For me, comics sit between these two extremes and I believe comics are the most powerful of all three possibilities for engaging and entertaining students and casual readers.

Of course, the medium itself is just fun and the best learning happens when we are enjoying ourselves.

The protagonists in this story are battling views very similar to creationism. Do you feel creationism is still a threat to our educational system?

Absolutely. We live in a free country and people are allowed to believe what they want to believe. You want to believe that the world was created in seven days? That’s your right. But that’s a belief that has absolutely no scientific evidence to support it.  Of course, that isn’t an issue for creationists, because faith in that belief does not require evidence.  The problem comes when believers start demanding that their faith-based beliefs be taught as a alternative to theories that are grounded in over a century’s worth of scientific evidence from paleontology, developmental biology, geochemistry, physics, anatomy, physiology, behavior, etc.

A science class is for science. Unfortunately, having the freedom to believe what you choose and pursue your beliefs without persecution doesn’t appear to be enough for some folks. They feel compelled to try to change laws and influence school boards and teachers to make their religious beliefs a part of the science curriculum.

Proponents of creationism are constantly changing their tactics looking for ways into the classroom, so we need to be vigilant. Remember Intelligent Design? It was all the rage in the 1990s. Proponents promised they would have experimental proof that never came, but in the meantime they managed to get their philosophy into several classroom.

The even bigger problem is that creationists have written the playbook for science denial. Their tactics have been modified and deployed by everyone from those denying climate change to the anti-vaccination crowd.

Is it difficult to espouse a pro-science message without creating an anti-religion tone? Or is that the point? 

Any pro-science message is going to be read by someone, somewhere as anti-religion. It is true that Lucy butts heads with a religious fundamentalist in Last of the Sandwalkers, but I’d like to believe the story is more generally about the conflict between science and the powerful individuals and organizations that oppose it. The majority of those that seek to discredit climate change scientists and their results do so for economic reasons, not because of religious objections.

As I read, I definitely got a space/sci-fi feel from the book, even though it all takes place in small corners of the Earth. Last of the Sandwalkers is about the pursuit of science and exploration – is any of it meant as a commentary on the low levels of government funding in NASA and space exploration? 

You bet. The human race has become like a comfortable older couple. We don’t going anywhere anymore! We need to dream again about the worlds beyond our comfort zone. When we are at our best when we are exploring and seeking to understand the universe better. Plus, the work done to get ourselves into outer space invariable generates technologies that make life better for us that stay on Earth..

…And lastly, we have to ask, just for fun. Any interest in the upcoming Ant-Man film?

Absolutely! The current Ant-Man comic is a hoot and it has some well drawn ants. Plus, I did do my own short Ant-Man fan film…

https://vimeo.com/27549579

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24. WonderCon ’15: Exhibition Hall Highlights

By Nick Eskey

The guys of CME in front of "Deadeye

The guys of CME in front of “Deadeye”

Known for being the fan favorite of major conventions, with its relaxed nature and lines, WonderCon has been gaining in popularity over the last few years.

For this last WonderCon, I was a little underwhelmed with the pick of panel selections, so I decided to spend more time on the sales floor than I usually do. The diversity of vendors, artists, and publishers gathered here are always wonderful to see and explore. During my long exploration, I came across a few booths that I felt deserved a shout out.

C.M.E. (Creative Mind Energy LLC): I’ve seen these guys for a few years now, at both WonderCon and Comic-Con. Every time I do, it’s a great pleasure. CME is a

Design Studio Press

Design Studio Press

family business that come up with original creative content for various avenues, such as print, television, movies, and video games. The artwork of their comic books are so unique, featuring beautifully, hand drawn scenes. The work stands out and makes a name for itself. One of their latest works, Deadeye, will be coming out this June. Find a copy for yourself. [http://creativemindenergy.com/]

Design Studio Press: This publisher has been around for 15 years. The level of workmanship in each book shows why they’ve been around this long. Design
Studio Press’s content is mostly beautiful reference materials for making art and designing. A couple books of theirs that really impressed me were “How to draw” and “How to render.” Each one’s a thick piece of work; highly detailed, lots of pictures, and very simple to follow. But what really was impressive is that if you download the company’s app on your phone, and train the camera on certain pages, an AR tutorial will appear on the paper, including more than what is there. This is truly the next step in books and technology. [http://designstudiopress.com/]

Abraham Lopez himself

Abraham Lopez himself

Abraham Lopez: A picture is worth a thousand words, so goes the saying. This artist’s work is indeed worth that many words, creating a hilarious work of fiction. Using a combination of comic and Disney characters, his drawings place them in farfetched, but yes very amusing scenes and situations. During the entire convention, his booth was consistently surrounded. I myself had to buy a few of his prints. They are just that good. But beyond their subject matter, his art is well done and polished. [http://artistabe.deviantart.com/]

Even though WonderCon is over, still check these guys out. They all deserve some patronage in my book. I’d love to see them again at this year’s SDCC.

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25. Nice Art: Behold Valiant Previews Featuring Ninjak, Divinity, and Ivar

Valiant has just debuted a brand new round of previews from some of their biggest and best books. First up is Ninjak #1, which contained a solid debut with incredibly smart writing and art from Matt Kindt, Clay Mann, and Butch Guice. The story revealed Colin King hunting down a group of individuals on assignment from MI-6, wasting no time dazzling fans with the exploits of Valiant’s premiere ninja. This is going to be another 40-page issue complete with two stories for the agreeable price of $4.99.

NINJAK #2

Written by MATT KINDT

Art by CLAY MANN with BUTCH GUICE

HUNTED BY THE SHADOW SEVEN!

International financier Colin King hasn’t just come to Tokyo to take the Rippongi club scene by storm. As the covert MI-6 operative codenamed Ninjak, he’s also tracking down the men who trained him to be a lethal weapon…the very same men whose movements have now aligned with the latest terror plot by the cybernetic crime cartel called WEBNET! But how do you detect killers who specialize in the undetectable? And how does he know that the SHADOW SEVEN haven’t caught up with him first? It’s all-out ninja-versus-ninja warfare as the deadliest men and women of five continents converge on the Tokyo underworld for a blood-spattered blowout!

$3.99 | 40 pgs. | T+ | On sale APRIL 22

NINJAK_002_VARIANT_PASTORAS NINJAK_002_VARIANT_ALLEN NINJAK_002_COVER-C_GUERRA NINJAK_002_COVER-B_JOHNSON NINJAK_002_COVER-A_LAROSA NINJAK_002_001 NINJAK_002_003 NINJAK_002_004 NINJAK_002_005 NINJAK_002_006

The first two issues of Divinity have been extraordinarily good, proving that Matt Kindt really has a good hold on the world of the Valiant. However, the most extraordinary part of the title for me is how the publisher found just the right job for Trevor Hairsine. The artist doesn’t have a typically clean Marvel style, but instead features more jagged lines and a specific style of pencilling. His artwork can almost be compared to that of Frank Quitely, an excellent storyteller whose art depicts a very specific style of tone.

DIVINITY #3 (of 4)

Written by MATT KINDT

Art by TREVOR HAIRSINE

The sci-fi saga of 2015 continues – from New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (RAI) and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine (X-Men: Deadly Genesis)!

A being with the power of a god roams free in the Australian Outback, bringing life to the barren wasteland and making him a hero to natives who live there and the visitors that have sought him out. But can the global superpowers of Earth rely on this long lost cosmonaut not to abuse his seemingly limitless power? The entity called DIVINITY will put that trust to the test when he discovers what became of the life he left behind…and the family he once knew…

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | VALIANT PRESTIGE | On sale APRIL 22

DIVINITY_003_001 DIVINITY_003_002 DIVINITY_003_003 DIVINITY_003_004 DIVINITY_003_005 DIVINITY_003_006 DIVINITY_003_COVER-A_DJURDJEVIC DIVINITY_003_COVER-B_MULLER DIVINITY_003_VARIANT_GILL DIVINITY_003_VARIANT_LAROSA

Ivar, Timewalker can be sort of compared to a dark Doctor Who, as the titular hero is hiding some big secrets throughout space and time. Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry continue to craft the story of Ivar, that begins to grow darker as more time continues to pass. Henry’s art has been so clean and specific to the title, which is perfect as Ivar could possibly expanded with the female demographic that has been so keen on Doctor Who in the past couple of years. Henry’s clean linework and expressive characters make this title a joy to experience as the debut arc of Ivar comes to an end with the fourth installment of the series.

IVAR, TIMEWALKER #4

Written by FRED VAN LENTE

Art by CLAYTON HENRY

Time is almost up!

Ivar has been keeping a secret from his partner-in-time, Neela, this whole time, and once she learns the truth their relationship will be history! Literally! Join New York Times best-selling creators Fred Van Lente & Clayton Henry for the epoch shattering conclusion of our first (time)arc!

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | On sale APRIL 22

IVAR_004_001 IVAR_004_002 IVAR_004_003 IVAR_004_004 IVAR_004_005-006 IVAR_004_COVER-A_ALLEN IVAR_004_COVER-B_MESSINA IVAR_004_VARIANT_VILLALOBOS

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